Online Learning Resources During COVID-19

A list of school-away-from-school educational websites for students of all ages to learn and have fun while practicing social distancing.

Written by: Jordan Green & Tif Ho

From Preschoolers to Professionals

Coronavirus has led to the close of many schools in the U.S. and around the world. With schools shuttered for the remainder of the school year, more than 1.2 billion students of all ages are missing out on their education. This has left teachers, parents, and students alike struggling with a new reality for the foreseeable future. While teachers and parents of younger students transition to remote learning and homeschooling, college students try to keep up with their studies. Even adults and professionals, aware of rising unemployment rates, are wondering whether they should take up online learning to build new career skills. 

To alleviate this problem, Helpful Engineering has put together a list of resources that can be used by teachers, parents, and students. These resources are for students of all ages and cover various subjects. Some of these resources are available for little or no cost.

Below is a list of fun, educational websites.

General & Multiple Subjects

The following platforms offer general education on multiple subjects.

Khan Academy
Khan Academy is free for teachers and students. In fact, the platform is a nonprofit whose mission is “to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” Content for this platform is created to align with general education standards for grades K through 12, and even early college. Students can access lessons on reading, math, history, science, and more. Khan Academy provides personalized learning that lets students go through lessons at their own pace and helps teachers to identify students’ needs.

Udemy offers low-cost crash courses for students of all ages, including professionals. Courses include professional, practical skills, hobby, lifestyle training, and personal development. Some of the current offerings are IT certification, Basic English, piano, pet care, yoga, and happiness training. Students of all ages can start learning for as low as $12.99 per month, and businesses can invest in their employees through an unlimited course plan.

Brilliant is a paid platform that has an annual cost of $149.85 for single users or $299.99 for three users. Currently, the platform is offering a free, seven day trial. Brilliant has over 8 million users and is primarily geared towards older students in college or professionals seeking to build career skills. These individuals can take guided lessons, solve daily problems, and join community discussions on math, science, and computer science. Coursework includes logic, statistics, and python programming.
Free Rice is part of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and is offered for, well, free. While not an educational resource, this platform offers individuals of all ages a fun way to contribute to the fight against hunger. Individuals can compete against others on trivia questions of varying difficulty. For every question answered correctly, sponsors send the cash equivalent of ten grains of rice to the WFP. The WFP then uses this money to purchase food for those who suffer from food insecurity due to conflict or climate change.

On its website, DuoLingo states that individuals can “Learn a language for free. Forever.” DuoLingo gives individuals a no-cost way to learn a new language; those who want to avoid ads can upgrade to the premium version. The platform makes learning accessible, personalized, and fun. In fact, DuoLingo is available online and through both the App Store and Google Play. Over 300 million people around the world use the platform – including schools who implement it in their curriculum. Individuals can learn languages from Spanish to Navajo.

CoolmathCoolmath4kids, & CoolmathGames
Upon visiting Coolmath, individuals will notice all the bright and colorful colors. uses these colors, easy explanations, and games to keep math fun for students from ages “13 to 100.” Coolmath4Kids is for students 12 and under, and CoolmathGames is for students of all ages. From addition to division, algebra to precalculus – this platform is a fun and easy way to learn math.

Crash Course & Crash Course Kids
Crash Course and Crash Course Kids is a free, quick, and easy way to learn about everything from astronomy to world history. Short, 15 minute Youtube videos help kids and adults to stay focused. These videos are especially helpful for older students in high school and college who need to study quickly for a test.



As the world increasingly relies on technology, coding has become a useful skill for students and professionals. 

For younger students, Scratch is a free coding tool. The platform is highly visual with its animations and helps students to learn through stories, games, and communities. Parents and educators alike can use the website to help students learn. 

Tynker is similar to Scratch and is geared towards students ages 5+. During COVID-19, the website is offering free resources. Currently, more than 8,500 schools and 3.2 million students in 121 countries are using Tynker for distance learning.

Codeacademy is one of the most popular resources for learning how to code. This website is directed towards older students and professionals. The platform offers a free basic plan with 180 hours worth of content and, for $19 per month, a pro plan with 1,800 hours worth of content. Businesses can also sign up for Codeacademy and invest in their employees’ continued education through real-world application and practice.



With the stress of all that is going on, sometimes it’s important to take a break. Learning a new hobby is a great way to relax.

Makezine offers blogs and tutorials for arts and crafts and other do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. While not specifically geared towards kids, some projects are ideal for parents and their children. Others are more suited for adults. These projects range in difficulty from easy (boomerang) to hard (robot companion), and in duration from one hour (mini Star Wars Droid) to less than 16 hours (solar-powered workspace). 

Yousician is a resource for learning an instrument. Whether that instrument is piano, guitar, bass, ukulele, or even your own voice – this platform lets you pick up a new hobby quickly. Yousician currently offers a free seven day trial so that individuals of all ages can access free video lessons and practice. Individuals can download the app on their phone or tablet and start playing. 

Creativebug is a website for arts and crafts lessons. The platform is offering a free trial so that users can learn how to sew, crochet, make jewelry and more. The platform also includes activities for kids, including drawing and painting. Lessons are offered through video format for an easy way to learn. 

Tate Kids
Tate Kids is a website that offers free guides, games, and quizzes that are geared towards younger kids. Tate Kids help parents keep their kids occupied while still letting them to explore their creativity through projects such as egg painting and kaleidoscope making.

TinkerCAD is a “free online collection of software tools that help people all over the world to think, create and make.” Students, teachers, and hobbyists of all ages use TinkerCAD. The website offers Simple 3D modeling that helps students to learn and educators to teach.


University for Adult Students

For adult students, many schools are offering online content for free. These include top ranking universities such as Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford. Some of these universities are listed below:




Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

University of Pennsylvania


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Waste as a Resource: Charting the Journey of Plastic into Roads

Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash

Plastic waste, omnipresent and seemingly immortal, pervades every corner of our planet. Once celebrated as the marvel of modern innovation, it now stands as a monument to our unchecked consumption. However, the tide is turning. From waste emerges an unexpected solution: using plastic waste in road construction.

The basic premise revolves around using plastic waste as a partial substitute for bitumen in roads. But how is this concept fairing on the ground? Let’s delve into five case studies from around the world:


Perhaps one of the earliest adopters of this method, India has paved thousands of kilometers of roads using plastic waste. The southern city of Chennai has been at the forefront. Their approach involves shredding the plastic to a specific size before mixing it with bitumen.

Learnings: The roads demonstrate increased resilience, especially during the monsoons. However, the importance of maintaining a consistent plastic size was a significant lesson, ensuring even distribution and longevity.

The Netherlands

This European nation took a modular approach. They introduced plastic road surfaces as pre-fabricated blocks, making installation and maintenance more manageable.

Learnings: The modular nature allows for quicker repair and replacement. Moreover, these blocks, when worn out, can be recycled, further pushing the sustainability envelope.

South Africa

Here, the approach was more community-centric. By involving local communities in plastic collection, not only were roads built, but jobs were also created.

Learnings: Beyond just infrastructure development, the project showcased how environmental solutions could have socio-economic benefits. The community ownership also ensured consistent plastic waste supply and road maintenance.


Down under, they embarked on a pilot project in Melbourne by using a mix of recycled plastics equivalent to plastics from over 3 million plastic bags, along with glass and toners from used print cartridges.

Learnings: The diversity in the type of plastics used provided a more comprehensive blueprint for cities worldwide. It emphasized the need for rigorous testing to determine the right mix and highlighted the potential to incorporate other recyclable materials.

United Kingdom

The UK’s approach was heavily research-driven. They launched trials in Cumbria to understand the long-term effects of plastic roads.

Learnings: The UK’s focus on research underscored the importance of longitudinal studies. While immediate benefits are evident, understanding the environmental and structural impact over years or decades is crucial for widespread adoption.

While these successes chart a hopeful course, the journey of integrating plastic waste into roads is not without its challenges:

  • Type of Plastic: Not all plastics are suited for road construction. This necessitates thorough segregation and compatibility checks.
  • Environmental Impact: There’s a risk of microplastics being released into the environment as roads wear down.
  • Health Concerns: Toxic fumes released during the melting process could pose health risks to workers and nearby communities.
  • Durability and Performance: The long-term performance of plastic roads in different conditions remains a topic of study.
  • Recycling Limitations: Some plastics lose their structural integrity after being recycled multiple times, impacting road longevity.
  • End-of-Life Management: The disposal of worn-out plastic roads without causing environmental harm is an unresolved challenge.
  • Economic Viability: Balancing the costs of treating and integrating plastic can be a hurdle.
  • Public Perception and Acceptance: Garnering public support and addressing concerns are essential for this initiative’s success.
  • Regulatory and Standards Development: The absence of standardized guidelines can complicate the construction process.
  • Supply Chain Challenges: Ensuring a consistent supply of suitable plastic waste, especially in less urbanized regions, can be challenging.

These examples, spread across different continents, highlight the adaptability and potential of integrating plastic waste into road construction. But it’s more than just a technical solution; it’s a paradigm shift. The message is clear: what we deem ‘waste’ today could be the ‘resource’ of tomorrow.

Each case study, with its unique approach and lessons, illustrates the significance of context. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but the underlying theme remains consistent — innovation, adaptability, and sustainability are key.

As we reflect on these global efforts, it becomes evident that the journey of plastic waste from being discarded to paving our roads is a testament to human ingenuity and resilience. Through these case studies, we discover myriad ways to reimagine waste, reshape infrastructure, and redefine the future. It’s a potent reminder that innovation emerges from challenges, and with commitment and vision, the path to change is always within reach.

Waste as a Resource: Charting the Journey of Plastic into Roads was originally published in Helpful Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Akon: An Odyssey of Light and Empowerment

Photo by Andreas Gücklhorn on Unsplash

Akon and Andy Rabens Pose For Photos with Entrepreneurs

In the sprawling expanses of Africa, as twilight descends, a new beacon of hope emerges. Not from global energy moguls or international benefactors, but from the pulsating world of music. At the helm? Akon. Once a maestro of chart-topping hits, he’s now orchestrating a different kind of rhythm: a rhythm of transformation.

Much of Africa’s tale has been shadowed by the absence of dependable electricity. Remote hamlets plunged into twilight, their only respite being the toxic fumes of kerosene lamps. But with Senegalese roots grounding him, Akon envisioned a brighter narrative.

Solar Embrace

Treading into the vast potential of the continent, Akon’s endeavor was nothing short of audacious. His ‘Akon Lighting Africa’ initiative, set in motion in 2014, sought to electrify remote corners across 25 nations. Aiming to impact a staggering 600 million lives, it was a symphony of ambition and altruism.

Central to this narrative was the sun. Africa, eternally kissed by sunlight, had its potent energy often overlooked. Akon and his team sought to capture this perennial force. Solar panels, once mere passive structures, were transformed into catalysts for change.

They bypassed the need for expansive infrastructures typically associated with traditional power. By decentralizing energy, Akon’s approach empowered communities at a granular level. Each village, each home, could become a fortress of self-reliance. This isn’t just electrification; it’s emancipation.

Empowering the Grassroots

A critical facet of Akon’s strategy was its deep-rooted commitment to nurturing local talent. This wasn’t a superficial transplantation of Western technology. Instead, a robust drive was undertaken to train local engineers and budding entrepreneurs.

By 2021, a formidable 5,000 individuals had been molded, ensuring that the projects didn’t just illuminate, but also invigorated. A local with the expertise to manage these solar setups ensured continuity. This wasn’t mere infrastructural deployment; it was the birth of an entirely new vocational realm. Here was a circular philosophy at play: knowledge and skills didn’t just arrive; they stayed, grew, and prospered.

A Financial Masterstroke

Financing such an ambitious venture was no small feat. Traditional models, often myopic in their vision, failed to grasp the intricacies of rural African electrification. But Akon and his team sketched a different blueprint.

With a deft mix of public and private alliances, they channeled investments from entities passionate about genuine societal impact. This wasn’t just about monetary gains; it was about dividends in human progress. The strategy cultivated sustainable growth without saddling nations with crushing debt.

In Akon’s journey, we glimpse more than just benevolence. It’s a masterclass in synergy, in uniting profit with purpose, leveraging sustainable avenues, and bestowing power upon local communities. It’s a circular dance of progress where every step forward is a leap for an entire community.

From the rhythm of his melodies, Akon once moved the world. Today, through the hum of countless electrified villages, he’s rewiring the continent’s future. One panel, one village, one heartbeat at a time.

The Lighthouse Effect and Africa’s Renaissance

Akon’s ambitious endeavor to illuminate the heart of Africa wasn’t just a testament to his commitment to his roots, but it became a beacon for many African celebrities and influencers who had made their name on international shores.

His journey began a ripple effect, sparking a reverse brain drain and an emergent African identity that champions global knowledge but with deeply rooted African solutions.

The Reverse Brain Drain

Historically, many of Africa’s best and brightest pursued opportunities abroad due to limited resources and infrastructural challenges at home. This led to a “brain drain,” where talent flocked to Western countries. However, Akon’s investment in Africa’s potential has ignited a trend that defies this narrative.

Returning Talent

Following Akon’s steps, several prominent personalities like Didier Drogba, the famed Ivorian footballer, established charitable foundations. Drogba’s foundation, in particular, has been involved in various health and education initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire. The success stories of these initiatives began attracting Africans abroad to consider returning home, leveraging their global experiences and network to make a difference.

Skills and Expertise

The returnees brought more than just capital. They brought with them skills, experiences, and insights from some of the world’s best institutions and companies. They began setting up enterprises, tech hubs, and initiatives in fields ranging from renewable energy to digital innovation and education.

Collaborative Initiatives

Akon’s venture prompted collaboration. Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji, for instance, used her platform to emphasize the importance of education and has actively participated in projects aimed at building schools in rural regions. Her collaboration with other returnees and foreign institutions is a testament to the synergies now taking root in Africa.

Crafting a New African Identity

Akon’s initiative has not only been about electrifying homes but also about reigniting pride in African identity.

Homegrown Solutions

This renewed identity champions the philosophy of “For Africa, By Africa.” Instead of wholly importing foreign solutions, there’s a significant emphasis on tailoring interventions to the unique challenges and strengths of African societies.

Cultural Renaissance

Alongside infrastructural developments, there’s been a palpable rejuvenation of African arts, music, literature, and cinema. Stars like Lupita Nyong’o and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are leveraging their global platforms to bring attention back to Africa, advocating for an appreciation of its rich traditions and potential.

Economic Paradigms

Africa is now being seen not just as a beneficiary of aid but as an equal partner in global economic dynamics. Akon’s foray into cryptocurrency with the launch of “Akoin” in Senegal is a prime example. This venture further emphasizes his vision of an economically self-reliant Africa, leveraging modern technological tools.

In essence, Akon’s electrification project has been much more than a philanthropic endeavor. It has lit the way for a generation of African influencers, beckoning them back to their roots, not out of obligation but opportunity.

With every village that lights up, it’s not just the darkness that’s kept at bay but also the shadows of outdated narratives. Akon and his league of influencers are championing a new story for Africa, one that blends its rich legacy with a luminous vision for the future.

Akon: An Odyssey of Light and Empowerment was originally published in Helpful Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Scaling the Skies: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Urban Vertical Farming

Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

In the heart of bustling cities with desert horizons, where skyscrapers cast long shadows and space is a premium, a new silhouette is emerging — vertical farms. These towering havens of greenery promise fresh produce even in the densest urban centers. Yet, with their rise come challenges: space constraints, soaring energy demands, hefty initial investments, and intricate upkeep. However, as innovators are proving, every problem has a solution. Let’s traverse the stacked aisles of urban vertical farming.

Tilling the Concrete Jungle

The dream is seductive: converting urban spaces into productivity hubs, reducing food miles, and offering city dwellers a literal taste of the farm. However, dreams often grapple with reality:

Space Constraints: While vertical farming minimizes horizontal space use, urban centers, especially in desert countries, offer limited space due to high property values.

Energy Appetite: Traditional farming thrives on sunlight. Vertical farms, however, often rely heavily on energy-intensive artificial lighting, especially in regions with prolonged hot and sun-scarce periods.

Capital Challenges: Setting up a vertical farm isn’t cheap. From specialized lighting to hydroponic systems, the initial costs can be daunting.

Maintenance Maze: These farms aren’t just about sowing and reaping; they’re complex systems requiring consistent monitoring and adjustments.

Innovating Upwards: Modular & Energy-Efficient Solutions

What if the challenges of space and energy could be turned into strengths?

Modular Systems: Think of them as Lego blocks for farmers. Customizable, expandable, and versatile, they can be fitted into various urban spaces, from rooftops to balconies to abandoned warehouses.

Tapping Renewable Energy: Solar panels or wind turbines can be integrated to harness natural energy. In sun-rich desert countries, this could counterbalance energy consumption.

Optimized Lighting: Advanced LED lights, tailored to emit specific wavelengths, can promote faster plant growth with less energy.

Smart Systems: Automated sensors and AI-driven analytics can reduce the need for constant human monitoring, optimizing conditions for plant growth while conserving resources.

Case Study: The Oasis Towers of Dubai

Dubai, with its sprawling skyscrapers and desert backdrop, epitomizes space and environmental challenges. Enter the Oasis Towers: a series of vertical farms powered entirely by solar panels, taking modularity to new heights. Designed as self-sufficient units, each module can be tailored to specific crops. The result? A 70% reduction in water usage and a significant drop in energy costs, producing yields comparable to larger traditional farms.

Cost-Effective and User-Friendly: Democratizing Vertical Farming

High-tech farming solutions can seem out of reach for small-scale urban farmers and community gardens. Yet, the future holds promise:

Shared Farming Spaces: Think co-working spaces, but for farmers. Shared facilities can spread out the costs, making the technology accessible to many.

Training and Support: Local governments and NGOs can offer training sessions, ensuring farmers reap the most from these systems.

Local Manufacturing: Producing components locally, especially in warm or desert countries, can reduce costs.

Simplified Systems for Community Gardens: Stripping down advanced systems to their essentials can provide community gardens with affordable vertical farming solutions.

Case Study: Lima’s Urban Green Revolution

Lima, with its warm climate, has seen community gardens sprout throughout the city. Faced with space constraints, locals innovated with cost-effective vertical solutions. Using locally sourced materials, combined with basic hydroponic systems and shared LED setups, yields have flourished. These community-driven initiatives not only feed neighbourhoods but also foster community ties and engagement.


Vertical farming, with its verdant towers and digital dashboards, offers more than just fresh produce; it paints a vision of a sustainable, resilient urban future. Warm and desert countries, often at the frontlines of climate change, stand to gain immensely from this agricultural renaissance.

Yet, the transition demands more than just technology; it requires a blend of innovation, community engagement, and a dash of audacity. As city skylines evolve, integrating green into the gray, vertical farming stands not as a mere trend but as a testament to human ingenuity in the face of challenges. From Lima’s community gardens to Dubai’s Oasis Towers, the future of farming is not just on the horizon, but reaching for the skies.

Scaling the Skies: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Urban Vertical Farming was originally published in Helpful Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.