As well as the shopping experiences and amusing videos that the internet is known for, it’s easy to forget what a powerful tool for learning and intellectual development it can be. It’s an incredible information resource, and you could spend many hours delving into the details of a subject that’s always fascinated you or listening to the world’s experts and pioneers sharing their knowledge.

There is a growing number of archived and readily available video and audio lectures online for you to access.

Here’s a selection of the best …

  • TED - With its name standing for ‘technology, entertainment, design’, TED holds conferences where ‘the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers’ give talks on their areas of expertise. These are then put on the internet for all to watch. Subjects are varied but tend to focus on technology and geopolitics.
  • Google Talks - Google is now one of the richest and most talked about companies in the world, and they’ve leveraged their notoriety to get various luminaries to give talks at their offices. These lectures are filmed and uploaded to a dedicated YouTube page. There are more than 1,000 videos, with talks from well-known authors, musicians and even powerful politicians.
  • The Open University - The OU has always offered inexpensive university-level education, most famously through free TV programmes. But now, having largely shifted over to the web, a huge number of their lectures are available on their YouTube site. Their lecturers have largely improved their dress sense since the 1970s too!
  • iTunes U - Apple have negotiated with over 400 universities around the world – including Oxford and Cambridge – to allow a selection of their lectures to be downloaded from iTunes for free. You can watch talks from celebrated academics on your home PC or – as it’s iTunes, after all – on your iPod, iPad or iPhone.

Alex Duin is a freelance writer specialising in technology.