Inside an unassuming building in the heart of Paris, multi billionaire Xavier Niel is single handedly revolutionizing education. He transformed a former government building into a state of the art learning facility that loosely resembles what we refer to as “school.” Named École 42, this ground-breaking institution aims to graduate exceptional software engineers; how École 42 goes about doing it is unheard of. Founded on a project-based curriculum, all learning is self-taught or peer to peer, there are no teachers or pricey text books. Students work in teams of two to five, and tests are pass or fail. Self paced, the program takes two to three years to complete. The school is open 24 hours and boasts a first class cafeteria, offering students every opportunity to thrive. In addition to learning everything they need to know about programming, École 42 students are developing traits that companies yearn for, yet traditional schools don’t teach, such as collaboration, self-investment, and internal drive. You’d expect a futuristic high-tech school such as this to cost a bundle, but in fact it’s free. École 42 accepts students from 18 to 30 years of age, and there is no education prerequisite. However the admissions process is grueling, and includes a four week tryout where perspective student put in up to 100 hours per week. Have no doubt, those who are accepted have earned their seat. From high-school drop outs to Stanford graduates, the vast assortment of students enrolled in École 42 only adds to its unorthodox approach to learning. As you might expect, most of the students are male, but females make up roughly 10 percent of the student population. École 42’s unconventional approach to learning isn’t surprising once you learn more about its founder, Xavier Niel. Regarded as one of the most ambitious and successful tech entrepreneurs in his country, Niel is a self-taught programmer who never went to college. Among other notable businesses, Niel is the founder and majority owner of French ISP Free. He infused the school with a 70 million euro donation, and believes alumni will make donations that enable the school to be self sustaining. École 42 has the potential to add thousands of highly skilled, driven software engineers to the labor pool every year, which could catapult the country’s tech competitiveness and position France as a leader in the tech industry. As tuition rates skyrocket and the programming field becomes increasingly competitive, America is ripe for a school similar to École 42. On the downside, the traditional teacher-pupil school system hasn’t prepared students for the independent and peer to peer learning experience they’ll discover at École 42, and that could mean high dropout and failure rates. The incredibly demanding atmosphere also makes it nearly impossible for adult learners to balance academic life with their family life. Moreover, because success at École 42 is heavily dependent on collaboration and self motivation, students who find social interaction difficult or need a leader’s push are likely to struggle. École 42 offers students an amazing educational opportunity, but it isn’t for everyone. [zipfinder]
Photo: leWEB/Flickr Find Ryann on Google+

Academic Earth

With thousands of lectures from Harvard, MIT and Stanford available for free, Academic Earth has a remarkable spread of information across multiple disciplines. There are over 750 courses to embark upon, from Roman Architecture to Dental Anatomy – sure to keep you busy for years to come.

Associated Press

The associated press provides news without the bias – the source material for many of the biggest agencies. There’s photojournalism of the highest order and articles are consistently snappy and engaging. The “10 Things to Know for Today” feature is a great way to stay up to date on current affairs.


Codecademy has made learning to code (relatively) easy with their new platform thanks in part to a straightforward, chirpy UI. The API lessons are the best around, and you can build Web Projects too. Over a billion lines of code have already been submitted to Codecademy, and that number looks to rise.


Picking up a new language can be really tough, especially when you’re faced with a hefty textbook and a blank paper pad. Duolingo turns the whole process into a game that’s apparently more effective and time-efficient than a university-level course. The accompanying mobile app is a fantastically well-designed resource and also free.


HowStuffWorks has won a ton of Webby awards and was featured in Time magazine’s “25 websites we can’t live without”. Alongside insightful and often humorous blogs, there are videos, quizzes and games – all with a focus on imparting knowledge in an engaging way. “Today’s Mind-Blower” gives readers a quick fix of boggling info.

Khan Academy

Set up by a hedge fund analyst whose YouTube videos took off, Khan Academy is a video-based learning resource where real experts share their knowledge. It has an impressive six million users every month working at challenges and assessments, presumably hoping to achieve a legendary Black Hole badge.

Mental Floss

Who can resist a repository of random zany facts? The “Most Interesting Fact Generator” will satisfy even the most inquisitive of nerds, while the ability to answer questions keeps things interactive. Mental Floss will, as one of its subsections promises, help you be more interesting.

National Geographic

If breathtaking images are your thing, National Geographic is sure to impress. Currently celebrating its 125th anniversary, the magazine has a great sense of adventure and its writers demonstrate a clear love of nature. @NatGeoExplorers provides a brilliant feed of bite-sized facts and worldly insight to keep you hooked.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg has compiled over 42,000 free ebooks. Each is painstakingly proofread and made available from one remarkable database. From Peter Pan to Ulysses, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. And you can even get files onto a Kindle device of your choosing, at no extra cost.


Concerned with nothing but technology, entertainment, and design, TED is dedicated to spreading (good) ideas. Its founder, Richard Saul Wurman, coined the expression “information architect” – impressive, huh? TED revolves around an annual conference with a time limit of 18 minutes on each speech. So far, talks by the likes of Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama and Richard Branson have all been posted online. Photo by Matt & Nayoung
Back to top

This site is a U.S. Consumer site. You can learn more about our site and privacy policy here.