If you’re just getting into electronics, Arduino boards seem to be the de facto standard. While these are good and in some ways synonymous with “making,” I would suggest that the Wemos D1 mini, based around the ESP8266 module, is a great board to check out second. While there are some hoops to jump through in order to get it working with the Arduino IDE, once setup, this board give you an 80 Mhz processor, and lets you communicate via WiFi. Plus it’s available for under $5 with a little searching.
This means that you could remotely turn an LED on or off, get a notification when a certain sensor is triggered, or take your IR-controlled devices into the 21st century, using the board as a network relay. In theory, all you would need for signalling is an IR LED, but this ESP8266/ESP32 infrared remote shield takes care of both IR sending and receiving. If you want to set up a remote with an unknown signal, this can decode it for you. Alternatively, if you for some reason want to send a message over the Internet via an IR remote control, this would also be possible.
While IR signalling may seem quaint in some ways, don’t judge too harshly. When you buy a TV, you simply want it to turn on, and using an IR remote is quite reliable and inexpensive in a short range line-of-sight situation. IR systems are time tested, robust, and still a good choice in many applications. Building on that is as easy as an upgrade with a device like this!