The Best Free Online Courses to Learn Something New

Do you miss homework? SAME.

Maybe you’re someone with a thirst for constant learning and self-improvement, pursuing your knowledge with the ferocity of Evie Carnahan (that’s Rachel Weisz in The Mummy, continue). Maybe you’re someone who thinks they could benefit from understanding things better, even if it’s just learning how HTML code works. Maybe you’re just very much in the spirit of back to school. Or maybe you are really considering a career change.

Whatever you’re looking for, what more productive way is there to use the precious time that passes between work, family, friends, TV shows? yellow jackets, and the practice of self-care, than the noble pursuit of knowledge? Luckily, nerds, there are a whole bunch of reputable online learning platforms dedicated to helping you learn a few new things.

Here’s a great list of places where you can learn stuff for free, with some available for certification if that’s what you’re looking for. But most of them are just for fun, and if you need some creative inspiration, try a few videos on the TED YouTube channel before settling on one. And remember, despite all the messages we get, you don’t have to do anything productive in your downtime – these free classes are right there if you need a little spark.

So get your brain ready because here is a great list of the best free online learning resources:

If you want to do free courses on major academic platforms

Here’s what’s going on with some of these top educational platforms and how to take advantage of courses for free (TL; DR basically you can take most courses for fun, but you don’t get a certificate – a verified certificate shows that you have passed an official course, and you can add it to your resume or LinkedIn profile, this which is handy if you are looking for a new job.) There is also a difference between accredited and non-accredited courses, which you can usually check on the About page of the website.

Everyone knows edX, the big name in virtual campus. If you are looking for seriously legit online courses at the best universities in the world, here is your answer. Founded by MIT and Harvard but no longer run by them as a non-profit organization after the site was acquired by 2U, edX is an educational platform aimed at enabling people to learn online without geographical constraints. .

If you have the coin, there are tons of different course types on the site, and even if so, you can pay for and take a MicroMasters program (over $1,200), a MicroBachelors program ($166 per credit), or a verified certificate (varies), you can also study for free for fun (2U says it’s going to keep things both free and paid for now). You can still access many courses for free if you only do it for the sake of your own brain. For example, there is a hardcore star trek course there to probably help you live long and prosper…

Courses to discover:

If you’re looking to learn a thing or two from cultural heavyweights like the British Film Institute, drop by here. Privately owned by UK public research body The Open University and job search giants The Seek Group, FutureLearn has partnered with top UK educational and cultural institutions for some niche courses you can sink your teeth into.

There are short courses and online degrees, depending on what you’re looking for, and you can access course content for free for 14-day periods, pay for an upgrade for a certificate, or an unlimited subscription (this which means you can get certificates and take as long as you want to complete the courses), which is $250 for one year. But if you just want to spend two weeks playing with a student on a course, it’s free online learning!

Courses to discover:

Founded in 2012 by Stanford computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, Coursera not only works with the world’s top universities – Stanford, Duke, Penn, University of Michigan, Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins – but also with Tech companies like Google and IBM will offer courses in computer science, data science, languages, business, and other areas.


Top 10 Free Coursera Courses to Learn Something New

Coursera Plus is the platform’s annual paid subscription, which allows you to access the majority of courses and earn those sweet certificates. It’s about $399 per year. That being said, most of the courses are available for free without accreditation but with all the delicious knowledge.

Courses to discover:

Founded by Salman Khan, Khan Academy is one of Silicon Valley’s great educational success stories. The online learning platform has attracted Big Tech backers including former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, former Google CEO and Alphabet President/Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, the Bill and Melinda Foundation Gates, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, venture capitalists Ann and John Doerr, and Tesla CEO. Elon Musk.

Among their best free courses are some gems, whether you’re making up for courses you took or weren’t offered in high school.

If you’re looking to hone your skills with some of the favorite talents that many employers are looking for in the digital age, General Assembly is a great place to learn them. Launched in 2011 as a humble coworking space, GA is now a global learning company trying to fill the “global skills gap”. GA offers a whole bunch of online courses in coding, design, data, marketing, business, and career development, so it’s all good for stacking your resume, though notably GA isn’t accredited by the US Department of Education.

GA’s full-time and part-time courses are quite expensive (some up to $15,960 for a full immersive course), but other shorter courses are free, like their hands-on coding course.

Free courses to discover:

Launched in 2010 by founder Eren Bali, Udemy was created to allow teachers and instructors to create and manage their own online courses. Now that’s pretty massive, with 57,000 instructors worldwide and 150,000 courses you can open on multiple devices – it’s even on Apple TV.

Most courses are around the $15 mark on Udemy, but can go up to $300. Luckily, there are free courses popping up all the time – Mashable’s buying team often posts offers. Also, Udemy seems to be aware of the importance of online courses in this strange new world. In April 2020, the team released the Udemy Free Resource Center, a collection of 150 free online courses to help people improve their skills. In addition, their courses are taught in more than 65 languages.

Free courses to discover:

Calling all aspiring designers, artists, music producers and general trendsetters. If you are looking for an online STEAM course, check out Kadenze. Specializing in courses in science, technology, engineering, art, design, music, and math, this platform partners with many of the world’s top institutions in these fields – Berklee College of Music, Stanford, Columbia University, Goldsmiths, Paris College of Art, Seoul Institute of the Arts, etc.

Kadenze works primarily through membership, which allows you to get verified certificates and access to a whole bunch of online courses for $20 a month (not cheap but cheaper than paying a fee single courses). It also depends on the type of course you’re taking — micro courses cost around $25 all-inclusive, while credit-eligible courses can cost around $300. But some courses are free if you don’t want the certificate.

Courses to discover:

If you’re looking for course reviews before settling on one, Class Central works as a handy search engine and site for free online course reviews. You can find out what’s new on platforms like Coursera, edX, Future Learn, and others, or you can just check out Ivy League courses.

Learn something new! Your brain will thank you.
Credit: Getty Images

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