The Top Platforms for Free Online Learning
Online education has exploded in popularity in recent years, with educators around the world teaching everything from finance to elementary math to graphic design. With a wide variety of free online course platforms, there is a free course available for all of your intellectual needs. Whether you want to find a personal development course for your own personal achievement or a certification to aid in your career, the best sites for free online courses will help you to achieve your goals.
Coursera is a powerhouse of free information aggregated from universities, museums and organizations from around the world. An easy to search database puts a world of knowledge at your fingertips. Discover courses in a range of subjects taught by instructors from institutions like Yale, University of Michigan and MIT. Study Data Science from experts at IBM or enroll in Revolutionary Ideas: Borders, Elections, Constitutions and Prisons from Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Coursera is excellent for career changers who want to earn certifications to enhance their professional skillsets. Coursera is also great for taking courses from the top universities without the hefty price tag. Coursera also offers downloadable and printable certificates that you can display to potential employers.
Our favorite course: Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills, Offered by The University of Michigan (1)
With more than 3,000 courses pulled from the course catalogs of more than 160 participating universities, EdX bills itself as the premier online learning site for people who want to boost their careers, expand the intellectual horizons or simply build on existing skills. EdX is geared toward career professionals and offers courses in public speaking, marketing analytics, finance, business communication and project management. EdX offers a mix of free and paid content, and users can earn degrees and certifications on the site. EdX offers a MicroBachelors, MicroMasters, professional certificates and full master's degrees for a fee.
Our favorite course: Fat Chance: Probability from the Ground Up Offered by Harvard X (2)
This free online education site focuses mainly on health, language, technology and business, but the site also offers courses in personal development, entrepreneurship and lifestyle. Alison offers certificate and diploma courses and offers learning paths with suggested courses based on industry. Great for career changers, Alison offers an in-depth guide with a complete set of courses based on the user's desired career path. Selecting hospitality and tourism, for example, opens up a full suite of courses geared toward hotel management, travel planning, tour operation and tourism marketing. Alison allows students to take multiple courses at once, creating their own a la carte degree program.
Our favorite course: Introduction to Caregiving Offered by Advance Learning (3)
Open Yale Courses
These free, open-source courses are the actual courses studied by students attending Yale University. Offered in both interactive and video lecture format, Yale's courses are great for a variety of learners. The site doesn't offer certificates or degrees, but many learners use these courses as a stepping stone into future education credentials. Each Yale course includes a video lecture series, syllabus, exams and suggested readings. The courses on the site are geared toward lifelong learners, high school and undergraduate students and self-directed learners. All of Yale's open learning courses are offered free of charge.
Our favorite course: Financial Theory (4) Offered by Professor John Geanakoplos
If you're a fan of TedX lectures, or "Ted Talks," you will enjoy learning on TedEd. TedEd bills itself as the online education site of the curious. TedEd is geared toward people who want answers to life's questions, want to take a deep dive into interesting subjects or just want to be a bastion of unique information. The site offers free courses with titles like, "Why the Ancient Greeks Couldn't See Blue," or "Does Your Vote Count: The Electoral College Explained." TedEd is an excellent resource for school-aged children, and offers a unique program called Earth School which is exceedingly popular for elementary students. Earth School offers 30 immersive "quests" that students can complete to learn more about the planet and how to protect it.
Our favorite course: "How to Outsmart the Prisoner's Dilemma" Offered by Lucas Husted (5)
Academic Earth's mission is to bring high-quality education to all. With this goal in mind, the course site delivers online lessons from the top colleges and universities in the world. Academic Earth offers a blend of free and paid courses, as well as online degrees. The site is tailored for adult learners who are looking to enhance their career skills or increase their marketability. The site acts more as an aggregate for the various programs that are available for free on the Web, and has partnerships with more than 100 universities. Academic Earth also offers playlists that deliver video lessons bundled by theme. "The Nature of Evil" offers seven recorded lectures by professors on ethics, morality and death.
Our favorite course: "Introduction to Operations Management" Offered by: MIT Open Courseware, Massachusetts Institute of Technology(6)
General Assembly differs from other programs on this list in that most of its courses are not free. General Assembly does, however, offer a suite of free courses that are valuable to technology learners, professionals in the IT field and career changers. General Assembly offers technology courses in data science, programming, coding, visual design and social media strategy. General Assembly offers full-time and part-time classes both online and at their in-person campuses across the country. General Assembly also offers app boot camps, coding programs and career development programs for people looking to enhance their skills.
Our favorite course: "Introduction to Google Analytics" Offered by Freddie Blicher, Google Analytics Consultant, MetroStar Systems and Heidi Massey, Chief Connector and Community Builder, CommunityConnective (7)
Skillshare is the best free online course platform for creatives. The site is jam-packed with access to thousands of courses in drawing, creative writing, animation, fine art, music, photography and productivity. The platform offers a mix of both free and paid content, and most of its courses are presented in video format. The platform also features courses taught by celebrity educators like "Animation Station by Neil Patrick Harris," and "The Hero's Journey," by Kenya Barris.
Skillshare is a favorite platform of content creators, as much of the content is focused on visual communication, videography and photography.
Our favorite course: "Outdoor Photography: See, Shoot and Share the Beauty Around You" Offered by: Minh T, Photographer and Art Director
Khan Academy is the go-to site for free online courses for kids. The non-profit education site offers courses for students from pre-K to high school, and covers almost every subject imaginable. The courses are created by a team of hundreds of emeritus faculty across specialties. A favorite of homeschool parents, the lessons are delivered in video lecture format with detailed syllabi, quizzes, projects and writing assignments. Students can dig into third grade language arts, high school civics, middle school geometry along with a number of advanced placement courses. In addition, the platform offers life skills like personal finance, social and emotional learning and college admissions.
Our favorite course: 5th Grade "Imaginative Worlds," for English Language Arts
Udacity is another platform that is centered around tech learning. Users can dig into subjects like artificial intelligence, business analytics, monetization strategy and cloud computing. The courses are taught by more than 200 industry experts who create lesson plans, interactive quizzes, in-depth projects and case studies. Udacity's programs are fee-based for the most part, but the platform offers several free introductory courses for digital learners that can help you to develop a strong foundation.
Our favorite course: "Self Driving Car Engineer"
When it comes to learning new skills, transforming your career or simply taking a deep dive into topics you love, there are free, information-rich, online courses that you can take right from the comfort of home. From courses in morality and ethics, instructional videos on illustration and drawing to mini-degrees in project management, the sky is the limit when it comes to online learning.