6 Places Where You Can Find Free Online Courses

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: VeaVea/Stocksy

If you’ve always wanted to go back to college but never got a chance, take advantage of the present situation and embrace self-paced learning. Now’s a great time to learn new skills—or improve existing ones. Sure, you might not be able to attend a physical class, but guess what: you can learn without leaving your couch or even spending any money. How? By enrolling in a free online course. Whether you’re looking to boost your employability or learn something new just for fun, below are six great free education sites that will get you up to speed with whatever topic interests you most.

Have you ever dreamed of attending a prestigious school? Well, now’s your chance to do exactly that—kind of. Coursera offers thousands of free (and paid) courses in various disciplines from world-renowned universities like Penn, Stanford, and Yale (by the way, we hear great things about The Science of Well-Being). Each course comes with pre-recorded videos, presentation notes, and projects. You can even connect with other students to discuss course material. You can also receive accreditation or a certificate (for a fee) or enroll in a degree, like an MBA (also for a fee).

edX, a non-profit and open-source MOOC (massive open online courses) provider, is very similar to Coursera. Like Coursera, it offers free and paid courses, as well as programs and degrees, on a wide range of topics from top universities in the world. If you can’t find a course you’re interested in on Coursera, check edX and vice versa. For example, while Coursera has more courses than edX (over 4,000 compared to edX’s 3,000 or so), it doesn’t have any courses from Harvard or Berkeley—but edX does. 

Can’t decide on a specific course? With so many options out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. With Khan Academy, however, you don’t have to choose a particular course. Instead, you choose your grade (elementary, high school, or adult learner) and select the topic (math, arts and humanities, personal finance, or something else altogether) that you’re interested in to get a personalized and very well organized dashboard. The individual lessons are short (think concise articles and videos) but build on each other as you progress. 

If you love podcasts, check out the University of Oxford Podcasts. It offers more than 6,000 free podcasts, most of which are public lectures. All podcasts are organized by series (for example, “The Secrets of Mathematics” and “Back Garden Biology”), people, and departments and colleges. If you’re not looking for anything in particular—just something fun and educational to listen to while you’re washing the dishes—the site’s home page has a “Featured Series” section (“Modern Fairies” and the “Future of Business” look interesting). 

As the name implies, Code Academy is a website dedicated to teaching people how to code in various programming languages (like HTML, CCS, Python, Ruby, and JavaScript). It doesn’t matter whether you’re a newbie or a pro, or even if you know what programming language you want to learn. Code Academy’s handy quiz will tell you what you should focus on (for example, I was pegged as “Problem Solver” and matched with JavaScript). You can get started with Code Academy for free, but you will have to upgrade to the Pro plan once you watch 180 hours of content. By that point, however, you should know whether coding is your calling or not—and whether you want to pay to continue with your education.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) gives you the option to download the actual courses that the university has offered throughout the years through its MIT OpenCourseWare platform. Although MIT is one of the best universities for engineering and technology, you can choose to study other topics as well, like gender studies, creative writing, or anatomy and physiology. Courses come in the form of videos and lecture notes and include homework assignments. However, because the courses are archived, there’s no way to acquire accreditation or certification.