Anyone with access to the internet can receive a free, quality education. If it is a subject taught in a traditional classroom setting, you can usually find it as a free online class. You just need to know where to look.
One quick Google search for “free online courses” brings up many good sources (as well as a number of misleading scams). To help separate the scams from the real learning sites, remember the following:
- Look for educational institutions that you recognize like Harvard, Yale or Duke.
- Remember that “free” means that you are never required to give a credit card number.
- Stay away from sites that require personal information such as your Social Security number.
1. Well-Known Colleges and Universities
Many colleges and universities offer free online versions of their regular classes. Some of them also give you the opportunity to pay for a certificate of completion, but the actual education is usually the same.
You can find free courses from a number of sites.
- Coursera: collaborates with over 190 universities and learning institutions all over the world. You can gain new skills and earn certificates and even diplomas from well-known institutions like Stanford, Duke, Royal College London, IMB and the University of Pennsylvania.
- edX: links you to free courses from universities such as MIT, Berkley, and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Popular subjects include engineering, humanities, computer science, business management, language, and data science.
- Education Unlimited: If you are new to online courses, the sheer number of options can be daunting. The education-unlimited blog referenced above offers a good summary of what is available from Harvard, Oxford, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Duke, MIT, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Yale.
2. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a nonprofit educational organization whose goal is to offer free, quality education for all learners. It can be used to supplement regular classroom learning or as a stand-alone learning experience. It has preparation modules for AP® and SAT® tests. Subjects include:
- Mathematics—from kindergarten math to calculus
- Arts and Humanities
- Science and Engineering
- Economics and Finance
- English Language Arts (ELA)
- Test Preparation (AP®, SAT, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, Praxis Core, IIT GEE, NCLEX-RN
The learning experience is organized around short videos followed by quizzes and practice exercises. A personalized dashboard gives the student an individualized learning experience.
Most of the lessons were originally written in English, but have been responsibly translated into many different languages. Khan Academy has collaborated with institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NASA, and MIT to offer specialized content. Everything taught by Khan Academy is always free to everyone—teachers, students, and parents.
Duolingo is a website and app that teaches 94 languages to speakers of 23 languages. It has 300 million users around the world. Duolingo Basic is free but contains ads. If you do not want the ads, you can pay a fee for Duolingo Plus, which has no ads.
Duolingo feels more like a video game than a language-learning program. After six months of 15 minutes a day, the average learner can understand and speak the language at an advanced-beginner level. Its lack of academic rigor is made up for by its fun interface that includes rewards, competitions and in-game currency (lingots). Many users agree that relaxed learning leads to better fluency.
Alison is an international company dedicated to improving work-based skills. They offer over a thousand certificates or diplomas in the areas of technology, language, science, health, humanities, business, math, marketing, and lifestyle. Many employers recognize Alison certificates and diplomas.
Traditional university and technical college education can be very expensive. Many students are still paying off student loans 20 years after graduation. More and more employers are beginning to value what you know over how you came to know it. If you are a motivated learner, free online classes may just be your ticket to a good, debt-free education.
For more great educational advice, check out the other blogs on College Basics.