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This article took longer to finish than I expected because of one main reason:
I got too engrossed in reading and learning stuff from these websites. Seriously.
When I should have been researching and writing—instead—I was bookmarking stuff, reading (or watching) entire course sections, and taking notes.
To our publisher, my sincere (and honest) apologies.
For example, Better Explained is a website I wished I stumbled upon back in college before I valiantly faced (and miserably failed) Differential Calculus.
Hubspot’s series of free courses (some with certification) is a must-have for any aspiring digital marketer.
Shopify’s free product photography tutorials will teach you how to snap great-looking product pictures using just your smartphone (perfect for FB Marketplace pics!)
And I haven’t even checked out the offerings from the top sites that offer free online courses. I know that’s one deeeeep rabbit hole that I wouldn’t be able to come back from to get this article done.
On a more serious note, there’s a ton of free, amazing content out there that you can use for personal and professional goals.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the advantages that these free online courses provide. Here’s a quick list.
13 Benefits of Free Online Education
What makes free online courses very popular today? Here are 13 reasons why:
#1 It’s free (or way cheaper)!
The number of great quality online courses and tutorials out there is mind-boggling—but what’s even more astounding is its price—a lot of them are absolutely free!
Whereas you have to pay a couple of hundred dollars back then to learn the basics of digital marketing (for example), now you can now have a solid understanding of its actionable concepts that you can readily use for servicing clients—without paying a single cent.
Some of these free courses can get pretty comprehensive. You’ll scratch your head why they’re offering it for free—well, let’s just be glad that it is.
#2 Learn at your own pace
Unlike scheduled classes in school, most online courses can be read and viewed whenever and wherever—allowing you to learn at your own pace. Having difficulty understanding a particular concept?
You can stay within that chapter and go through everything as much as you want, for as long as you want.
#3 Learn from the comfort of your own bed
Since these courses are online, you can use just about any device that can connect to the web. Use your mobile phone or tablet, laptop, or even smart tv to stream content and learn—all while in your pajamas.
This highlights the high-convenience factor of having educational content accessible through internet devices and how easy it is nowadays to consume valuable content.
#4 Boost your credentials
In general, when it comes to “hire-ability” and promotability, the person who has the longer list of credentials has the advantage. This holds true especially now in the era of “multi-hyphen” job titles, where lines between areas of expertise get blurred.
Free online education helps people like you and me spread our areas of expertise to other fields of interest, or level-up existing knowledge and specialize in our chosen niches.
#5 Develops your self-discipline
All the convenience that online learning brings comes with a big caveat—it can be difficult to maintain your focus and discipline as you go through the material. Since the content is online, it means you’re a mere alt-tab, swipe, or click away from apps and other stuff on your computer or mobile phone.
It can be quite an effort to fend off the desire to click on Facebook or play your favorite game when you know your “online class” isn’t going anywhere.
But if you can pull it off consistently—then you’re not only growing your mental muscles, you’re also developing your self-discipline—and this can prove valuable in other areas of your life.
#6 Endless selection of courses to choose from
You can learn most of the major academic, career, and personal interest subjects for free—–even very niche and obscure ones.
#7 Review materials as much as you want
You can go over all the content for as much as you want—whenever, wherever. Admittedly, some courses follow a live schedule, much like a remote class with a live teacher.
However, since all content is available online, you can access it freely.
#8 Test your mastery quickly
Your typical periodical school exam will have you waiting for a few days to a few weeks to know the result.
With online exams, it’s different. Most will allow you to view your results right after you take the exam. This helps you to test your understanding quickly.
#9 Flexible and convenient
Finding your commute too much of a time-waster? Why not use it to learn a course or two?
If you only have a few minutes in your day to learn a new skill or upgrade existing ones, an online course could be your best option.
#10 Improve both soft and technical skills
The wide range of courses offered lets you pick and develop both your technical side and soft skills (communication, people, character, etc.,).
It can serve as a great tool for developing areas in your skillset whether for personal or career satisfaction.
#11 Broadens your career choices
Companies find them valuable because they can bring much expertise and experience to the table.
#12 Personal satisfaction
I don’t need to learn calculus at 35—heck, it’s the last thing I want to do I swear—but seeing how Better Explained (one of the free online tutorials) unwrapped the gist of it in such a plain and simple way seriously made me want to learn more.
Yes, I want to “revisit” calculus for my personal satisfaction—I find the presentation of the material highly intuitive and engaging—and that’s saying a lot for someone like me who hates math like the coronavirus.
#13 It’s a highly-productive use of your time
Learning something useful will always be worth your time and effort. A meaningful and well-presented online course teaching you something that you can leverage both for career or daily life is well worth it. And it doesn’t even have to be a “serious” course.
Squeezing a few minutes to watch “how to build an underwater tunnel” or “how to negotiate better” to widen your understanding is time and effort well-invested (versus scrolling FB for the nth time, IMO).
The Best Websites for Free Online Courses
Try doing a search for “free online courses” and I bet you the first page will be courses offered by one of these sites.
They’re like the Mythical Five—well, 6 actually—selection of an All-Star team. Due to the massive number of free courses that each of these sites offer, we’ve dedicated the first section to covering some of their most popular ones.
Launched in 2010, Udemy connects students all over the world to the best instructors to learn about a wide range of subjects.
A decade later, they now have more than 50 million students and 57,000 instructors teaching courses in over 65 languages.
This course will teach you how to create a fully-working website using WordPress
Want to learn what SEO is all about? This course will teach you the fundamentals.
Learn how to leverage social media to get consulting and coaching clients for you or your client’s business.
This course will teach you about the various digital marketing channels and how to incorporate its components to come up with a winning marketing strategy.
Learn how to use Photoshop to create simple and clean web pages that catch attention.
Everything you need to know: From what to do before the interview to answering questions up to tips on how to properly follow-up.
This quick course will show you various Excel shortcuts in Excel 2007 to 2019 so you can work faster and become more efficient.
This course is a step-by-step guide for learning concepts of databases and introduces the reader to SQL querying.
This course will let you go beyond the automatic setting of your camera and teach you the correct techniques for taking better photos.
Learn the basics of setting up and accessing an Amazon seller account, strategies for selling, and a whole lot more.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University teamed up in May 2012 to create edX—a website that hosts university-level online courses covering a vast range of disciplines. A non-profit organization, it runs on the free Open edX open-source software platform.
This highly-popular course teaches you science-backed principles and practices for living a happy and meaningful life.
Learn the basics of computer programming with this self-paced course for Python.
This course will teach you the variables, conditional and repeated execution, and the use of functions in Python.
If you’re interested in learning how to articulate complex ideas with clarity, this course is for you. Perfect for students at tertiary education and individuals working at academic institutions.
This course will teach parents science-based findings and data that will help them make better parenting decisions.
Learning online is different from traditional, physical-based learning. This course will give you the necessary guidelines on how to be successful in learning online.
The TOEFL or Test of English as a Foreign Language is a standardized academic English exam taken by individuals who want to become certified English teachers. This course from eDX will reveal tips and tricks on how to improve your scores for the TOEFL test.
Stuck at a job you hate? This course might help. It shares insights on how to find real purpose in your work and how to become a better version of yourself.
This course will teach you the basics of databases, data formats, and related technologies related to Microsoft’s Big Data curriculum.
Take this course if you want to advance your mastery of data analysis using Excel’s most popular features.
Coursera partnered with universities and other organizations to make learning available to anyone globally, offering courses and degrees in areas like engineering, data science, machine learning, mathematics, business, computer science, digital marketing, humanities, medicine, biology, and social sciences.
Are you a non-native English speaker who needs to improve your spoken and written English for career advancement? This course will help you achieve that and more.
Learn the fundamentals of effectively managing people in the workplace.
Tap into the powers of social media with this short course that reveals how to use social analytics tools and resources to build a complete social media marketing strategy.
This is your starter course if you’re someone who is genuinely interested in building, designing, and distributing your own android app.
Learn the basics of machine learning, data mining, and statistical pattern recognition in this free starter course.
For people who want to leverage certain techniques used by the experts for obtaining and retaining knowledge efficiently.
This course busts through common misconceptions about what truly makes us happy along with explanations on how the brain works as well as tips on how to improve our well-being.
If you want to learn about the various types of financial markets across the globe (stock, currency, gold, etc.,), then this is the course to get.
Familiarize yourself with the various AI terms and learn about neural networks, data science, deep learning, and machine learning.
Improve your English for better business interactions with this short course. It will teach you how to write emails, speak at meetings, give presentations, and network with other professionals.
FutureLearn makes accessing high-quality education possible through their online courses and programs created with some of the world’s top universities and organizations.
Their “Unlimited” offering grants users a year of access to hundreds of short courses with official digital certificates.
Develop your own effective management style by learning key methods, strategies, and principles of people management.
Want to become an effective ESL teacher? This course will teach you how to apply the right teaching principles and guidelines for teaching English online.
Get the leg-up in job applications by learning how to write a cover letter and CV and an impressive online profile.
Leverage the power of social media to create a strong and powerful impression to your future employers.
Execute an effective marketing campaign by learning the essentials of marketing analytics and how to leverage data.
Learn the secret tips and hacks that will help you succeed at interviews so you can land your dream job.
Learn how to spot fake news by understanding what numbers reveal and when, why, and how they can mislead people.
What makes a digital product successful? This course will answer that for you and more—from planning, developing, launching, and managing a user-focused digital product.
Develop skills to manage your finances for both personal and business by learning the right way of balancing your books.
Boost your management and leadership skills by learning about the right frameworks for personal improvement.
Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of classes for creative and curious people.
Their premium membership only costs less than $10 per month (if you get the annual subscription) and it will let you access more than 25,000 courses covering topics from illustration, design, photography, video, freelancing, and more.
Learn about the four principles used by interior designers for creating beautiful living spaces.
Get ready for the spotlight as you learn how to shoot, edit, and create engaging videos.
Procreate is hailed as the best illustration app in iOS. This course will teach you everything you need to know to get started.
Learn how to identify marketable products, create a store, and build a successful marketing strategy for your online business.
Ready to start going freelance? This course will educate and empower anyone looking to go the freelance route.
If you’ve ever been interested in writing, recording, and launching your very own podcast, this is the class to take.
Effective and engaging email writing is one of the key drivers of a successful marketing campaign, whether it be for a business plan, clients, or personal use, knowing how to write it is a crucial skill to learn.
This course will teach you how to write for the web by learning frameworks and techniques for establishing, engaging, and growing a community around your writing work.
Get your work discovered and get more opportunities by creating a solid portfolio that impresses.
Learn how to increase online presence for businesses and clients through actionable SEO insights and tactics.
ALISON is a free online education platform that mostly focuses on workplace-based skills. It was founded in Galway, Ireland by Irish social entrepreneur Mike Feerick on 21 April 2007.
Their topics include Tech, Health, Math, Language, Humanities, Marketing, Science, Business, and Lifestyle.
This course will teach you the basics and fundamentals of advertising.
This series of courses cover the performing arts, telecommunications, visual arts, journalism, broadcasting, and printing technology. Perfect for people with a career in Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications.
Editors polish up the writer’s work, review the work for spellings and grammatical mistakes, and to ensure that the overall manuscript is fit for the intended audience.
Alison’s range of free online IT training courses will teach you how to develop software, manage computer networks, and maintain vital IT systems across computers and phones.
Topics range from Beginner German and Italian students to Advanced French and English learners and pretty much everything else.
From social media marketing and marketing management courses to public relations tutorials and digital marketing lessons, these free marketing courses will teach you how to attract customers and convince them to buy and use your product or service.
Learn everything you need to know about planning, executing, and managing a business through this series of free courses.
Learn how to create and nurture a rewarding lifestyle, bring your hobbies and creative ideas to a new level.
These free online Health courses explore highly important aspects of physical fitness and mental wellbeing.
Free courses on the social sciences, psychology courses, and history courses, to courses on personal development, and geography.
For the second half of our list, we’ve categorized each course or website based on a specific topic. This should help you zero-in faster on a particular niche or subject that interests you.
Explore courses on math, sciences, arts, history, and much more.
Stanford Online is a part of the Stanford Center for Professional Development, a pioneer in extended education since 1995. They partnered with Stanford schools, departments, programs, and centers to develop a robust catalog of courses and programs.
Harvard Extension School offers several free courses and nearly 800 for-credit courses at reasonable tuition rates.
Open Yale Courses gives users all over the world free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University.
Learn something new from the best universities with Academic Earth’s collection of free online college courses.
Open Learn offers content that combines both University and faculty priorities with areas of general and niche interest.
UMass Boston OCW is a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners worldwide.
Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that offers free resources for students, teachers, and learners in subjects like Math, science, and humanities.
iTunes U is free on the iPhone and iPad for people who want to learn from a large collection of free education content.
A blog that aims to help anyone looking to understand Math concepts in a simple and easy-to-understand approach.
An online collection of courses offered from the top universities like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and more.
7. Digital Marketing
Leverage the power of the internet and devices to reach audiences and customers.
Learn inbound marketing techniques that range from content creation to social promotion to converting and nurturing leads and beyond.
Free courses on Data & Tech, Digital Marketing, Career Development from Google.
Google Analytics for Beginners will teach you the basics of the program which includes: how to create an account, implement tracking code, setup data filters, analyze audience, acquisition, and behavior reports along with goal setting and campaign tracking.
This certification course will give you an overview of how to become an effective content marketer
You’ll learn the best practices of successful business blogging strategies and tips for managing a growing blog.
Learn why and how things catch on and why stuff goes viral. This will prove valuable in generating ideas that are most effective in your marketing campaign.
Online video marketing leverages the power of visual storytelling to better attract, engage, and delight your audience.
Explore self-paced and step-by-step tutorials that can help you build your digital marketing knowledge and bring your business online on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger.
This free course from Hubspot will teach you how to shape the conversation around your business, build loyalty, and attract new customers and partners.
Learn from YouTube influencers and experts on how to create a successful YouTube channel—from creating engaging videos to optimizing them for higher visibility, YouTube SEO, how to get more views and subscribers, and more.
This course includes actionable and effective strategies for improving and optimizing your paid and organic Facebook campaign.
Learn how to get more followers, retweets, traffic, and sales on Twitter.
Learn how to leverage the power of email marketing to grow your business or career.
Cold email is essential in finding sales leads, connecting with influencers, building your personal brand, and growing your network.
Develop skills you can apply right away, with e-learning courses designed by Google product experts. Learn at your own pace and get Google product certified.
Learn all things SEO, including link building, topic clusters, building search authority, and a peek at how HubSpot uses blogging to get a massive audience reach online.
Perfect for beginners and intermediate SEO specialists looking to build better traffic for clients and businesses.
8. Sales Courses
Your one-stop-shop for learning how to sell effectively.
This course will teach you how to identify new prospects, connect with them, explore their needs, and advise them on a path forward.
- Sales Course by LinkedIn Learning (first month free)
Whether you’re a sales generalist or specialist, it’s important to learn the right frameworks and strategies for a more effective sales effort.
This course will teach you how to stand out in the crowd, attract more customers, and build support for your initiatives within your company.
Learn about the tools, techniques, and methods for identifying leads and prospects.
9. Ecommerce Courses
Learn everything you need to know about running a dropshipping business.
Affilorama offers free and unlimited access to over 100 tutorials covering Affiliate Marketing, Market Research, Site Building, SEO, Content, Marketing, PPC, and more.
E-commerce powers some of the world’s largest companies. This tutorial will teach you the basics and strategies of a successful e-Commerce business.
Learn about e-Commerce business, Marketing & Sales, Store design, and Products with this quick and handy Shopify course.
This course will teach you how to create an e-commerce strategy and plan that’s grounded in the inbound marketing methodology so you can attract, engage, and delight more customers for your e-commerce website.
10. Data Science
Kickstart your Career in Data Science & ML. Master data science, learn Python & SQL, analyze & visualize data, build machine learning models.
The meaning behind common AI terminology, including neural networks, machine learning, deep learning, and data science.
This skills-based specialization is intended for learners who have a basic python or programming background, and want to apply statistical, machine learning, information visualization, text analysis, and social network analysis techniques through popular python toolkits.
Learn Data Science and Machine Learning using Python (Scikit Learn)
11. Coding & Programming
This course teaches people without prior exposure to computer science or programming to learn to think computationally and write programs.
This course is for everyone interested in learning what AI is, what is possible (and not possible) with AI, and how it affects our lives without complicated math or programming.
Learn how to write fun and useful programs using the Python language
Leverage the power of MATLAB to illustrate general concepts in computer science and programming.
This course teaches beginners and aspiring programmers on how to think computationally and write programs to tackle useful problems.
12. Personal Development
This course explores the psychology of everyday thinking: why people believe weird things, how we form and change our opinions, why our expectations skew our judgments, and how we can make better decisions.
Know what makes a happy and fulfilling life.
This course teaches individuals how to learn and change effectively even in the twilights of their careers.
Learn how to incorporate mindfulness practices into your life so you can reduce stress and improve your personal and professional life.
A fun way of learning a new language.
Watch and learn real conversational language from native speakers.
Connect with over 100 million learners and native speakers and learn from over 1000 lessons created by expert linguists enhanced with machine learning tech.
Tips for Taking Online Courses
Online courses are great as they make learning convenient and easy. Here are a few tips to better manage your time and effort for more effective learning.
Give it your 100% effort
Even though it’s not an actual, physical class, what you’ll learn here is just as valuable, if not better, in some cases. And even if it’s free, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously.
Attend the classes on time (if there’s an actual sched) and go through the materials to absorb as much info as you can. Remember, you’re here to learn, so make sure you’re making every second and effort count.
Know your “Peak” hours
Did you know that each of us has our own “prime hours” in a day? Several books and articles have been written about this subject, pointing out that our bodies have their own preferred times within the day when it performs best.
If you’re a morning person, perhaps squeezing in your course to-dos in the AM is best rather than late in the afternoon (when most tend to feel sleepy). Or if you’re a night person, setting aside an hour or two during prime time will have you more focused and driven to go through the lessons and complete tasks.
Manage your time (and energy) well
How efficient and committed you are in designating “study blocks” to read or watch and understand the material will determine your success in the course.
Allocate a realistic amount of time each day for learning. Even if it’s just a few minutes, you can move things forward and ensure you’re not falling behind.
Prime your study environment
Your physical and mental state during learning is an important determinant in successfully absorbing the lessons. As a tip, it’s best to keep your learning space clean and tidy and free from clutter (which can distract you during class).
If you can’t secure a quiet place in the house (or outside), a pair of headphones with noise-canceling features will do wonders. Also, make sure to have your notebook and a pen handy just in case you need to take notes. Prep all your study materials prior to the start of a live class or lesson.
Participate in classes and group discussions
Not having to physically be present doesn’t mean you have to go solo all the time. In fact, collaboration and participation are recommended in most cases.
Check out what your classmates are asking, read their comments and questions, or ask for clarification. If you feel like you need help, it wouldn’t hurt to ask others for tips and insight to get you right back on track.
Who knows, you might even make an online friend or two during the process. Having people to discuss ideas and thoughts with about the lessons is a great way of further enhancing and building upon what you learned.
Dedicate study hours during weekends
Most of us have our schedules full during regular weekdays (work, school, business, etc.,) so it can be hard to carve the time for learning. If this is the case, then perhaps setting aside a few hours during the weekend might be a better setup for you.
And even if you are taking the lessons during weekdays, reviewing or quickly going through what you learned for an hour during the weekend can help you retain more of what you learned and prepare you for future lessons.
Maximize your internet connection
The quality of your internet connection can make or break the overall experience of online learning. Streaming video of a live class or watching pre-recorded lessons requires good internet bandwidth and speed.
When you can, connect your computer through cable (not via wifi) to your router. Doing so will give you a more stable connection and faster speeds (versus wifi). Or you can also move closer to the router if you’re keen on going wireless.
If you have other family members using the internet during your class, perhaps you can ask them to hold off from downloading stuff or streaming movies as those can severely affect the quality of your connection.
Stay safe and secured
If you need to use your Webcam or computer audio, make sure to do the following first:
- Clear the background of any inappropriate material
- Dress appropriately
- Lock the door (ask family members that you need privacy in the next hour or so)
- Mute your audio when not needed
- Learn how to send private messages