ONLINE courses are a convenient and flexible way to learn new skills and subjects remotely.
And with top sites like Coursera, EDX and Udemy offering free courses – online learning doesn’t have to be pricey either.
Millions of people study online courses every day, and there are plenty of subjects and course lengths to choose.
You no longer have to sign up for a long-term course which costs money, and you can have some flexibility in studying at a pace which suits you.
But with a huge variety of free courses available, it can be hard to pick which course provider to choose for your online learning.
So we’ve studied what each offers in terms of options and areas of expertise to pick the best sites for free online courses around.
1. Best variety of online courses: Coursera
- Find free online courses on Coursera – here
The most well-known online learning site might be Coursera.
Coursera is partnered with universities around the world – including Imperial College London and Stanford.
It also partners with companies including Google and IBM to offer expertise in specific areas – for example, machine learning.
The provider has made headlines by making its entire catalogue of 3,800 online courses free to universities throughout the global coronavirus outbreak.
But Coursera also offers over 1,000 normally free courses across a wide range of subjects.
Whether it’s Social Media Marketing, an Introduction to Psychology, or Graphic Design there’s plenty of choice.
The company’s online courses cover 11 subject areas across beginner, intermediate, mixed and advanced levels.
2. Best online courses in humanities: EdX
- Find free online courses on EdX – here
EdX is another well-known online learning site, and it too partners with universities from around the world – such as Harvard and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
It doesn’t have as many courses available as Coursera, with it stating it has over 2,500 compared to Coursera’s 3,800.
But Edx does have a slightly different focus: natural sciences and the humanities make up the key courses offered.
Popular subject areas are the languages and computer science.
Edx courses are generally free (to watch videos and take part in topic discussions), but professional courses come with a cost.
Courses often have a fee attached to any certificate achieved by completing a course.
3. Best short free online courses: Future Learn
- Find free online courses on Future Learn – here
Future Learn is part-owned by The Open University and offers a clear divide in its courses, between short courses, ‘microcredentials’, and online degrees.
Its short courses are its free online courses, providing no-cost access with a cost only attached to printable digital certificates.
Costs for the certificates depend on the course but can be quite affordable compared to other online course providers – starting from around £30.
Popular Future Learn courses change frequently, but the 14 subject areas provide a good range of options for quick or longer study.
Subject areas are diverse, including creative arts and media, healthcare and medicine, teaching, science and engineering, and maths.
4. Best variety of online courses: Udemy
- Find free online courses on Udemy – here
Udemy is an online learning platform with the feel of a marketplace.
There’s a huge number of free online courses on offer, and 100,000 courses available in total on Udemy’s platform.
Udemy encourages users to search for their course with a prominent search box, and the platform feels less formal than others.
Courses are run by experts rather than through direct association with universities.
But the range of courses and clear course reviews from users are both positives for Udemy.
The platform even offers occasional sales, dropping the price of courses with huge discounts – so you might find a course usually over £100 drop to just over £10.
5. Best for career development: Linkedin Learning
- Find online courses on Linkedin Learning – here
Subscribed users of the 'social network for professionals' have access to its own dedicated learning platform.
Linkedin Learning offers short courses to help professionals develop skills and abilities which support progression in roles and careers.
Trending and popular courses are highlighted, as well as more personalised individual top picks.
Linkedin Learning also provides clear professional goals, so you can follow ‘learning paths’: for example, on becoming a manager, small business owner or digital marketer.
Companies can also offer access to LinkedIn Learning, but individuals are able to take advantage too.
You’ll need to have a Linkedin subscription, and the cheapest option is Premium Career at £24.98 a month.
But once you’ve subscribed, you can have your fill of online free courses from the service.
6. Best for youth and education courses: Open Learn
- Find free online courses on Open Learn – here
The Open University is one of the most well known online course providers.
And Open Learn is its platform dedicated to providing nothing but free online courses.
Open Learn has almost 1,000 free courses to choose from, and divides them by type, level and resource length.
You can choose from ebooks, badged courses and 'lunchtime learning'.
And there are three levels: introductory, intermediate and advanced.
Course lengths range from 1-3 hours to over 24 hours in total, but are limited in topic.
Childhood, youth and early years courses are a focus, as are education, learning and working with young people.
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