For lifelong learners and self-made scholars, the internet is a priceless resource. Continue your education with these top free online tools.
Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári.
9. Free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have greatly expanded the educational opportunities for everyone with a computer and an internet connection. These typically free online courses, usually provided by universities and colleges, cover everything from Astronomy to Web Development.
MOOCs are a category unto themselves, but there are plenty of individual MOOC providers and platforms to look to, including the universities themselves, such as Stanford Online and MIT Open Courseware. Popular commercial and non-profit organisations that serve up courses from multiple sources include Academic Earth, edX, Class Central, Udacity, Coursera, Udemy and FutureLearn.
If you feel like there are too many free online courses to choose from, don’t worry. Several of the tools and sites below curate courses from MOOCs and other sources into fields of study.
Skillshare is a learning community that connects over a million students and teachers. In fact, anyone can teach a class (typically 30 minutes to one hour long) on subjects like crafts, cooking, film, photography, technology, or writing — as long as the class adheres to the site’s publishing guidelines. It’s a good resource for viewing project-based lessons (e.g., designing 3D type and texture) and there are tracks of courses grouped by subject. Over 300 lessons are available for free, but you’ll need a pro subscription to access the 3000+ full library.
7. University of Reddit
Love Reddit? You can partake in this community’s crowd-sourced online education initiative. Covering standard subjects like art and computer science as well as “fun and games” (e.g., StarCraft II Strategy), University of Reddit is taught by Reddit users. You can also apply to teach a class yourself.
CourseBuffet lets you search and compare hundreds of free MOOCs from over 250 universities. You can search by subject, browse by field, or even see learning paths that organise courses into a bachelor’s degree-level curriculum for you — for example a complete computer science or management path. And it’s all free.
ALISON not only provides free online courses from publishers like Google, Microsoft, MIT, Macmillan and Cambridge University, the site also offers diploma-level courses. So you can earn a certificate in project management, HR, social work and other subjects that might be helpful during a job search. Over 750 free diploma and certificate courses are available now, and you can use the site to track your progress and test your skills.
4. Project Gutenberg
Prefer to learn by reading rather than online courses? Or want to supplement those videos with books? Project Gutenberg‘s massive (over 50,000) collection of free ebooks to the rescue. You’ll find classic and obscure titles here for your downloading pleasure in multiple languages.
Check out their Top 100 ebooks list to find something new to read. For free textbooks, head to previously mentionedTextbookRevolution or Open Textbooks. Open Syllabus Project will show you the books most assigned at college.
3. Khan Academy
Join over 38 million online learners at Khan Academy, a non-profit MOOC of its own. Their tagline is “you can learn anything” and you’ll find a wide range of interesting video classes here as well as interactive courses. Track your progress and earn badges to keep learning fun.
2. iTunes U
The iTunes U app for iOS, Mac, or Windows not only lets you access courses from leading schools and other sources on your device, it lets you see and complete course assignments and add notes for each course. The catalogue contains hundreds of thousands of resources on various topics, all at your fingertips.
1. Open Culture
Open Culture is a treasure trove for any learner. Currently, the site lists 1,150 free online courses, 725 free movies, 700 free audio books, 800 free ebooks, 200 free textbooks, 300 free language lessons, and 150 free business courses. They have grown a lot — and continue to keep growing — since we mentioned them a few years ago. Resources are well classified. This is a great one-stop source for free, enriching media.
The resources above just scratch the surface of all the places you can learn something new online, of course. But they’re a good place to start and should keep you busy learning all year round.