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For those who subscribe to the idea that learning is a lifelong endeavor, this list of learning Web sites should be a valuable resource.
The bonus is that all the content can be consumed online in a Web browser — and in some cases on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. What’s more, some or all content on each site listed is free as well.
As you may already know, online learning is an immensely growing market, allowing for flexibility of schedule. We’ve tried to capture a broad list of Web sites with free online learning, in different forms, for different students, professionals and the casual learner. While we’ve left out most college/ university-specific sites, we have listed initiatives involving many such institutions. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but we hope it will still be of value.
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Pre-college, College, Post-college/ Professional
The sites in this category offer curriculum education or its equivalent at preschool, elementary, secondary, and/or post-secondary levels. Some also offer professional-level skills development courses and training that benefits graduates.
- ALISON has over 800 free online courses, plus select free certificates and diplomas for “Learning Path” course clusters – provided by educational and other institutions – and the Alison Accreditation System. User and peer group reviews help improve the learning model. Paid extras: removal of advertising, shipped study materials, digital certificates, printed, framed certificates.
- BrightTalk offers free how-tos, advice, tutorials, videos, webinars (recorded and live), case studies and other resources centered around marketing, sales and other business-related topics. Paid extras: advanced access to tutorials and resources.
- Canvas Network is a platform for hundreds of free, open, online, primarily self-paced courses from over 200 educational organizations worldwide (including colleges, K-12 schools/ districts, and any other organization with an educational/ public service mission). Content is primarily in English, but some courses are in Dutch, French, Portuguese, Spanish, or Swedish, and certificates may be available for some courses. Paid extras: advanced courses.
- Code is part of an initiative to increase computer science education in school districts and colleges, especially for girls and young women — and is funded at the rate of $200M/year thanks to a White House commitment, and promoted with the “Hour of Code” challenge. As a result, educational policy in 20 U.S. states has changed to accommodate computer science.
- Cognitive Class, formerly known as Big Data University, is an IBM initiative that offers free courses (college level and some high school) with earned, displayable digital badges and topics covering Data Science and Cognitive Computing. The site’s Data Science for Social Good initiative is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals program.
- Connections Academy bills itself as a “tuition-free online public school for grades K-12” offering students a customizable learning program accredited by a half dozen regional agencies. Actual content is available on the Web sites of participating schools in each U.S. state, as available.
- CosmoLearning, while not strictly an online learning site, provides a list of nearly 1300 free online courses (including 34,000 video lectures in dozens of topics) offered by colleges/ universities and other institutions – useful for students and teachers with an interest in categories such as: Natural and Pure Science; Engineering; Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences; Language; Technology; Professions; Health Sciences; Extracurriculars and more.
- Coursera bills itself with the tagline “Take the world’s best courses, online” and offers up free online college courses (from dozens of institutions in over two dozen countries) and specializations (clusters of related courses). Paid extras include certificates of completion, instructor feedback and more.
- edX is an initiative that collectively offers over 1300 university courses (humanities, math, computer science, etc.) to 10M+ learners, with content from two founding universities (MIT, Harvard), over a dozen top contributing institutions, plus several dozen additional charter members worldwide. Courses are offered from directly by each participating institution.
- E-learning for kids offers online lessons/ courseware aimed at children aged 5-12, in topics such as Math, Science, Environmental Skills, Health, Language Arts, Life Skills. This is a top 10 site for the homeschooling community but is also useful to support support or supplement existing curriculum in primary school or to private extra practice lessons.
- Free World U is a nonprofit online school covering preK to 12th grade, and offering special learning methods (using flashcards) that are patent-pending.
- FutureLearn offers a frequently changing collection of free online courses from “top universities and specialist organizations,” in 13 categories (most popular: Business & Management, Health & Psychology, Tech & Coding, Teaching). Paid extras: unlimited access, certificates, diplomas, master’s degrees.
- GCF Learn Free offers free online tutorials for career and professional skills upgrade, in topics such as software, OS (Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS, Linux), computers, email, online safety, Internet and more, plus best practices guides for using LinkedIn for career building.
- HippoCampus provides nearly 7,000 video lessons in over a dozen topics at middle school to college level, with content collections from NROC, STEMbite, Khan Academy, The Concord Consortium and NM State University. Teachers can customize HippoCampus for their students, create playlists, and incorporate content from outside sites.
- iversity, presumably the first European-created platform for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), offers a selection of free courses from multiple educational and institutional partners covering topics like business, marketing, language, history and more, for college-level or post-college professional development. Content in available in multiple languages (German, French, Italian, Chinese, Russian, etc.). Paid extras: Pro courses, iversity for Business, and a “customize your own digital academy” option.
- Khan Academy offers a wide range of courses in topics for students of all ages (elementary, high school and beyond), plus educator and parent tools. Primary topics are math, science, engineering, computing, arts, humanities, economics and finance, and test prep and college-related lessons.
- Master Class Management offers a free online management and training leadership skills course equivalent to a mini-MBA business management certification program. Paid extras: certificates of completion.
- MERLOT is a massive database of learning materials and faculty development services for college and high school levels — for both educators and students — which includes a synopsis for each of over 7,700 free courses (and a link to the host site). The project is contributed to by 23 university systems and/or institutions of higher education.
- National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning provides over 300 free technical courses from NPTEL, with paid certificates from IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), and funded by MHRD and Govt. of India.
- NovoEd is self-branded as “the online platform for the modern learner” and offers a mix of university programs, professional education and corporate training, with nearly 80 free online courses open plus additional paid content.
- Open Courseware (OCW)/ OE Consortium is the main site of the OCW initiative, which various institutions of higher learning around the world participate in to offer free online coursework. Each participating institution offers content via their own “OCW” subdomain.
- Open Culture Online Courses is not strictly an online learning site but does offer a massive list of links to over 1,300 free online college courses from “the world’s leading universities,” with over 45,000 hours of audio and video lectures, much of which can be downloaded. This is in addition to listings of other free learning materials, movies, ebooks, language lessons, business courses and K-12 education, and more.
- OpenLearn is a free learning initiative from Learning Space: The Open University, offering over 1,000 courses, videos or interactive content units in eight topic areas, with some courses having displayable digital badges available for completion.
- Rice University’s OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University that offers peer-reviewed, openly licensed, 100% free e-textbooks (online and PDF format) in subjects such as college Math, Science, Social Sciences and Humanities, and various AP (Advanced Placement) high school topics.
- Saylor Academy‘s site offers free open online courses in nearly 20 topics, with free certificates of completion. Potentially over 90 free college credits can be earned (plus cost of test proctoring and transcripts), as well as a self-paced business degree (ASBA – Associate in Science Business Administration) from Thomas Edison State University (plus tuition and fees for completion), with other degrees and university partners in the works.
- Textbook Revolution offers free books, textbooks and ebooks, and lists free online lessons and courses offered by various universities and colleges.
- Udacity has over 200 free courses at present, primarily in tech (hardware, software) and business/ marketing, in partnership with dozens of organizations and corporations, partly catering to the skills that certain employers seek. Also: paid nanodegrees in partnership with institutions, plus access to a master’s degree program in computer science with Georgia Tech, delivered as a set of MOOCs — a first in online learning. Paid: Udacity for Business and Corporate Training options.
(Photo by Ilya Pavlov)
Technology, IT, Programming, Cybersecurity, Networking
All sites here cover tech-specific topics and occasionally related topics that are less technical.
- Apple Developer Site offers a constantly growing number of free, in-depth tutorials, video workshops, code libraries and more to registered users (also free), for every Apple hardware platform on which you can develop software. Paid extras: early access, app analytics, hardware capabilities, app distribution (Apple App Store and beta channels) and more.
- Aquent Gymnasium‘s free online courses focus primarily on Web site and interface design, plus basic Web development concepts and writing/ editing/ marketing for mobile and Web. To supplement the lessons, they also list links to relevant jobs posted on the Aquent site.
- Channel 9, MSDN is part of Microsoft’s long-running MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network), offering a mix of lessons, documentation, workshops and other resources consisting of thousands of videos, tutorials, series and more, for various MS-Windows platforms including mobile.
- Codecademy‘s catalog consists of courses in Web development (front- and back-end, 3 to 35 hours), computer programming and data science, with a mix of free courses plus additional advanced courses and resources for paid Pro members (e.g. extra projects access, and advisor availability from 8am to midnight EST).
- Cybrary.it has extensive free online “Micro Course” training in cybersecurity and networking topics (including for certification prep), plus webinars, tutorials, forums and more. Paid extras: certificates of completion, professional (industry) certification in cybersecurity/ networking skills.
- FreeCodeCamp offers their own free online highly-regarded courses in software develop, primarily for Web development, Web-based data visualization, databases, and related topics, in the form of a Web-based IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that students can run in a Web browser. Each course has its own milestones and certificate of completion, and thousands of first-time developers have found jobs in the industry after achieving one or more certificates.
- Google Android Developer Training has a lot of what developers need to get started in creating Android mobile apps, with copious tutorials, documentation and code snippets. Also see the Google Code elsewhere in this list.
- Google Code is the main Google developers’ resource, with links to development tutorials and guides for various Google platforms such as Chrome browser, and including Android Developer Training, mentioned elsewhere in this list.
- hackr.io is a search engine for free (and paid) programming tutorials, with search results pointing to hundreds of additional online learning sites.
- Stack Exchange, while not strictly an online learning site, is part of a collection of free Q&A (Question and Answer) Web sites where software/ IT developers can ask technical questions to which other members sometimes provide incredibly detailed answers, often with code samples.
- Tuts+ is a set of topic-specific sites with hundreds of free courses and tutorials for coding, Web, mobile, design, business, video, music, 3D graphics, game development and more. Paid extras: advanced tutorials and courses, ebooks, digital assets, unlimited downloads.
(Photo by Jakob Owens)
The sites in this section typically cover one or two topics, sometimes a few related topics as well.
- Adafruit Learning System is perfect for people interested in learning about “Maker” projects that combine electronics and tiny computers to make useful and/or interesting gadgets. Free guides and tutorials available for DIY (Do It Yourself) use.
- Dave Conservatoire is a very specialized learning site, self-billed as a free online music school, which offers 100+ music lessons in the form of video. Lessons include both music theory, test prep, software/ tools use and more. Paid extras: personal lessons from the site’s creator, over Skype or Google Hangouts.
- Drawspace is a site for both students wanting to learn drawing and illustration as well as for art educators looking for content and tools for the classroom. Free membership gets users access to 50 free lessons (10 at a time) to start, plus another three free per month. Paid extras: more lessons and more at a time, rollover credits, no ads and more.
- FilmMaker IQ‘s free online courses cover multiple aspects of films and filmmaking, intended for both those in the profession, as well as those who love film and want a means to increase their knowledge and test that. There are also forums, a Q+A section where users can ask questions and receive answers, and other features.
- Hack Design created a design course and toolkit by curating “the best and most useful blogs, books, games, videos and tutorials,” about the critical elements of design, into a 50-lesson study plan.
- Hubspot offers free courses in business, entrepreneurship, marketing, sales and related topics, as well as training, certification and documentation to supplement the free tools on Hubspot. Paid extras: additional business tools and resources.
- Investopedia is a go-to site in terms of financial knowledge, and offer free learning content in many forms: newsletters, investing tutorials, stock market simulators, dictionary, articles, tutorials, and even exam prep courses for people seeking licensing in accounting, securities and more.
- Justin Guitar claims over 35,000 people per day learning from its 1,000+ guitar lessons that took 15 years to create and which include gear and recording tech, chords and other music theory, ear training, etc. Paid extras: books, downloads, mobile apps and more.
- Kutztown On-Demand Online Learning provides access to 25 free online programs covering small business and entrepreneurial training. This is an initiative of Kutztown University, with material “sourced from the SBA, IRS, Small Biz U, and custom programs from the Pennsylvania SBDC Network.”
- PhLearn hosts nearly 500 free tutorials on photoshop, lightroom, photography, retouching, compositing, etc. Paid extras: a monthly subscription provides access to another 50+ pro tutorials and 420+ additional photoshop tutorials.
- Poynter News University — a Poynter.org initiative — offers free and paid courses in media and journalism advertising and sales and other topics. Financial support from various organizations (including Knight Foundation, American Press Institute E-learning, etc.) covers the cost of some paid courses, resulting in them being free.
(Photo by Jo Szczepanska)
Sites in this section generally each have a fairly broad range of topics.
- CreativeLive offers an interesting model where many courses are free when they first are live broadcast, but need to be paid for after that. Topics include a wide range of creative interests including photography, writing, design and more.
- Do It Yourself offers very specialized free DIY tutorials and videos for home renovation and improvement and related topics.
- Free-Ed is one of the earliest free online learning sites (launched in 1997), with a steadily expanding set of courses, written lessons (such as e-textbooks) and tutorials — in a wide range of topics — that use a potentially more effective self-directed lifelong learning (SDLL) model.
- Howcast offers a wide range of general interest topics in the form of how-to video tutorials, in categories that include Money and Education, Health, Home, Personal Care and Style, Food and Drink, Tech, Video Games, Arts and Crafts, Parenting and Pets, Sports and Fitness, Dance and Entertainment, Love and Relationships and more.
- Instructables is a DIY (do-it-yourself) tutorial site that intersects dozens of arts and crafts topics with Maker projects, experimenting with mini circuit boards and computers and more. Tutorials consists of text and video instructions, item cost lists, etc.
- LessonPaths (formerly MentorMob EDU and an offering from MentorMob) is an education curation tool, allowing teachers/ educators, students or anyone to combine free online lesson/ course content from the Web into “Learning Playlists” that can be accessed free by anyone.
- Memrise is a repository of free online flashcard-based lessons and courses covering topics such as Language (nearly 190 languages), Maths & Science, History & Geography, Arts & Literature, Memory Training, Professional and Careers, Entertainment, etc. Content is a mix of UGC (User-Generated Content – so you can create your own) and from other sources, and combines audio clips with flashcards for lesson-building, with prompts for reviewing lessons, timers, lesson milestones and more.
- MentorMob bills itself as “free and social learning,” offering up online learning guides on a variety of general interest topics including entrepreneurship, wedding planning, parenting, photography, dancing, kiteboarding, skateboarding and others. Note: MentorMob also runs LessonPaths (elsewhere in this list).
- TED Talks and TEDx and other programs are loosely in the vein of online learning in the sense that their recorded events can be viewed free online, and while not strictly lessons/ courses, their slogan “Ideas worth spreading” is apt as you may learn something from the content, consisting of thousands of videos. TED Ed (youth and education initiative), however, has a “global network of over 250,000 teachers” involved and has become an award-winning education platform.