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The Best Websites to Take College Courses Online for Free
Get A High Quality Education Online For Free
A quiet revolution is taking place in the sphere of education. More and more of the world's top educational institutions are making their course materials available for anybody across the world to access for free. Meanwhile a new breed of start up companies are offering college level courses in a wide range of courses for nothing - or charging just a couple of hundred dollars or less for graded courses which give you transferable U.S. college credits.
All of this means that you can now get a high quality education in any subject which interests you for either nothing or next to nothing.
Self-directed study - meaning studying at home based on your own initiative rather than in a traditional college setting - is very rewarding. It also looks great on your CV, and there are various websites out there which can help you to organize your learning and share it with prospective employers. Degreed.com, for example, verifies your certificates from a wide range of formal (college credit bearing) and informal sources, and displays them alongside your traditionally gained qualifications.
Udacity.com specializes in computer science and programming courses, but also offers a range of other science and mathematics related subjects.
All of the courses at Udacity can be taken for free, and many courses also offer college credits if you are willing to pay $150. One of the great things about Udacity is that you can take the course for free first, and then if you decide you need the qualification at a later date you can pay the money and take get the grading then without having to do the whole course again. There are no schedules or timetables - you can start any time you want and study at your own pace.
If you are looking to retrain for a new career, then this is arguably the best of the free education resources. There are two reasons for this. Firstly Udacity will help you find work by sharing your c.v. with prospective employers. Secondly many of the courses, especially the newer ones announced this autumn, are highly focussed on making you employable rather than just academically educated. For example, 'Intro to Salesforce App Development' is a highly specific but still high quality course which would equip you well for finding a job. The course has also been created with the cooperation of Salesforce themselves, so I think its fair to say that any company wanting to hire a Salesforce app developer would value this qualification above anything you would get in a traditional academic setting.
Have You Ever Taken A Free Online Course?
Coursera.com has the widest range of free online college courses, and has partnered with some of the best universities in America. You will find some really interesting courses in most subject areas, from science to the arts, law to engineering, medicine to economics. One of the great thing about Coursera is that new courses are regularly added to the site. The courses are developed by US universities, and are exactly the same as courses offered to students attending those universities in the traditional manner.
In addition to covering a wide range of subjects, Coursera also has a wide range of different levels. Some courses are aimed at beginners, whilst others are upper college level or beyond and go into real depth on niche topics.
You can choose to either study for free, or pay a small amount to study for college credit.
Unlike Udacity, the courses at Coursera have a specified start date and duration, and you would generally have to enrol in advance.
Education Portal is another site which offers free courses, with the option to pay for grading and get U.S. college credits if you pass.
If you are interested in Business Studies then this is by far the best site for you, as they offer a wide range of business related topics. They are also quite good for languages and humanities, although the courses are all more of a basic introduction to the subject in question rather than detailed examinations of specific topics.
Sophia is another site which offers college credit. Although their courses are not designed to be taken for free in their entirety, they do offer quite a good free trial.They also offer some subjects not available to study for free elsewhere, such as conflict resolution for example.
Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative
Although the Open Learning Initiative does not offer college credits, they do have a good range of college level courses available for you to study online for free. They also have excellent learning resources and self-assessment tests throughout for you to gauge your progress.
The Open Learning Initiative currently offers 19 courses, including languages and some interesting stuff you won't find elsewhere such as 'Argument Diagramming' or 'Logic & Proofs'.
Open courseware is what began the free education revolution. Although this format is now starting to be eclipsed by the more user friendly and college credit bearing websites listed above, those sites still cannot compete with the sheer range of subjects available to study through open courseware.
The idea behind the open courseware movement is for universities to document their courses online and make this documentation available for free. This often comes in the form of lecture notes / transcripts, tests, projects and essay topics, along with collections of suggested reading for you to go through in your own time. Sometimes you will also find videos, but most of the time the content seems to be provided in text form, often as a collection of pdf ebooks.
Using this method you can study courses at the world's top universities. MIT, for example, has one of the most famous open courseware projects - http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm. You can also find some excellent stuff at the Open University's 'Open Learn' centre.
More of the Best Resources for Free Online Education
- Khan Academy
Learn for free about math, art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and more. Khan Academy is a nonprofit with the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
- Intute - Home
Helping you find the best websites for research and study.
- Wolfram Demonstrations Project
Explore thousands of free applications across science, mathematics, engineering, technology, business, art, finance, social sciences, and more.