Ways to keep learning about just about anything from the comfort of your home laptop
Online learning sites remain one of the internet’s best-kept secrets. Courses on just about anything you can imagine are offered—often free!—on sites all over the web. You can take entire college-level classes from the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, and you don’t have to sacrifice your firstborn child to pay for it! [Author calms down and shoves nerd glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose.]
Whether you’re looking to further your technical skills to keep up with the times, seeking certifications to further a career or a hobby, or merely interested in a certain topic, there is most certainly a course for you. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to look first, so we’ve gathered a variety of the best, most comprehensive sites to help you start your studying.
Udemy offers over 183,000 online video courses, so this is one of the first places to take a look. Courses are grouped by topic, so you can quickly narrow down the options to find a particular course, especially since their search algorithm is remarkably helpful. Course costs range from free to about $200, with the more expensive classes leaning more towards certifications and expertise-level enrichment. Many of the introductory classes are free. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, on the off-chance that you enroll in a course with a fee and are unsatisfied.
Udemy also allows users to review the classes they take, so you can easily tell which courses are better received than others (and why). The site is easy to navigate and explore, which makes it fun to peruse your options, compare instructors, and read up on what you would be committing to before you even enroll.
Coursera is a lot like Udemy—an easily navigable site filled with countless courses—but the classes they offer are the same ones often offered at major universities around the world. Most of them are free, and consist of watching lecture videos and presentations, doing readings, holding discussions with other students, and completing assignments and quizzes. They are offered as MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses, and are free because you will not be graded or receive college credit. Accreditation is available for some courses, but requires additional paperwork and usually a small fee (anywhere from $20 to around $200).
All you need to do is create a free account, choose the subject fields you’re interested in, and then you can select the courses you want to take and whether you’re doing it for fun or for actual credit.
Maybe you are looking for classes on topics that wouldn’t be part of a collegiate course; classes that teach you aspects of technology and the internet that you’ve never really understood, and were too embarrassed to ask someone because it seems like you should get it already. Techboomers is the best because it breaks down popular sites and services like Facebook, YouTube, Gmail, eBay, Amazon, Pinterest (and so many more) and addresses the basics: what they are, how much they cost, what they can do for you, how to sign up for them, and how to use them most effectively. If you have a question about something that you’ve been avoiding asking your adult children because you can’t face the condescending eye rolls it will induce, Techboomers is for you. And the best part is that it’s entirely free.
If you’re just a genuinely curious person who enjoys learning for the sake of it, this website could become a tad addictive. Inspired by the popularity of TED Talks, the site contains thousands of stand-alone topics as well as series like “Inventions that Changed History” or “Myths from Around the World.” By making a free account you can filter the topics by age level (to avoid the ones geared towards kids, although those can be just as fascinating) and immerse yourself in knowledge from experts around the world. As fans of TED talks, we love how the educational content becomes entertainment, but it can be tough for more visual learners. This site solves that problem, with videos and animated content to help the more visually-geared learners stay engaged.
Masterclass is a fantastic resource for those who want to learn directly from the experts. And not just any experts: often, they are really famous. For $180 per year, you can take classes from the people you admire in just about every field: Anna Wintour on business, voice lessons from Christina Aguilera, even how to write a bestseller with Dan Brown.
While it’s amazing to be able to learn from someone you recognize as being really good at what they do, you have to remember that not everyone is skilled at teaching their own craft. So keep in mind that you’re often paying for the novelty of being taught by a celebrity, and not necessarily for the depth of knowledge or skill sets that you will be able to acquire.