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Back in the day, if you wanted to learn something new, you'd go to school for it. Today, not only are educational institutions offering their full programs and individual courses online, but experts in almost every field imaginable are creating their own programs and courses online to share their knowledge with their worldwide audiences.
Both educational institutions and individual experts who want to offer their courses online need somewhere to host it and get it out to people who want to learn, which is why there are now so many platforms that are completely dedicated to offering online courses. Some focus on tighter niches like green technology while others include courses in a wide variety of fields.
Whatever you're interested in learning, chances are you can almost certainly find a course about it from the educational course sites listed below. From beginner levels all the way to intermediate and advanced, there's bound to be something for everybody.
Diversity of content.
Top-notch faculty and institutions.
Some courses are quite inexpensive.
Very little free content.
The "anyone can be an instructor" approach means some lesser-known instructors will be hit-or-miss.
Udemy is the online education site that tops this list for being such an incredibly popular and valuable resource. You can search through over 55,000 courses in all sorts of different topics and download the Udemy app to take your learning mobile for quick lessons and study sessions when you're on the go.
Udemy courses aren't free, but they start as low as $12. If you're an expert looking to create and launch a course of your own, you can also become an instructor with Udemy and take advantage of their massive user base to attract students.
Excellent courses taught by national leaders.
Reasonable price points.
Academic rigor is reasonably strong.
Topics heavily focused on programming and science.
If you're looking to take courses from over 140 of the country's top universities and organizations, then Coursera is for you. Coursera has partnered up with the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and others to offer universal access to the world's best education.
You can find over 2,000 paid and unpaid courses on Coursera in over 180 fields related to computer science, business, social sciences and more. Coursera also has mobile apps available so you can learn at your own pace.
All-you-can-eat model for one monthly subscription cost.
Focus on professional development.
Hit-or-miss content based on the skill and expertise of the course designer.
Lynda is a popular educational hub for professionals looking to learn new skills related to business, creativity, and technology. Courses fall under categories like animation, audio/music, business, design, development, marketing, photography, video and more.
When you sign up with Lynda, you get a 30-day free trial and then you'll be charged either $20 a month for a basic membership or $30 for a premium membership. If you ever want to deactivate your membership and then come back at a later time, Lynda has a "reactivate" feature that restores all your account information including all your course history and progress.
Great clearinghouse of free educational materials.
No cost to browse the large library of offerings.
Open Culture isn't the educational provider. It's just a curator of other people's content.
If you're on a budget but still looking for top quality education content, check out Open Culture's library of 1,300 courses with over 45,000 hours of audio and video lectures that are totally free. You'll have to spend a bit of time scrolling down through the single page that includes all 1,300 course links, but at least they're all organized by category in alphabetical order.
Many of the courses available on Open Culture are from leading institutions from around the world including Yale, Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Berkley, and others. Audiobooks, ebooks, and certificate courses are also available.
Well-curated and well-delivered content by industry experts.
Credential programs available.
Content tends to be dominated by programming and the sciences.
Similarly to Coursera, edX offers access to higher education from over 90 of the world's leading educational institutions including Harvard, MIT, Berkley, the University of Maryland, the University of Queensland and others. Founded and governed by colleges and universities, edX is the only open source and nonprofit MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) leader.
Find courses in computer science, language, psychology, engineering, biology, marketing or any other field you're interested in. Use it for high school level eduction or to earn a credit for university. You'll receive an official credential from the institution signed by the instructor to verify your achievement.
Great content for creative professionals.
Subscription-only model with no trial period.
Envato's Tuts+ is for those who work and play in creative technology. In addition to its vast library of how-to tutorials, courses are available in design, illustration, code, web design, photography, video, business, music, audio,
Tuts+ has more than 22,000 tutorials and over 870 video courses, with new courses being added every single week. Unfortunately, there's no free trial, but the membership is affordable at just $29 a month.
Focus on technology skills that are in demand by businesses.
Well-designed platform that offers credentials and transcripts.
Catalog is deep, but not broad. Heavy focus on tech topics.
Dedicated to bringing higher education to the world in the accessible, affordable and effective ways possible, Udacity offers both online courses and credentials that teach students the skills that are currently in demand by industry employers. They claim to offer their education at a fraction of the cost of traditional schooling.
This is an excellent platform to look into if you're planning on working in technology. With courses and credentials in Android, iOS, data science, software engineering, and web development, you can be sure to get access to the most up to date education in these innovative areas that are relevant to today's tech companies and startups.
Clean, easy-to-use interface.
Wide variety of subjects.
Some courses are too niche.
Not many well-known providers of content.
With 10 million students from across the world, ALISON is an online learning resource that offers free, high-quality courses, education services, and community support. Their resources are designed for absolutely anyone looking for a new job, promotion, college placement or business venture.
Choose from a variety of subjects to pick from over 800 free courses designed to provide you with certificate and diploma level education. You'll also be required to take assessments and score at least 80% to pass, so you know you'll have the skills to move forward.
Eclectic collection of lessons on a variety of subjects.
Some content is so terse (like five-minute video courses) that its value is questionable.
OpenLearn is designed to give users free access to educational materials from, which originally launched back in the 90s as a way to offer online learning in broadcast collaborations with the BBC. Today, OpenLearn offers both topical and interactive content in a variety of content formats, including courses.
You can filter the free courses by activity, format (audio or video), subject and more options. All courses are listed with their level (introductory, intermediate, etc.) and time length to give you an idea of what you can expect.
Emphasis on group learning and peer engagement.
Broad cross-section of content.
Follows an "open learning" model that predates MOOCs, which means delivery is more traditional and compartmentalized.
Like OpenLearn, FutureLearn is part of The Open University and is another alternative on this list that offers course programs from leading education institutions and organization partners. Courses are delivered a step at a time and can be learned at your own pace while accessed from a desktop or mobile device.
One of the real benefits of FutureLearn is its commitment to social learning, giving its students the opportunity to engage in discussions with others throughout the course. FutureLearn also offers full programs, which contain several courses in them for more extensive learning.