The concept of online learning is a key driver of change in the education industry, which is especially valuable in recent times when the world was forced to move into the sphere of remote work and learning. While accessibility remains a challenge for many learners across the globe, a vast number of e-learning providers have made great strides in improving student access to educational material. In addition to this, there are several learning institutions that now offer online courses free of charge. This is an encouraging move that’s sure to promote the development of students while eliminating any hefty costs involved.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of five of the best free online course providers that are making online learning mainstream and changing the course of the learning sector.
Collaborating with hundreds of universities and firms across the globe, Coursera is a leader in online learning and is a firm favourite for learners and institutions. With more than 5,000 courses, Professional Certificates and degrees on offer, learners are spoilt for choice. Coursera covers 11 subject areas and categorises its learning material into different stages: beginner, intermediate, mixed and advanced. With this systematic and levelled approach, learners are guaranteed to find educational material to match their existing skill sets. Being one of the big four massive open online courses (MOOC) providers, Coursera has a vast network of experts on its side, and they are able to offer courses in niche areas such as machine learning.
Created by Harvard and MIT, edX is one of the four MOOC providers. edX states that it is a “mission driven organization, committed to transforming traditional education, removing the barriers of cost, location and access.” With courses written and designed by experts from universities and leading firms around the world, edX ranks among the most credible e-learning providers. edX makes use of several informative and interactive learning methods in its unverified learning programmes (which are its free courses), including videos, course readings and ungraded practice assessments. Unfortunately, learners who enrol into edX’s free courses won’t have access to graded assessments or be awarded verified certification. However, if you’re only interested in acquiring new skills and an improved understanding of the subject you wish to study, edX is a great e-learning provider to consider.
Udemy is yet another leading provider of online courses. Having had more than 44 million learners enrol into its thousands of courses, Udemy has a reputation for being the e-learning provider of choice and takes an instructor-supported approach to its delivery of courses. Udemy offers courses across a spectrum of disciplines and difficulties. This diversity makes the learning process easier for learners at different stages in their learning journeys to find a course that suits their evolving interests and skills. In addition to its offerings, Udemy provides a platform for those who are passionate about certain subjects to become instructors. While they may not be experts from universities and other learning institutions, several of Udemy’s instructors receive brilliant reviews and ratings from students for their valuable course content and approach to teaching.
Founded in 2012 by The Open University and SEEK Limited, FutureLearn is a learning provider that values quality over quantity. While it may not have a large variety of free courses on offer, the ones available to learners are of exceptional quality and are no different in content from the paid courses offered. Although this article's main focus is on free online learning opportunities, it is important to note that FutureLearn’s paid for courses are quite extensive in subject matter and programme types compared to the free options. Examples of the variety of programme types include micro-credential programmes, certificates and online degrees. They also offer accredited certification for these. Learners who enrol in the free courses are given full access to course material, videos and discussion forums for the full duration of the course as well as 14 days after. The main difference between the free and paid courses is that the free options don’t include course tests or certificates.
Udacity has been a leading provider of e-learning courses in technical subjects since 2012. While it offers both free and paid courses, Udacity doesn’t skimp on the quality and support services offered to students who enrol in any of the free 200 courses. With the free courses, learners still have access to features offered to those enrolled in the paid courses. These include video lessons, auto-graded quizzes, and support from mentors 24/7. Udacity’s course content is curated with practicality at its core. With a great deal of focus on technological subjects, Udacity collaborates with industry-leading companies such as Microsoft and Google to design its high-quality learning programmes, known as Nanodegrees.
The e-learning industry is constantly evolving, and there are bound to be new innovative developments coming to the forefront in the years to come. We’re excited to see more providers changing the landscape of this industry and providing exceptional online learning opportunities and improved access to education to learners across the globe.