Learning from home

Learning 650Online courses are a convenient and flexible way to learn new skills at a pace that suits you. There are thousands available – ranging from science, business to creative and IT.

You may already know the skill you’re interested in – such as learning a new language, coding or cooking. Or perhaps you’d like to dip your toe into learning again and see what’s available. Or would you like to find a course that takes your interest, just for the joy of learning? Whatever your motivation, we’ve put together an overview of free online course providers to get you started.

Coursera: Online course heavyweight

Coursera is a global online learning platform that partners with universities and leading companies, such as Google and IBM, to create online courses. With 1000 free courses, there’s plenty for you to choose from, at beginner, intermediate, mixed and advanced levels. There are 11 subject areas available, with courses as diverse as Law, Management, History, Graphic Design – or perhaps Machine Learning will grab your interest – at the time of writing, it had been studied by 3.3 million students.

You can find out more about Coursera’s free courses here.


edX: Natural sciences and the humanities

edX is another huge, global online platform that has partnered with over 100 schools, nonprofit organisations, and corporations to offer 2000 free online courses. Just be aware that if you want a certificate at the end of course, there will be a cost attached. Popular courses are languages and computer science: currently, their most popular course is an Introduction to Computer Science developed in partnership with Harvard – it has over two million learners subscribed.

You can browse EdX courses here.

OpenLearn: Proven and experienced provider

The Open University is one of the best-known online course providers, with over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning. OpenLearn is its free learning platform, with almost 1000 courses to choose from, divided by type, level and resource length. It’s possible to choose from ebooks, badged courses and 'lunchtime learning' with three levels: introductory, intermediate and advanced. There are eight course topics, including Languages, Money and Business, History, Science and Law, and course lengths range from 1-3 hours to over 24 hours in total.

Take a look at OpenLearn’s full catalogue here.

FutureLearn: Short, smart courses

Future Learn is part-owned by The Open University and offers free, short courses, or ‘microcredentials’. They offer 14 subject areas, including creative arts and media, healthcare and medicine, teaching, science, engineering, and maths. Again, there is a cost if you want a certificate at the end of your course.

Future Learn has compiled a list of 35 learning ideas and courses for people that want to expand their knowledge during lockdown, which you can read here.

Alison: Social enterprise for workplace skills

Alison is a for-profit social enterprise dedicated to providing free online courses to people across the world. It provides 1500 free courses with a focus on workplace-based skills with certificate level courses requiring two - three hours of study and diploma level courses ten to fifteen hours. Its ABC IT course was cited by The New York Times as "covering similar ground" to the International Computer Driving License but without the cost of certification.

You can see if there is an Alison course for you here.

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