Free online courses to help you learn new skills and advance your career


Learning new skills, exploring new subjects, and discovering new subjects brings many rewards, including increased self-confidence, new career opportunities, and a sense of satisfaction.

At the height of the pandemic in 2020, many adults used their new free time to learn something new. With the closure of traditional classrooms, more and more have turned to free online courses from providers like e-learning company Coursera, which reported 65% growth in registered users in 2020. , serving over 77 million students.

Free online courses allow you to learn something new, hone your skills, or try out a new area with a small investment of time. These online courses can lead to new hobbies, language skills, or a new career, especially in those areas of technology where programmers often need to learn new skills quickly.

Why take an online course?

Online courses offer an efficient and economical way to learn new things – and the providers offer courses in just about anything you can imagine. Instructors can show you how to take better photos on iPhone or create unique clothes with your sewing machine. You can find courses on the science of happiness and well-being. Or you can hone your career and job search skills, like business writing or interviewing.

Online learning also offers unemployed students the opportunity to prepare for new jobs. Free online courses also allow you to try out a new subject before committing to longer and more expensive training. Or, you can brush up on your math or language skills before starting a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Some areas, like technology, are changing rapidly. Online learning helps tech workers learn new skills in emerging technologies. Much of the workforce needs to learn new skills for today’s businesses. Free apprenticeship courses help fill these skills gaps.

Benefits of online courses

  • Flexibility: You can access online lessons almost anywhere you have an internet connection, allowing you to fit learning into your schedule. Many platforms support mobile applications. Classes often do not have fixed meeting times. Many platforms offer instant access to course materials so you can start learning as soon as you register.
  • Convenience: Choose courses that require a few hours to a few weeks of study. Instructors can include professionals in the field who focus on key skills or knowledge, making more efficient use of your time. Many courses support a self-paced template, allowing you to move on to the next topic when you’re ready.
  • Cost: Free online learning courses often include videos and collected reading material. You also save on travel costs. Many vendors also offer paid memberships, with a more comprehensive course catalog and more classroom-instructor interaction, often at significant savings over more traditional learning options.

Online course providers you need to know


Coursera offers college-level courses of over 200 universities and partner companies serving more than 82 million learners. The company was launched in 2012 to transform the learning of students around the world. Today, the platform offers more than 3,000 courses. You can find over 1,700 free courses on Coursera. The company also offers certificates and diplomas through its partner educational institutions.


Harvard and MIT created edX after the two schools launched massive open online courses in 2012. The platform hosts more than 3,500 online courses universities and organizations. Most courses offer free access to videos and learning exercises, with optional paid certificates and graded assignments. Many classes offer a self-study program.

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Sharing skills

Skillshare offers courses in creative endeavors such as photography, music and website design and development. Course offerings also include business skills, freelance, and lifestyle topics. The free courses include online videos. A paid subscription gives access to a project-based program and a collaborative learning environment. The platform also welcomes instructors eager to share their talents with students.

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FutureLearn offers courses entirely online through partnerships with universities and industry experts. It serves 15 million students from over 190 countries with a catalog of over 3,000 courses. It offers short courses, micro-accreditation programs and diplomas through accredited programs. The courses encompass topics in the fields of health, business, IT and education. The ExpertTrack option offers online skills in a specific area. FutureLearn offers subscription options per course, monthly and annually.


Udemy connects learners with instructors who want to share their knowledge in technology, business, marketing, and personal growth. The online platform offers more than 155,000 courses primarily through online video sessions. Over 40 million learners use the courses for vocational training and lifelong learning. Several hundred courses are free. Paid courses have one payment per course. Programs range from half an hour to several hours of video lectures.

Creative woman in white cotton dress holding cup of coffee in hand while working at the wooden table with cozy living room in the background.

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Kadenze specializes in creative education, with courses in design, illustration, music and art. The company’s academic partners include Berklee College of Music and Columbia University, with instructors in art and engineering. A free membership gives access to many courses. The platform also offers a premium membership that allows learners to submit assignments and earn certificates. Micro-courses offer short shots on in-demand subjects, while programs offer a series of courses on a specific subject. Some programs offer college credits.


General assembly

Coding bootcamp provider General Assembly offers free courses in coding, data science, design, and digital marketing. They also include career development courses on topics such as public speaking. The free online courses allow learners to explore new topics before committing to one of the bootcamp offerings online or on the General Assembly campus. Classes take place online in a live broadcast session with interaction with the instructor.

What courses can I take online?

Online training providers offer thousands of free online courses. Classes range from academic subjects, such as English or history, to technology training or creative teaching. You can easily find online courses that pique your interest or match your career goals.

What’s the fastest certificate to get from an online course?

Many online courses support a self-paced teaching model. You can watch the videos, complete the readings, and take all the required tests sometimes in a matter of hours. Other programs may take several weeks or even months. Check with the provider, as many verified certificates are only offered for students with paid subscriptions.

Can I get my degree online for free?

Several accredited programs offer high school diplomas online. Through partnerships with state and local governments, many students can qualify for free online courses leading to a high school diploma. Check with your local school system or the public adult education service for more information.


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