5 Free Online Courses and Classes That Will Help You Upskill Now
Whether you want to learn a language, brush up on digital marketing skills or take a DSLR photography class, there’s a free online course out there for you. Here are five places to start looking.
Lifelong learning has always been a top priority for me. Learning new things brings me joy and makes me feel that I’m progressing and developing my potential. Even after I graduated, I knew I wanted to make space for learning at every stage of my life.
Continuous learning is a great habit to get into. Not only does it help with building a continuous professional development habit that will skyrocket your career, but it also shapes you into a more well-rounded person.
That being said, education is a privilege. This very moment, graduates are entering the working world with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Post-graduate courses are even more expensive and exhausting, making very little room for working on the side.
Free online courses break the mould. They help you build credible skills to show off on your CV without breaking the bank.
These days, we have the luxury of a wide range of free online courses to choose from. Whether you’re interested in science, marketing, photography or coding, there’s an online course out there for you.
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The Benefits of Taking an Online Course
I graduated with a degree in English Literature and Philosophy. As you can imagine, I didn’t choose it for the big buck job opportunities. While my course taught me valuable skills that will carry me through life, I knew I wasn’t the most employable graduate out there.
In my ultimate guide to the post-grad job search, I talked about the importance of taking stock of your skills. Whether you’re a recent graduate, a current student or already out in the working world, there’s always room for some extra learning. And I can honestly say that doing online courses helped me stand out from the crowd while looking for my first post-grad job.
Online courses helped me to shift my skillset in the direction I wanted to pursue. Within weeks of finishing college, I decided to take a free digital marketing course on Google Digital Garage. Even though I had no marketing degree, I managed to get a digital marketing job after college because I had put in the extra effort to learn and upskill.
Besides, there’s power in learning things that truly interest you. It’s basically like studying your favourite subject any time you like. By studying something you enjoy, you’ll be keen to progress further, try new things, and see results faster.
Learning online comes with a whole load of benefits, too. You get to enjoy a flexible schedule suited to your needs, and build your own schedule. You can choose to work on extra projects in your spare time. Plus, you get to learn from top instructors from around the world, at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes with no attached cost at all!
Here are five of my favourite sites to find free online courses and classes — whether you’re learning for work or play.
1 | Google Digital Garage
Google Digital Garage is Google’s online learning platform, offering online courses in data and tech, digital marketing and career development. The majority of the courses are free, and all are approved by top industry experts. You can expect Google-standard quality across the board here. The courses are clear, easy to navigate, and straight to the point.
Each of the courses is divided into digestible video modules, with quizzes to test your knowledge along the way. There’s never any information overload, and you can always go back for a refresher.
Google Digital Garage also offers a wide range of free online webinars. They regularly cover topics such as CV writing, writing for social media, or getting started with paid Google search ads. You can check out the list of upcoming live trainings here.
Recommended Course: Fundamentals of Digital Marketing
Fundamentals of Digital Marketing is Google’s signature course. It comes with an official certification accredited by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe and The Open University. Definitely an impressive badge to add to your CV or LinkedIn profile!
Best of all, it is completely free.
From building a web presence to planning your online business strategy, this course has got everything you need to master the basics of digital marketing. I got my cert this time last year, and it definitely helped me brush up on my skills and get an up-to-speed understanding of SEO and search engine marketing.
At around 40 hours long, it’s one of the longest courses on the Digital Garage platform. That said, every module is worth the effort. Since the certification is recognised worldwide, employers take it into account when hiring for marketing positions. This gives us non-marketing grads a fighting chance!
If you’re a business owner or you’ve ever had a general interest in marketing, I couldn’t recommend this course enough.
2 | Skillshare
Skillshare is an online learning platform offering thousands of expert-taught classes.
Topics range across illustration, animation, creative writing, photography, personal development and more. This creative range makes Skillshare the perfect learning platform for creatives. Whether you work in a creative industry or simply want to up your Instagram game, you’ll find dozens of classes to suit your interests.
Over the years I’ve taken Skillshare classes in DSLR photography, photo editing in Lightroom, and creative writing. These classes have helped me upskill, but also allowed me the freedom of learning whenever inspiration strikes. If I’m working on a creative project, such as editing an IGTV video or trying out some digital illustration, I turn to Skillshare to brush up on my skills.
Skillshare is the perfect opportunity to try out things you’ve always been curious about. It’s magical to see how much you can learn in just an hour about something that’s always been a mystery.
Where else could you spend an hour learning about creative flower arranging from a Venice Beach florist without leaving your house? Or take a masterclass in writing powerful personal essays from New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay? Honestly, it’s pretty much the perfect learning situation.
And of course, it’s super affordable too. Skillshare premium membership costs around $10 per month. When you consider the costs of traditional education, this is an absolute bargain. And in even better news, all my lovely readers can get two weeks of premium membership for free. You can cancel anytime, no hard feelings and no shady tricks.
3 | Coursera
Coursera is a household name when it comes to online courses. They partner with leading universities, such as Yale, Duke, Stanford and Northwestern. As with many online course platform models, they operate on a free enrolment and paid certification basis. This means you get all the benefits of the classes for free, but pay to certify if it’s beneficial to your professional development. You can even work towards a Bachelors or Masters degree here at competitive prices.
All of the courses on Coursera are taught by top instructors, offering the quality online learning experience that could cost a small fortune in a traditional university setting. You can learn anytime and anywhere you like, so it’s super flexible. Classes range from business to arts and humanities, health, social science, computer science and a range of coding languages.
Here are a few Coursera courses that recently caught my eye. All of them feature free learning access!
Introduction to Philosophy. An 18-hour introductory course offered by the University of Edinburgh.
What is Contemporary Art? A 12-hour course hosted by MoMA.
Fundamentals of Graphic Design. A 17-hour course covering all the basics of graphic design, offered by the California Institute of the Arts.
Introduction to Personal Branding. Learn more about branding yourself online in just 6 hours with the University of Virginia.
The Science of Well-Being. This 19-hour course is a collaboration between Yale, Coursera and Google Digital Garage.
4 | FutureLearn
Just like Coursera, FutureLearn partners with leading global universities and companies to bring high-quality online courses to life. Most are also CPD-certified, meaning they count toward continuous professional development in the workplace.
You can learn most of the courses for free and pay for any certification or additional benefits. You can also purchase an Unlimited annual membership for €240, which makes it a pretty affordable way to continuously educate yourself.
Here are a few free FutureLearn courses on my wishlist. Each one requires just a couple of hours of commitment per week, so it’s a super flexible way to keep learning.
Introduction to Creative AI. A 2-week course from UAL Creative Computing Institute and Institute of Coding.
Food and Mood: Improving Mental Health Through Diet and Nutrition. A 3-week course from Deakin University.
Understanding Gender Inequality. A 4-week course hosted by the University of Exeter.
Explore Filmmaking: from Script to Screen. A 6-week filmmaking course by the National Film and Television School and BFI Film Academy.
Fashion’s Future: The Sustainable Development Goals. A 4-week course presented by Fashion Revolution.
5 | The Open University
The Open University is an internationally recognised online university offering a wide range of online degrees. Apart from these paid programmes, they also offer dozens of free online courses. This catalogue is a helpful resource for anyone looking to upskill or develop their knowledge in a niche field.
The classes are varied in skill level and time commitment, so you can pick and choose what’s right for you. You even get a certificate of participation at the end to keep for your records!
Whether you’ve recently graduated or want to gain some continuous professional development points, there’s a course out there that will deepen your knowledge and bring you up to speed with industry developments. There are even language learning courses for beginners and advanced learners alike.
The list is long, but here are some courses that I’ve got my eye on:
Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality — 24 hours
Climate change — 18 hours
People-centred designing — 12 hours
The value of coffee — 3 hours
Art and life in ancient Egypt — 30 hours
So there you have it! Five places to find high quality online courses for free. Have a browse around, and I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your interests.
Are you inspired to start learning a new skill or take an online class? Let me know what you most want to learn in the comments below, or over on Instagram.
And while you’re here, why not check out my productivity tips for working from home? They’ll definitely come in handy when you’re studying for your online cert or want to take a class in peace.
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