Best Free Online Course Sites

Love is a strange thing. For example, I love my three young children. On the other hand, I also love when they go back to school every fall.

Me too, in my mid-forties, I still like to learn. So around this time every year, when all the kids are heading back to school, I get inspired to go back to school, so to speak, from the comfort of my office.

With that in mind, here is a shortlist of thousands of free online courses from some of the reputable education landmarks on the web. You’ll find everything from simple college courses to professional development to learning new hobbies.

EdX: over 3,600 free courses

If you can’t find a learning experience for free on EdX, it probably does not exist. The reason for the site: to offer online courses from the best colleges and universities around the world, almost all of which can be audited at no cost.

That’s the catch, even if it’s a small one. Auditing a course means you miss tests, quizzes, and some course materials. However, you can pay for actual course credit. Course costs can run into the thousands, just like real life school. But if you’re looking to absorb and retain the material, and don’t mind being untested, this is a great place to start.

Coursera: over 2,500 free courses

Coursera is similar to EdX, although it has a free lessons section. Compared to EdX, Coursera leans a bit more towards professional training, but chances are you can find a fair amount of overlap if you look hard enough.

That being said, give Coursera a try if you’re looking to do some professional development in your spare time.

Codecademy: over 100 free coding courses

Want to get started with programming? Spin a free codecademy account.

Then, on its catalog pageScroll down to the “Most Popular Courses” section and filter the drop-down submenu to select Free Courses.

It’s a good place to start, although there’s no overall free section that shows you every freebie. But once you’ve found a coding discipline that really speaks to you, you can explore it from the left navigation and filter free courses the same way.

Udemy: over 500 free courses

Last stop: Udemy’s free lessons section. Here you’ll find a good mix of professional development, coding courses, and courses that teach you new skills, such as how to take better photos or learn a particular software product.

If you’re interested in real-world learning from people working in various industries — not necessarily professors, in other words — you’ll probably find what you’re looking for here. You can even sign up to teach yourself if you’re an expert in your field.