The internet is the world’s premier source of information, with the widest array of options to choose from; all under one roof. This includes millions of educational opportunities that provide a source of training for individuals who are too busy to go the conventional way. It also applies for those who missed out on opportunities in the past, or those looking to advance their careers. There are plenty of educational sites online that offer courses free of charge. However, others charge for their courses, while there are those that offer a combination of both.
The convenience offered by the sites is unparalleled as learners can study from anywhere, at their own pace and time. Online courses also, offer better access to networking opportunities with fellow students and instructors.
Settling for the best online learning platform, however, is an entirely different matter, owing to the thousands of options available. Based on research, ratings, reviews and quality of courses, here are the best online learning platforms to assist you to commence on your educational journey.
Top 45 Sites for Online Learning and Courses
1. Khan Academy
Founded in 2008, Khan Academy is a non-profit online learning platform. This means that all the courses offered are free of charge. The site provides a unique way of learning, as the courses are presented through video tutorials with personalized dashboards for learners, coupled with various exercises.
The site is highly interactive as learners, teachers and parents can all create accounts to monitor the progress of their students learning process. What’s more teachers are also provided with a data base to access teaching materials. To sustain its operations, the site depends on funding from companies, corporations and well-wishers.
2. . iTunesU free courses
This is a site that provides courses from over 800 universities worldwide, for free. iTunesU also provides a K-12 section where state and county educational departments provide learning materials for learners and educators. Open to Apple products only, all one needs to do to access the courses is the Apple iTunes Program. The courses are then delivered to your Apple device either through videos, pdf , books or audio lectures.
Some of the most notable institutions that offer the free courses on the platform include Yale, MIT and Harvard. The beauty of iTunesU is the wide range of courses it offers. Think of any course, and you will most probably find it on the platform, or its equivalent.
3. MIT OpenCourseWare
With over 2,400 courses on offer, this e-learning initiative from MIT was conceived in 2001 to provide access to its entire undergraduate and graduate-level courses online, for free. Some of the courses offer web interactive demos, live streaming of video lectures and complete textbooks authored by MIT professors. The video and audio files are also readily available for downloading on iTunes, YouTube as well as the internet archive.
Notably, the courses are easy to grasp with excellent easy to follow instructions. Some of the free courses can also be completed in a record time of 11 hours. Their tutorial support system is excellent, with live technical support from experts, prompt feedback on questions as well as quizzes after each unit.
5. Stanford Online
With over 184 courses on offer, this online site from California’s renowned Stanford University, provides a flexible and session-based way to acquire new skills. Although some of the courses can only be accessed via iTunes, most of them are compatible with the average browser. The courses are free and all that is required is to register, sign in, select your preferred course and begin learning. The courses are of high quality and come with a sufficient amount of support through adequate learning materials and access to expert guidance.
Since the courses originate from only one source, some may find the variety on offer limited compared to other sites that have courses from a number of various institutions.
6. Open Culture Online Courses
The site offers over 1,300 free online courses drawn from various universities around the world. This treasure-trove of courses has been developed over an 11-year period. Contributors to the sites’ courses include educational heavyweights such as Harvard, Yale, MIT and Oxford. Video and audio lectures can be downloaded, and the courses can be accessed via iTunes, YouTube and the respective university websites.
Some of the courses available on the Open Culture site include; Engineering, Religion, Math, Astronomy, Political Science, Physics, Economics, Computer Science among others.
Commonly referred to as the “Coursera of Europe”, iVersity is a Berlin-based site that partners with institutions of higher learning spread out across the globe. The courses are free of charge and are conducted in English, German and Russian languages.
The courses are either conducted through visual aids such as lecture videos, animations and graphics or via interactive elements such as simulations. Also, they can be presented through scientific articles and other written materials.
Known for its motivational speakers on various topical issues, TED-Ed is a great place to learn as well. The site offers 12 free online courses. To make learning more interesting, some courses are presented through animated videos coupled with supplementary learning materials and quizzes at the end of each lesson. TED-Ed merges learning and entertainment especially in formal settings while at the same time, providing new discoveries through various topics.
9. Corporate Finance Institute (CFI)
As the name suggests, CFI offers finance-based courses, and is a joint venture with MDA Training Inc. which is a British finance company with over 20 years in the business. MDA provides associate and analyst training programs to banks and other financial institutions such as Jp Morgan, Deutshe Bank, Citi, Bank of America, Black Rock, Credit Suisse among others.
The main course offered is The Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst certification program. The courses are free of charge.
Open2Study offers free and accredited course in the fields of science, business, humanities, education and arts. The site is backed by Open Universities Australia (OAU). Although a majority of the learners are Australian, the courses are open to students from across the globe.
The site encourages students to learn at their own pace and a Certificate of Achievement is awarded after the completion of each course.
11. Academic Earth
Operating just like Udemy and Khan Academy, Academic Earth offers free courses from a number of higher learning institutions. The variety of the courses and subjects available is wide. The courses are well organized on the site and listed according to subjects and the institution that offers the course.
The entire course is presented through academic videos and the site provides interactions between students and scholars.
Alison is yet another free learning site worth considering. It offers certified courses in health, technology, business and a few languages. In case you need certification, Alison has school curriculum courses on its menu.
The site’s primary objective is to provide learners with skills to ensure self-reliance and those that match the ever-changing demands of the job market. There are over 300 courses on the platform ranging from Business management, Information Technology to personal development courses.
13. Harvard Extension
Harvard Extension courses begun 5 years ago in line with the institutions age-old tradition of giving back to the society. Initially, the site started out with 100 online classes, but currently, the number stands at 600.
Just like its counterpart Stanford online, Harvard Extension offers free courses that are exclusive to the educational giant. Although the course choices are limited as they come from only one source, the quality is top notch.
The site also offers certification and courses are listed as per their professional category.
14. Open Yale Courses
This site is similar to Stanford and Harvard online platforms. The courses available are limited, but free. The only difference is that Open Yale online provides a huge number of videos of actual campus lectures that can be downloaded. This provides an excellent option for learners who grasp better through watching content than reading.
15. UC Berkley Class Central
Despite the free courses being less than the previous sites, UC Berkely has a decent number of courses to choose from. They come with supplementary lectures, RSS feeds and webcasts to make learning engaging and interesting. Notably, it is easier to select your preferred course due to the impeccable organization.
16. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative
The Carnegie online learning site, has a small range of free courses. The few that are available though, are exhaustively covered with an in-depth and wide array of supportive material which is readily available. In total, there are 11 disciplines to choose from such as French, engineering, mass media, among others
A notable feature on the site is that it allows the learner to get a sneak peak of the topics to be covered in each subject. This ensures a student only picks a discipline that he/she is interested in.
The courses are designed in such a way, that they can also be used in a classroom and other learning settings.
18. University of London Podcasts
Located on the University of London’s website and limited to podcasts, this is another free online platform that offers a variety of courses. Unlike most university platforms where courses are exclusive to the institution, the University of London podcasts works in conjunction with 11 other learning institutions to provide a wider variety of courses.
Most of the institutions that the University of London partners with are based in England.
19. University of Oxford podcasts
Similar to the above podcasts, the University of Oxford offers a wide variety of free podcasts. Most of these consist of recordings of visiting lecturers to the institution.
The recordings are arranged in a series format, which makes it easier to subscribe to multiple lectures that cover the same subject.
20. BBC Podcasts
Designed for the average learner, BBC podcasts focus on a various topics ranging from sports, finance and current affairs. They are updated weekly and come in various languages. Although they are not in-depth in nature, they provide a great way to get information on the topics available.
LessonPaths is more of a learning tool for individuals looking for a convenient and practical way of accessing information. Learners create playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites.
The material is then ranked, making it simpler to locate quality sources of different information. Access to the site and various learning materials are free.
With a focus on pre-teen learning, Whyville has a wide variety of learning materials, dedicated to teenagers. To make the site more interesting to its target group, the site has educational games which aim to stimulate learning for kids who are too old for common games, yet too young for complicated reading material.
23. National Geographic Kids
This is another site solely dedicated to kids and offers free online education for the young that is packaged through photos, videos, games and puzzles. Instead of organizing learning materials in the form of courses, the site arranges it through topics and various medium.
National Geographic Kids provides a casual and captivating environment for young ones to learn.
24. Fun Brain
Fun Brain is another kids’ online learning platform that focuses on fun puzzles and games that lean towards math and reading. The approach towards learning through games is especially beneficial to kids who are easily distracted while learning. The site offers rewards on various challenges and promotes casual learning.
Memrise offers a stimulating way to learn by combining a user-friendly experience, convenience, fun, entertainment and education all rolled into one package. The courses are free and are available in either desktop or app version. Although the site has a wide variety of courses, its design makes it simpler to learn the different languages offered.
26. Canvas Network
Canvas Network is great source of free online courses designed by various institutions of higher learning with the aim of teaching new skills for career advancement. The courses come in the form of instructor videos and reading material. Some of the courses have certificate options for various select programs.
27. University of the People
This site provides tuition-free courses and charges a small fee, which caters for exams and processing fees for certification. The University of the People online learning platform mainly targets learners who do not have the financial muscle to pursue to pursue the courses of their dreams in traditional universities.
The courses are divided in 8-week intervals. Each course is charged $100 which is the exam fee required to qualify for certification.
28. Open UW
An initiative of the University of Washington’s online department, the site offers numerous courses, which are free. The courses to choose from range from business, tech to health sciences. Open UW can also be accessed through other affiliate sites such as edX and Coursera.
The site offers courses on a wide range of subjects mostly on lifestyle and creative topics. These include; photography, music, entrepreneurship, art, people skills among others. The courses are mixed with live access offered free, while on-demand courses are paid for.
Grovo is an online learning site that teaches how to use web applications for work purposes. The course intros are free but the main courses are paid for. The site has hundreds of video tutorials that instruct and teach good practices for thousands of websites.
31. Stack Exchange
Stack Exchange is a question and answer site that covers a whole range of topics, which include Stack Overflow, which is a computer related course. The site works through a learner asking a certain question, where it is answered by the topic’s enthusiasts and professionals. The site aims to improve knowledge on topics that you already know something about.
Howcast is a learning platform that features video tutorials on general topics such as entertainment, cooking, lifestyle and crafts. The tutorials are free and available for downloads. The site comprises of mainly do-it-yourself videos that offer practical ideas and solutions to various topics that are relevant in our day to day lives.
To understand the various topics to learn better, each video comes with a transcription at the bottom of the screen. Access to the site is free of charge.
33. GCF Learn Free
The site is an initiative of Goodwill Community Foundation in conjunction with Goodwill Industries. The site targets learners looking to upgrade or learn new skills. GCF offers over 1,000 lessons packaged in 125 tutorials which cover topics such as career choices, math, technology, reading, computer software development and many others for free.
34. Better Explained
Better Explained is math oriented online learning platform that caters for high school and college level mathematics. This includes algebra, statistics, calculus and other topics. The site is free.
The math courses offered are aimed at demystifying math and getting rid of the mentality that it is a difficult subject. The math formulas and processes of the various courses are explained in simple, easy steps for better comprehension.
35. HOW Design University
The site offers both free and paid courses on interactive and graphic design. There are also employment opportunities for teaching staff. The courses offered on this platform revolve around different disciplines of design.
The courses are rewarding and rigorous aimed at preparing learners for the demanding job market. The courses include digital layout, graphic design, web design, reading and writing courses among others.
Established in 2012, by two computer science Professors from Stanford, Coursera offers over 3,000 courses. They do this in association with around 150 other partners. Some of the most popular courses on offer cover business, languages, computer science, humanities, arts , data science, information technology among others. The courses are free but the site charges a small fee of around $39 if you require a course completion certificate.
Since Coursera launched its free learning initiative, it has imparted skills on over 25 million learners across the globe. Some of the institutions of higher learning that Coursera partners with include; Michigan, Stanford, Princeton, Duke, Pennsylvania, HEC Paris among others. It also has partnerships with tech giants such as Google, IBM, PwC and MongoDB. This ensures that their courses are of the highest quality and are also internationally recognized.
edX offers a host of university-level online courses that offer convenience and provide an opportunity to progress your career to the next level. The site deals with professional educational courses, and was founded in 2012 by Professors from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The site has a partnership with Microsoft to further enhance the quality of its courses.
There are two groups of courses to choose from; Verified and Unverified courses. The latter are free of charge, while the former will cost you, depending on the course you choose charges range between $50-$300. edX is one of the most user friendly sites as it easy to navigate, with a great interface and has clear, concise and simple instructions.
Offering educational courses in five languages, the 20-year-old Lynda.com teaches coding and caters for over 10,000 businesses around the world. The most popular courses on the platform include business, web development, photography, software development, design, among others.
The site boasts one of the largest video learning libraries and students can learn at their own pace. While the site charges a small fee for its courses, it does not charge per course like other platforms. Instead a learner pays a monthly or yearly registration fee of $29.99 that gives you access to all the courses and learning materials you can handle.
With over 30 million learners having used the site, Udemy has thousands of low-cost online courses to choose from ranging from $20-$200. One unique characteristic of the site is that anyone can create a course and sell it on the site. Due to this fact, many courses are not accredited and the secret is to check out the individual course reviews to select the best.
The variety of the courses on Udemy is also impressive and flexible, ranging from blogging, virtual assistant to editing and proofreading.
Launched in 2011, Udacity is an e-learning platform that offers a wide range of courses. Around 200 courses on the site are free, while the others are paid for. The courses that are charged are divided into two;
–Udacity Nanodegree: Here, you pay for a particular course which takes between 6-12 months to complete, and you get a certificate.
–Udacity Nanodegree plus: This category of courses take the same duration to complete, but come with a guaranteed job placement, or a full refund of the charges if you do not get a job. Charges range from $199 to $2400.
Mainly focusing on courses relating to web development, Bloc provides in-depth and intense training. The courses take up to 25 hours a week and several months to complete. Notably, Bloc does not provide free courses, but it is ideal for learners who are out to make a radical change in their careers.
Another positive aspect on Bloc is that you do not require a tech background to take sign-up for their courses. Depending on the course you choose, prices can range from $3999 to $4999 for the entire course.
Founded in 2010, Skillshare provides learning through video tutorials, instead of lectures, and courses are offered on a subscription basis. Interaction among learners and teachers is highly emphasized through the completion of projects.
The site does not offer free courses and requires a monthly membership fee. Members then get discounts on the courses that are offered on the site. A monthly subscription costs $15, while an annual subscription costs $99.
43. General Assembly
This site offers various courses in the fields of business, technology and design. Based in the Big Apple, General Assembly also has campuses dotted around the world, but its online platform, offers a wide range of courses. The site also goes to the extent of live streaming some of its lectures.
The courses are not free, and have different price ranges. Charges can range from $750-$14,500 depending on the the course chosen, and its duration.
44. Future Learn
Future Learn attracts traffic of over 4.5 million and offers courses in business management, health, education, psychology, tech and coding. The site partners with various universities as well as industry specialists and offers a combination of free and paid courses which range. The site is run by The Open University based in England.
The site has over 725 courses on offer. The paid courses on the site are indicated with a dollar sign. A majority of them are specialist courses which target professionals already working in the specified fields.
With traffic of approximately 2.5 million, learners are taught by famous personalities or celebrities in various fields. MasterClass combines education and entertainment which makes learning fun compared to the conventional classroom atmosphere.
Some of the celebrities who teach on the site include; Serena Williams, Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Aguilera. Steve Martin, Malcom Gladwell among others. The courses which range from Filmmaking, music, Screenwriting, Tennis to writing are not free. A single course costs $80, while $180 will give you access to all the courses on offer.
In the recent past, online courses were looked down upon, and considered inferior. Many people, including potential employers, thought they lacked quality. But with time, that belief has been relegated to a myth. Online courses provide the same quality and in-depth learning, equal to the classroom environment. In today’s world where everybody is pressed for time, online learning comes in handy courtesy of its flexible and convenient nature that allows you to learn at your own pace and time.