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All careers require you to keep learning.

Some are mandated by law or employer (teacher, plumber, nurse), others are necessitated by the fast-paced growth of technology or ideas in the field. Either way, if you want to stay relevant in your area, you need to keep learning.

Sometimes the value of an advanced degree makes it worthwhile to spend the time and money to go back to school. Much of the time though, just having the skill or knowledge is the important part, because it allows you to be more effective in your job. For these situations, free or low-cost online learning is a great option!

MOOC providers

Many years ago there were online correspondence courses, which in the digital age have transformed into MOOCs.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) started in 2008 and quickly became available from many universities, such as Stanford, MIT, Princeton and Harvard. You can get an Ivy League education for free, but these classes are for no credit, so no degree is bestowed.

Many of these colleges have online course websites, but there are also MOOC providers that collect the courses in one place to make it easier for you to find exactly what you want.

If you like the idea of structured learning and would like to study more than one subject, using a MOOC provider might be the best option for you. Most classes are free but a couple of sites offer certificates of completion for a fee.

  • Academicearth.org– brings together classes from many different schools, lists courses by subject and school which makes it easier to find what you are looking for.
  • Coursera.org – also partners with many top universities to provide courses in many different topics. Some courses have the possibility of statement of accomplishment when you finish the course.
  • edX.org – is similar to Coursera but tends to focus on math, the sciences and engineering.
  • Alison.com – in addition to the courses, Alison also offers certification in some areas. Areas of speciality include business, technology, and health.

Interactive learning

There are a few sites that are known for using gamification or interactive elements to improve learning. These are especially helpful when the topic is something that needs practice to master.

  • Codecademy.com – If you need to know strictly about coding and building websites, this is the site for you. It teaches the basics of computer programming and development of interactive websites. It uses interactive tools within the browser window. You can learn HTML and CSS, JavaScript, Ruby and SQL.
  • Duolingo.com This site and app (available for iOS, Android, and windows) currently offers 19 languages for English speakers. Using gamification and an easy interface, Duolingo makes it easy to learn a language in a few minutes a day.

Visual short courses

Finally, there are few websites that offer lessons in the form of podcasts or videos. Some of these cover traditional classroom topics, others include relevant topics to today’s social climate.

  • Khanacademy.org – uses mini lectures and interactive problems to teach subjects. Each lessons builds on the previous as you progress. Kahnacademy.org teaches a variety of topics at different age levels including mathematics, history, science. If you like the idea of learning in short bursts, Khan Academy is the right resource for you.
  • iTunesU – easily accessible with any Apple device. It includes courses on a wide range of topics which are categorized similarly to iTunes. Easy to use and access. Cons include that paid courses are mingled with the free courses and it doesn’t integrate with non-apple mobile devices.
  • Ted.com – this website is a collection of talks, usually 20 minutes or less on a wide range of topics, from influential speakers and thinkers. Great way to hear new ideas and views of people who are shaping our world.

Whether you are a plumber, a teacher or a business person, ongoing education is a major part of your career success. Even though the cost of a college education keeps escalating, you can still get the education that you need through free or low-cost online education sites. You just have to be dedicated to learning and setting aside the time to do it.


Written By
Valerie Jocums loves the sun, her Australian Shepherd dog, and her husband. When she isn’t mountain biking, practicing her public speaking skills, or reading, she is writing about everything she has learned. Follow her on twitter: @vkjocums

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