Although 2020 brought challenges for everyone, it also allowed people to rediscover their passions and continue their path of learning. For some, that meant more time working hobbies like drawing or reading. For others, it was an opportunity to take more online classes for topics that they were always interested in.
As the country (and the rest of the world) enters another period of uncertainty and isolation, we wanted to share some of the top online classes to help you pass the time and stimulate your mind. The best part: all of the classes mentioned here are free, so you won’t have to worry about taking out a hefty loan!
Why Take Classes?
No matter how old you are or what you do for a living, there’s always something to learn. Here are a few compelling reasons for continuing your education:
Learn new skills – A college degree just isn’t enough to stay competitive in today’s workforce. The key is to build and develop skills that open new doors for you. For programmers, it may be learning new coding languages. For marketers, perhaps certification for a specific tool. Choose skills that complement your experience and help you stand out from your peers.
Develop your interests – Far too often, we tend to set aside the hobbies and activities we enjoy because we simply “don’t have time”. Being in a class helps block out the time to dedicate towards a particular hobby. Learning to use Photoshop sounds daunting, but a 6-week class sounds much more manageable.
Career change – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average baby boomer worker changes jobs 12 times. Statistics for other generations are hard to come by, mostly because it’s difficult to define what constitutes a job change. But if you’re in the camp that has been thinking about doing something different for some time, you’ll want to study and immerse yourself in the new industry you hope to find yourself in.
Meet similar individuals – Classes can also expose us to like-minded people that share our interests and motivations. Beyond helping with homework or studying for exams, they can teach you something new, or rekindle the passion for your particular craft.
Online Classes Platforms
Coursera – founded by former Stanford University professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, Coursera was one of the original MOOC (massive open online course) providers and continues to be a powerhouse today. The platform has collaborated with over 200 universities and companies, including Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Imperial College London, IBM, Google, and much more. You can also get a Course Certificate, Professional Certificate, or MasterTrack Certificate for taking a class, which could help your chances of getting hired.
edX – A nonprofit organization using an open-source platform, edX was founded by MIT and Harvard scientists in 2012. Courses typically specialize in computer and data science, but there are also classes available for learning languages, business, and humanities. Partnerships include MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Boston University, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The University of Queensland, and many more. As of 2020, edX has approximately 33 million students, taking 3,000 online courses taught by 6,000 instructors worldwide.
Udemy – A more recent take on the MOOC model, Udemy was founded in 2010 after founder Eren Bali’s experience living and teaching in Turkey. Udemy has over 35 million students, 57,000 instructors, and 130,000 courses ranging from learning guitar to mastering data analysis. Employers have used Udemy for upskilling their employees, with notable examples including Lyft, Booking.com, Adidas, SurveyMonkey, GeneralMills among many others.
Skillshare – If you’re looking for a more direct or interactive approach to learning, Skillshare is the best bet. Although the courses are not accredited, classes can be equally engaging as they emphasize skills-based learning and projects over lecturing. The site has over 27,000 premium classes, and over 2,000 free classes available for students.
Codecademy – Always been interested in coding but didn’t know where to start? Codecademy is the place. Choose a language or project you would like to learn, code using their intuitive platform, and then see your work manifest in real-time. You’ll learn to make websites, build apps, develop games, and more by doing instead of watching.
FutureLearn – Owned by The Open University and SEEK Ltd, FutureLearn is a MOOC learning platform with an emphasis on classes from world-class universities taught by industry experts. Partnered universities include King’s College London, John Hopkins University, Institute of Coding, Monash University, University of Michigan, and more. Learn about tackling food waste, or building professional resilience— FutureLearn has countless courses for you to build your career or simply enjoy your hobbies.
General Assembly – General Assembly has been building its online learning community since 2011. With a focus on web development, data, design, and business, General Assembly has cultivated a platform dedicated to upskilling the next generation of workers. Their network currently includes 70,000 alumni, 25,000 trained employees, 19,000 hiring partners, and 30 campuses, so there’s power in the General Assembly brand name.
Free Classes You Can Take in a Day
Just as first aid is necessary for treating someone with physical injuries, psychological first aid can help someone suffering from a mental health emergency. Students will learn and use the RAPID model (Reflective listening, Assessment of needs, Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition) to better understand the impact of trauma and non-physical emergencies, which can be used in disaster relief, workplace environments, military, and faith-based organizations.
As diabetes, obesity, and other diet-related diseases continue to afflict countries around the globe, there’s never been a better time to learn about food from a public health perspective. More than ever, the world needs students willing to explore new ways for promoting healthy eating and expose the dangers of processed foods. After taking this course, students will learn the differences between healthy and unhealthy nutrition, how to update their own dieting habits for more sustainable living, and the importance of food education today.
True, academic research is more than just doing a quick Google or Wikipedia search. But at the same time, effective research can be broken down into fundamental principles and practices.That is the goal of this unique course offered by a university renowned for its research. Students will learn how to conduct research for postgraduate studies, personal development, or business applications. In 2015, the course was even nominated for the Guardian University Award for its online learning achievement.
What if you were the next UN ambassador or leading diplomat? Understand the inner workings of global diplomacy, explore real-life decisions in the field, their influence on contemporary politics, and the issues affecting diplomacy today. The course will take roughly 13 hours to finish, and is offered in French, Chinese, Russian, English, and Spanish.
An Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing – Offered by the Copenhagen Business School
The next time you walk down a shopping street or a grocery store aisle, ask yourself: why do people make their purchasing decisions the way they do? What grabs their attention, and how do they decide out of dozens of choices? The emerging field of consumer neuroscience and neuromarketing can provide an analytical perspective on the future of marketing, business, and psychology.
An adaptation of Bettina Aptheker’s course at UC Santa Cruz, Feminism and Social Justice explores feminism in the context of three pivotal moments in history: the Empire Zinc strike of 1951, the 1971-1972 trial of Angela Davis, and the #metoo movement. The course is offered in French, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, English, and Spanish.
In the information age, marketing means the difference between a brand’s popularity and its demise. Although the field can be broad, there are certain concepts and lessons that carry over no matter what branch or discipline of marketing you gravitate towards. This edX course covers the basics: from segmentation to consumer psychology. For budding entrepreneurs, this course is essential.
Google Analytics is Google’s premier tool for analyzing web traffic to a certain website. For digital marketers, Google Analytics is indispensable. But for newcomers, it can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. This course on Alison takes only a few hours but will walk you through the basics of the platform, from monitoring traffic to analyzing data. We recommend this course for students looking to get their feet wet in the digital marketing world.
Marketing has evolved tremendously in the past few decades. The billboard and radio have been replaced by the Internet and smartphones. But exactly how do these new tools change the proven principles of marketing? That question is at the heart of this course, one of Coursera’s most popular courses on their platform.
Programming and Computer Science Classes
If you’ve ever been interested in computer science or learning to code, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything as in-depth, well-paced, and easy to understand as Harvard’s legendary CS50 course. Harvard Professor of the Practice of Computer Science, David J. Malan will cover everything from how computers operate to solving problems with a programming mindset. The course has been awarded a Class Central Top 100 Course of All-Time, a testament to the quality of the class.
Python is one of the most versatile programming languages in demand today, allowing you to create web apps, games, and other software. Programming for Everybody is Coursera’s premier course on the topic, with 4.8 stars based on 173,064. As of December 2020, there are currently 1.9 million people enrolled in the free class.
HTML5 is the industry standard and most widely used language for websites today (and in the foreseeable future). Learning HTML5 will not only help students create stronger websites, but also mobile pages, games, dashboards, and other lightweight applications.
What does it take to become an entrepreneur? This edX course, taught by MIT Professor Martin Culpepper and LaunchX Founder Laurie Stach, dives into the entrepreneurial myth, the strategies for developing a successful business, and selling to your first customer.
There’s never been a better time to figure out how to make money online. Online entrepreneur Mike Omar’s course on Udemy takes you through the simple, yet painstaking process of building websites to generate passive income. You don’t even need to know how to code, only a curiosity for online entrepreneurship.
The difference between an idea and a business is a paying customer. Yet even the world’s biggest brands forget or lose sight of their target audience. In this introductory entrepreneurship course, you will learn how to identify your ideal customer and use proven methods for a better understanding of your customers.
AI and Data Science Classes
In today’s world, data has become more valuable than oil. Data is so valuable that a new industry has spawned over the last few years: Big Data. This course will teach you the basics of Big Data, structuring your analyses, and learning from real-world examples. It’s also a great primer into the world of data science.
Computer intelligence has reached such a high level that we now use it in self-driving cars, automating our homes, and understanding population health. Learn about various machine learning topics, including supervised learning, unsupervised learning, best practices, and more. The course is also taught by none other than Coursera founder, Andrew Ng.
Columbia’s course on data science is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in the statistics side of data science. Learn about data collection and analysis, conditional probability, linear regression, and using data to predict future trends.
A single solid presentation can lead to a newly signed client, a potential partnership, or industry recognition. Yet so many business professionals struggle with a lack of self-confidence. In this course, you will learn the necessary skills to engage an audience, gain confidence, and present more effectively.
From negotiating a pay raise with a manager to negotiating prices with a supplier, we all use persuasion to cut a better deal. No matter what line of work you may find yourself in, it can never hurt to learn more about effective strategies for negotiating with others.
Communicating within and with other organizations is like a language in itself. It requires a certain level of professionalism and clarity, and sadly isn’t always taught in higher education institutions. This course will help you write stronger business documents and better understand your audiences.
Logos represent so much of a brand, from its personality to its key offerings. It’s no wonder people are willing to pay a premium for a well-designed logo. But before one can design a professional logo, it’s important to learn the basic design principles and techniques involved: choosing a typeface, using shapes, picking out a color, and other special effects in Adobe Illustrator.
Adobe InDesign is the industry standard for creating page layouts, whether they’re for webpages, booklets, flyers or another visually-appealing document. But like many other Adobe applications, there can be a steep learning curve to doing even the simplest task. Infinite Skills teaches you how to work with text, layers, styles, objects and other seemingly-obtuse concepts and become proficient with the tool.
Photoshop continues to be the industry standard for image and photo editing. Learning how to use the tool proficiently will likely land you more job opportunities. Understand how to use the interface, enhance photographs, use stylistic elements like text and retouch, and become a stronger and more skilled graphic designer in the process.
Spanish isn’t just one of the most widely spoken languages, it’s also a window into some of the most beautiful cultures in the world. Whether you’re new to learning Spanish or your last class was in high school, this course will help you through the basics so you can communicate at work, at home, or on the go.
French is simply a beautiful language to learn, and you can find it useful in Canada, Africa, France, or as a means of understanding the French culture better. This Alison course is perfect for newcomers.
If you count only native speakers, Chinese is the most-spoken language in the world. This course covers the basics of phonetics and daily conversation so that once you complete it, you can feel more comfortable finding your way around the country.
What’s a better way to learn how to write well than from a world-renowned journalist and editor? Former Wall Street Journal editor Shani Raja describes the secret elements to successful, polished writing, using four fundamental ingredients: Simplicity, Clarity, Elegance, and Evocativeness.
Do you have a short story or novel idea that you’ve had for some time? This online course will help bring it out of your head and onto the paper, with the guidance of skilled fiction writers such as Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and many more. You’ll even have the opportunity for peer review— an essential part of improving as a writer.
Somewhere between fiction and nonfiction is the realm of creative nonfiction— a genre that resembles a personal memoir. Writing about one’s self is never easy, but Instructor Said Sayrafiezadeh breaks down the elements of storytelling and knowing your audience, so you can share a personal experience with your readers.
Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy – Offered by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Environmental law is taking on a new meaning in the 21st century, as more governments and corporations continue to pillage the world of its natural resources. Learn about the pressing issues in environmental regulations, including pollution, water, endangered species, and toxic substances.
Copyright, patents, trademarks— what’s the difference? It’s not something we think about on a daily basis, but it affects every creator, from the aspiring artist to corporate titans like Apple. Understand the basics of protection and how to apply those rules to your own content in this unique course.
Privacy is a hotly debated topic that affects everybody today. While companies continue to encroach on our privacy and misuse our personal information, dedicated individuals and organizations are fighting back through the rule of law. This course will teach you the impact of global networked surveillance, the state of cyber-activism and cyberwar, and the current responses to these issues today.
Yoga may seem like an overwhelming topic, but it’s really an activity that can be enjoyed by anyone. Not only is it good for your body, but it can also be healthy for your mind. Adriene covers everything from the basics to Yoga for Weight Loss.
Although photography has become more prevalent with the rise of smartphones, there’s still a place for meaningful, meditative photography. How can we better understand photography and the photographer’s intent? This course is presented by The Museum of Modern Art and covers nearly 100 photos from their collection.
Baking is as simple as it is enjoyable. Once you understand the basic principles and chemistry behind baking, you’ll learn how to make cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and other delicious desserts. Turn baking from an interest into a lifelong passion with this introductory course.
As the new year approaches and resolutions are made, there’s never been a better time to pick up a hobby, find a new passion, or build one’s skills. Although many of us are no longer in classrooms, there’s no excuse not to continue learning. With enough research and exploration, you can find the perfect course to dive into, get lost in, and learn something new.