If you’ve ever wanted to teach yourself how to do something, learn more about a particular discipline, or immerse yourself in something you’ve always wanted to know more about, then the Web is your dream come true. There’s no need to sign up for expensive college classes that can be outdated as soon as you finish them, or order books that lose their value as soon as you receive them in the mail. The Web has made all of that somewhat obsolete with free training on pretty much anything you can think of .In this article, we’re going to look in depth at online resources you can tap into for teaching yourself; some of these are email-based, some are in a game format (always my favorite!), and some are instructor-led via video. Just pick and choose the one that works best for you.
One of the most venerated educational institutions in the world, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been offering free classes taught by world-class instructors for several years now. Over 2000 (!) free classes are available in a wide range of subjects, including Computer Science. Course offerings include Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, Elements of Software Construction, and Computer System Engineering. Most are packaged with online lecture notes, multimedia content, assignments and exams (with an answer book if you get stuck), online textbooks, even study groups. No registration is required to take these classes, and no certificates or credits are granted once you take these classes. However, that doesn’t make these offerings any less valuable (especially on a resume!), and all are available to take at your own pace. More »
Coursera is an online collaboration between several of the top-tiered universities in the world, with offerings from a wide variety of programs, anything from Humanities to Biology to Computer Science. Online courses include classes from Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Edinburgh, and Vanderbilt. For those of you interested in computer science or technology-related offerings, there are classes offered in Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Vision), Computer Science (Systems, Security, and Networking), Information Technology and Design, Programming and Software Engineering, and Computer Science Theory. Classes include online lectures, multimedia, free textbooks, and links to other free resources, like online code testers. Registration is free, and you will earn a signed certificate for each class you complete (must complete all assignments and other coursework). More »
The Khan Academy is an online library of video resources on nearly any subject you can think of, from Linear Algebra to Finance to Test Prep. They’ve got over 3000 videos from experts in the field, including Computer Science and the basics of programming. Interactive challenges and level by level assessments are available with each class, along with points and badges to measure your progress. All courses are self-paced; no credit or certificates are awarded. Videos are conversational in style, making complicated concepts easier to understand no matter what your educational level might be. More »
Udemy differs a little bit from other sites on this list in two ways: first, not all of the classes are free, and second, classes are taught not only by professors but also by people who have excelled in their particular fields, like Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) or Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo). There are plenty of “learn to code” classes here, but there are also course offerings here like “Product Development Process” (from Marissa Mayer), “Product Development at Facebook” (from Mark Zuckerberg), or iPhone App Design (from the founder of App Design Vault). More »
If you’ve ever wanted to do something like create a search engine in seven weeks (for example), and you’d like to learn directly from one of the co-founders of Google, Sergey Brin, then Udacity is for you. Udacity offers a limited selection of courses, all computer science related, with instruction from distinctive leaders in their fields. Classes are organized into three separate tracks: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. All classes are taught in a video format with quizzes and homework assignments, and final grades/certificates are awarded to students who finish the coursework successfully. One really intriguing thing about Udacity: they actually help their students find employment with over twenty technology-related companies, based on referrals from their Udacity credentials. Students can opt in to Udacity’s job program when they sign up for classes (free), where they can choose to share their resume with the Udacity team and potential employers. More »
Reddit, one of the most popular communities on the Web today, has one of the best kept secrets online, and that is the University of Reddit: classes taught in a variety of disciplines ranging from Art to Technology by Redditors who are experts in their fields. Classes are free, and all it takes to sign up is a username and password. Depending on who is teaching the class (there’s not really a centralized source of information), you’ll get video lectures, assignments, tutorials, and collaborative instruction/feedback from others in your class. More »
Peer to Peer University (P2PU) is a collaborative experience where you’re meant to learn in community with others. Registration and courses are totally free. There are several “schools” within the P2PU organizational framework, including one for Web-based programming backed by Mozilla, creator of the Firefox web browser. As you complete courses, you can display badges on your website or social profiles. Courses include WebMaking 101 and Programming with the Twitter API; no developer certifications are offered here, but the courses are well executed and worth taking a look. More »
edX is a collaborative effort between Harvard University and MIT to bring free online courses from both institutions to the Web for anyone to take advantage of. Classes from Harvard, MIT, and Berekley are offered here for free, with more universities joining in the near future. Certificates of completion are awarded at the time of this writing for free; however, a “modest fee” for these certificates is planned for future students. Classes are somewhat sparse right now, but the origin of the classes as well as the informational content is well worth a look; for example, you could try Software as a Service from Berkeley, Introduction to Computer Science from Harvard, or Introduction to Computer Science and Programming from MIT – all for free.
Stanford University – yes, THAT Stanford – offers an ongoing selection of free courses on many topics. If you’re looking for a basic introduction to Computer Science, you’ll want to check out SEE (Stanford Engineering Everywhere), which is ostensibly for students interested in engineering, but there are quite a few technology-related class offerings here as well. In addition, there’s Stanford’s Class2Go, an open platform for online research and learning. There’s a limited course offering here at the time of this writing, but more classes are planned in the future. Courses include videos, problem sets, knowledge assessments, and other learning tools. More »
There is an astonishing amount of free learning material available through iTunes, from podcasts to interactive classes to educational apps. Dozens of reputable universities have created a presence on iTunes, including Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, Oxford, and Harvard. You’ll have to have iTunes in order to use this program; once you’re in iTunes, navigate to iTunes U (near the top of the page), and you can start to check out the course offerings. Classes are delivered directly to you on whatever device you’re using to access iTunes and are available in a variety of formats: videos, lectures, PDF files, slideshows, even books. No credits or certifications are available; however, the sheer amount of learning opportunities here from world class institutions (more than 250,000 classes at the time of this writing!) more than makes up for that. More »
YouTube offers a hub of educational content with offerings from organizations such as NASA, the BBC, TED, and many more. If you’re a visually oriented person who learns by watching someone else do something, than this is the place for you. These are meant to be standalone informational offerings rather than part of a cohesive course; however, if you would like to dip your toes in a subject and want to get a quick video introduction from leaders in the field, this is a good solution. More »
14. Google It
While all of the resources listed here are fantastic in their own right, there are still many more too numerous to list, for whatever you might possibly be interested in learning. Here are a few Google queries you can use to narrow down what you’re looking for:learn (insert what you want to learn about here)”
Believe it or not, this is an incredibly powerful search string, and will bring up a solid first page of results.
inurl:edu “what you want to learn”
This tells Google to search within the URL keeping the search parameters to only .edu sites, looking for what you’re trying to learn.