Since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve had to make big changes to the way we work and interact with one another in general. The rise of online learning is part of this. Many people have taken the opportunity to learn new things and pick up new skills. There’s a range of great learning apps and websites which offer exceptional online student engagement, stimulating reading materials, and helpful assistance whenever you need it.
Remote working might be something of a novelty to a lot of people, but distance learning is in fact long-established. In the same way that you might hold a video call online through an all-in-one desktop app to keep in touch with colleagues, so you can stream live or recorded online lectures and seminars. Many of the methods now being used in the world of work have long been used for the purposes of online learning.
But there are so many different options out there when it comes to online learning, it can be difficult to work out which provider is best for you. In this guide, we’ll list eight of the best free educational apps and websites, to provide you with more information and hopefully a bit of inspiration.
The best educational apps and websites for online learning
One of the world’s best-known online learning resources, Coursera has several thousand courses from leading educational providers. Those include elite universities such as Stanford and Princeton, as well as big-name businesses such as IBM and Google. Coursera offers several thousand free courses across a plethora of different subject areas.
Whether you’re looking for an introduction to programming or you want to get to grips with machine learning, there’s a course on Coursera for you. Another benefit of using the site is that you can complete collections of related courses (known as "specializations") to really sharpen your knowledge across a particular topic.
2. Khan Academy
Khan Academy has as its mission "providing excellent free education for inquisitive minds worldwide." It provides its lectures in the form of video tutorials and has proved hugely popular around the world. So, if you’re looking to take on a new course and expand your mind, this is certainly a very good place to look.
Furthermore, Khan Academy offers courses that can help you prepare for standardized tests across a range of qualifications, including MCAT, SAT, and LSAT.
Partnering with world-famous universities, including Harvard and MIT, edX has around 2,500 courses to choose from. It focuses primarily on the humanities and natural sciences, so if you’re looking to broaden your understanding of topics in these areas, it’s a great place to start. Languages and computer science, in particular, are among the most popular subjects on edX.
While most edX courses are free, there are some professional courses that will come at an additional cost, so make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for before you commit yourself to anything.
Partly owned by the Open University, FutureLearn offers a wide range of free short courses across a range of different subjects. Its short, ‘micro-credential’ courses are available free of charge, and you can obtain a printable digital certificate upon completion (though this will cost you a little extra, with fees starting from around $40).
There are 14 subject areas in total, offering a variety of shorter and longer courses - depending on how deeply you want to go into the topic. As well as how easily or otherwise you’ll be able to fit it into your everyday schedule.
Whatever you’re into, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a free course that interests you from FutureLearn. It has courses in everything from healthcare, science, and engineering to the creative arts and teaching. FutureLearn also offers online degrees, though these are subject to tuition fees.
Also, run by the Open University, OpenLearn is dedicated to offering only free courses. It has nearly 1,000 of them, at three levels of difficulty and depth. These are introductory, intermediate, and advanced. This allows you to select whichever course works best for you depending on where your understanding of the topic is, and how much time you can devote to it.
Some courses are as short as 1-3 hours, while others can take up to 24 hours in total (not continuously, obviously). Subject matter tends to focus quite heavily on education and learning; particularly early years and childhood education, as well as working with young people. So if you’ve got an eye on a new career as a teacher, OpenLearn could be ideal.
Much has been made of the technological revolution of the last 20 years or so, and few can deny that our lives have changed considerably in that time. For this reason, many people have looked to carve out careers for themselves in programming, in the hope of becoming the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.
Another platform dedicated to coding courses is Codeacademy. One really useful feature that Codecademy offers is its live practice window, which allows you to work on and practice your coding while at the same time still being able to view the lesson material. Its courses are designed to be as accessible and easy to follow as possible.
Like SoloLearn, Codecademy offers free courses covering a variety of different programming languages. More than 11 million people have completed Codecademy courses so far, and most of these courses can be completed in no more than 11 hours, making time management much easier for you.
You can also pay a monthly fee for access to the site’s premium plan.
Offering a choice of more than 130,000 free video tutorials, Udemy is one of the most popular learning apps around. Here you can learn more about a veritable smorgasbord of different topics. Whether it’s tech and business, creative writing, body language, or even yoga, Udemy’s specialist tutors will also be on hand to help you learn.
Another advantage of using Udemy is that it gives you the opportunity to learn at a pace that works for you – ideal if you’ve got a demanding career or (perhaps even more demanding) young children to look after. You can call on instructions and your fellow students should you have any questions or uncertainties in your efforts to learn.
There are lots of good reasons why you might want to take on online learning, and the possibilities are almost limitless. Whatever your motivation for undertaking online courses, they can help you deepen your understanding of the topics that interest you, and possibly help you work towards that fulfilling job and career you’ve always aspired to. Happy learning!
Guest author: Sam O'Brien
Sam O'Brien is the Senior Website Optimisation & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a Global VoIP, video conferencing, and call center software provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as 3dcart and Ideal.