Exploring ways to learn about, live in and navigate your world.
One of my passions is learning. Another is finding the “free” anywhere I can. Combining the two has given me resources to share with folks looking for online higher education classes. While courses are “free,” you might be required to buy texts or other supplies.
Use your search engine to look for “free university courses” or “free MOOC.” An MOOC is a “Massive Open Online Course” posted for open access and unlimited participation.
For specific topics like art history search for “free university course on art history” or “free MOOC on art history.”
Searching YouTube can produce more results, recommendations and reviews.
And check out your municipal library’s website. You might find courses through their portal that only require your library card number to enroll.
When you visit websites…
Read the “About Us” section for the vendor’s origin, partnerships and mission.
Make sure the course and all administrative steps are free. There should be no enrollment, handling or service fees.
Live courses have start dates, meeting times and class days while archived courses can be accessed anytime. Pick what works for you.
Read course descriptions, syllabi, and supply lists. There might be required texts and academic papers, software, hardware or other materials you will need to find or purchase. Evaluate purchases carefully.
Live classes often have online discussions. Make sure your computer has that ability and assess if adding it is worth it.
Avoid upselling. Certificates, college credit, CEUs and testing options for fees are not necessary.
Online courses feature videos, podcasts and files to access or download. Your computer must be able to stream media and have the capacity to store and look at files.
Read the instructor bio and do a web search for their name, publications and vitae.
A few good sites…
edX – Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX has more than 130 global partners and offers a wide range of subjects. www.edx.org
FutureLearn – Site from the United Kingdom that offer over 1,000 free courses. www.futurelearn.com
Canvas Network – Diverse and eclectic courses. www.canvas.net
Open Learning Initiative – A grant-funded group at Carnegie Mellon University offering traditional courses. www.oli.cmu.edu
Rocket Languages – Interactive audio lessons available through municipal libraries with subscriptions.
Lynda.com – Video tutorials accessed through subscribing municipal libraries for business and design software programs.
Khan Academy – Created for teachers and learners in 2006, courses range from kindergarten math to macroeconomics. www.khanacademy.org
First time learning online…
If you are a first-timer be prepared for watching videos, listening to podcasts and lots of reading. Be patient. Keep a steady pace.
Don’t forget that you can stop and rewind media and zoom in and out of browsers and documents.
Spiral binders are great ways to take notes, make comments and jot down topics to explore.
Look for courses you will enjoy and complement your learning style.
Have fun and embrace the experience. If you are not enjoying the course… stop, drop and smile.
After all, it was free.
Broc Sears is an assistant professor of professional practice at TCU’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication and also works with the Texas Center for Community Journalism. He has more than three decades of experience in the news, advertising and marketing industries and earned recognition from the Society for News Design, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, APME of Texas and the Dallas Press Club. He and his wife enjoy the best days of their lives in Dallas with their family.