This year has seen schools across the country turn to virtual classrooms over physical ones, for obvious reasons. Distance learning helps keep people safe.
But school isn’t just for kids.
If you’ve had time to rethink your priorities and reevaluate your life over the last six months, then you might be ready to take a leap in another direction. These days, thanks to an abundance of online courses and programs, it’s easier than ever to learn new things.
And while online education isn’t new, it’s become even more popular in the last few years.
Over 6 million Americans pursue education online, and it’s not hard to see why. Busy schedules, family life and other factors make virtual education an attractive choice for today’s adults.
In fact, the average student in an online program is 32 years old.
That said, age is just a number when it comes to education. Whether your goal is to improve your resume, boost your confidence or become a more well-rounded person, the internet makes that goal a more achievable reality.
Looking for a place to start?
Here’s a roundup of free and low-cost online education resources.
Build your workplace skills.
Brushing up your resume doesn’t have to mean getting another degree. You may be able to learn marketable skills — and boost your self-esteem — in free and low-cost classes online. Some programs even include the option to earn certificates showcasing your achievements.
If you have your sights set on launching your own business, set yourself up for success by pursuing all the education you can find. The more you know about business administration and operations, the easier it will be to navigate the highs and lows of your new venture.
To gain workplace skills and business savvy, try:
- U.S. Small Business Administration: The SBA’s Learning Center offers free courses like Finding and Attracting Investors, Marketing 101, and Introduction to Pricing.
- FutureLearn: The Business and Management category at FutureLearn includes a variety of free courses from top universities. Available topics may include data management, leadership capacity and entrepreneurship.
- Alison: Visit the Courses for Jobs section of this site to find general career guidance as well as classes that can help with your specific line of work. In addition to the free classes, you can purchase certificates that show what you’ve learned.
- Udemy: Many of Udemy’s classes — some free, some paid — relate to business. Check out the Finance and Accounting, Office Productivity, and Marketing sections, for example.
Broaden your mind.
Your body needs physical exercise, and your brain needs mental exercise. Research shows that, in general, the more education you have, the better your brain will function later in life.
You can stretch your brain by exploring more about subjects that are unfamiliar to you.
One way to do this is to pick a topic that you’re curious about and seek out a class to match. Or you could browse class lists to see what catches your eye.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check these resources out:
- Open Culture: This site doesn’t host classes itself but instead compiles lists of free courses, videos and audio recordings from around the internet. Offerings are sorted by topic, such as astronomy, computer science, writing, religion and philosophy.
- iTunes U: If you have an iPhone or an iPad, you can access iTunes U’s collection of free educational materials for all ages. The catalog includes interesting podcasts as well as introductory college-level classes.
- edX: Whether you want to study humanities, ethics, math or science, edX probably has a college course to fit the bill. The “Audit This Course” option may allow you to enroll for free.
Learn a new language.
Education can open the door to foreign cultures and new relationships. Studying languages and intercultural communication may prepare you to explore a new place, whether that’s on the other side of your city or halfway around the world.
Research shows that studying a second language may be good for your memory and your problem-solving skills, too.
Plus, learning another language can improve your proficiency in English grammar and vocabulary.
For lessons in a foreign language, try:
- Duolingo: This free computer- and app-based language-learning platform uses games and short lessons to help you learn languages like Spanish, German, Arabic and Japanese.
- Busuu: The languages offered by this platform include Portuguese, French, Polish and Turkish. The free option includes a wealth of lessons. But upgrading to a paid subscription lets you connect with native speakers for constructive feedback.
Boost your tech knowledge.
Online classes serve as an ideal platform for exploring technology concepts and practicing your computing skills. Modern technology evolves quickly. If you want to stay on the cutting edge, you’ll need to keep learning and exploring.
Tech studies can be valuable for your professional life and your personal life.
Even jobs that aren’t in the technology sector usually require computer skills, so increasing your knowledge may increase your employability. At home, your computer savvy may also allow you to fix your tech problems or spend your weekends building apps.
Check out the tech classes available from these services:
- Udacity: At Udacity, the focus is on equipping learners for the technology-driven careers of the future. You can register for free classes or pay a monthly fee to work toward a nanodegree.
- Khan Academy: The Computing section of Khan Academy features programming lessons, college-level computer science courses and the popular Pixar in a Box curriculum.
- Coursera: This platform hosts classes on a wide range of subjects from many different institutions. You can also enroll in short guided projects. To enhance your tech know-how, check out the Computer Science, Data Science and IT categories.
Study your hobbies.
Hobbies help you relax and can even make you happier.
People who make time for their passions tend to get more satisfaction from life and experience lower rates of depression. And since many hobbies get you up and out of the house, you’ll help your mind and body by pursuing hobbies for self-improvement.
It might seem that throwing yourself into a hobby would lead to a lag in work performance. But research seems to support the opposite, actually.
Making time for interests outside of the office may reduce the likelihood of burnout on the job. In fact, hiring committees often ask about candidates’ hobbies because they want to fill their positions with well-rounded workers.
Pursue your passions with the help of these platforms:
- Bon Appétit: This YouTube channel offers a wealth of free cooking lessons and other kitchen adventures.
- The Great Courses: This paid site offers online classes on a wide variety of topics, including classical music, photography, painting and cooking.
- Masterclass: For a low monthly fee, you can access classes from experts in all sorts of fields. Teachers include professional musicians, famous chefs, scientists and celebrity actors.
Whatever you do, keep learning.
We should note that we don’t have a vested interest in any of the links above. We don’t own any of the platforms or resources we’ve mentioned, and we don’t earn any kind of kickback for recommending them.
We’ve collected a few handy resources for getting started on your next educational endeavor because a well-trained mind is a thing of beauty.
Education betters us all.
From learning new skills to getting a new degree, online education opens up a world of possibilities no matter where you are in life. But whatever you do, keep learning and growing and exploring your options. It’s good for your mind and body.