Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Technological advancement in online learning is one thing, but to make education truly accessible to everyone, financial barriers must be removed. In 2011, the first free online college courses were unveiled. One of these courses, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence taught by Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastien Thrun garnered enrollment from more than 160,000 students across the globe. E-learning had just made a huge stride. That was only the beginning, however. With the establishment of online learning platforms such as Udacity, edX, and Coursera over the next two years, distance education would reach a fever pitch.  Today, over 180 million distance learners are enrolled in over 16,000 different free online courses offered by online learning providers like Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn. In this ranking, we’ll highlight our editor’s picks for the top free online courses for adults. These classes are ranked by popularity, as measured by enrollment-to-date.

#25—Guitar for Beginners

Platform: Coursera

College: Berklee College of Music

Website

Berklee College of Music- Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

One of our top picks in terms of free online classes for fun, Coursera’s Guitar for Beginners is offered by Berklee College of Music. The class is taught by Guitar Professor Thaddeus Hogarth and is comprised of approximately 24 hours of coursework. Once enrolled, students will learn guitar and music fundamentals such as:

  • Parts of the Guitar
  • Comparing Major and Minor Chords
  • Strumming the Guitar
  • Tuning Your Guitar

Upon completion, this course may be applied to one of two relevant specializations: How to Play Guitar and The Singer-Songwriter specialization. Over 270,000 students have enrolled in this class to date, and it boasts a 97% content approval rating.

Cost: $0/39 per month

#24—Think Again I: How to Understand Arguments

Platform: Coursera

College: Duke University

Website

Duke University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

One of Coursera’s best options for adults looking for free online classes for fun or for personal development, Think Again I: How to Understand Arguments is offered by Duke University. It is the first of four different classes comprising the Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking specialization taught by philosophy professors Dr. Walter Sinnott- Armstrong and Dr. Ram Neta. Once enrolled, students will explore course topics such as:

  • Why Arguments Matter
  • Reconstructing Arguments
  • Arguments Versus Abuse
  • Argument Premises

Though classified as a beginner-level course, the curriculum is comprehensive and takes roughly 25 hours to complete. So far, nearly 275,000 students have enrolled in the course.

Cost: $0/49 per month

#23—Introduction to Marketing

Platform: Coursera

College: University of Pennsylvania

Website

University of Pennsylvania- Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Coursera’s Introduction to Marketing is one of the free online college courses for adults that is part of a larger specialization. Specifically, it is the first of six courses comprising the Business Foundations specialization. Nearly 300,000 students have already enrolled in the course, making it one of Coursera’s most popular free online college courses. Part of the appeal of the class is its instructors; the curriculum is delivered by three of the university’s most respected faculty members from The Wharton School of Business. Students taking the class can expect to tackle topics such as:

  • Brand Positioning
  • Applied Marketing Principles
  • Customer Centricity
  • Brand Messaging and Communication

Assignments and materials for the course can be accessed entirely online, and the entire class takes just ten hours to complete.

Cost: $0/79 per month

#22—English Composition I

Platform: Coursera

College: Duke University

Website

Duke University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

A common general education requirement, English Composition I is now one of the top-rated free online college courses currently available, thanks to Coursera and Duke University. The curriculum for this beginner-level class is comprised of approximately 25 hours of coursework, including lessons on:

  • Critical Reading
  • Editing Strategies
  • Enhancing Sentence Style
  • Active Versus Passive Voice

The course is taught by Assistant Professor and Director of First-Year Writing Dr. Denise Comer. Deadlines are flexible, and the entire course can be completed online.

Cost: $0/49

#21—Mastering Data Analysis in Excel

Platform: Coursera

College: Duke University

Website

Duke University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Microsoft Excel is a useful, but often misunderstood tool; Mastering Data Analysis in Excel was designed to help novice users master the ins and outs of this data analysis software. Topics covered through the course’s comprehensive curriculum include:

  • Excel Essentials for Beginners
  • Introduction to Binary Classification
  • Standard Normal Probability Distribution in Excel
  • Probability and Entropy

This entirely online course can be completed in approximately 21 hours of study. With over 315,000 enrollees to date, this is one of the most popular free online college courses on Coursera.

Cost: $0/49

#20—Game Theory

Platform: Coursera

College: Stanford University

Website

Stanford University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Those interested in the subject matter may already know that game theory is a mathematical concept dealing with risk and competition. Since it’s a captivating idea that’s often portrayed in popular culture, it’s no surprise that Coursera’s Game Theory is one of the most popular free online courses for adults on the platform. Taught by Stanford professors of computer science and economics, the class covers topics such as:

  • Stochastic Games
  • Bayesian Games
  • Coalitional Game Theory
  • The Shapely Value

This beginner-level course takes roughly 18 hours to complete, and all course assignments can be completed entirely online. The course boasts an enrollment history of 350,000+ students as well as a 91% approval rating.

Cost: $0/79

#19—Machine Learning Foundations: A Case Study Approach

Platform: Coursera

College: University of Washington

Website

University of Washington - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Machine learning is an exciting area of interest for individuals who desire to work in the field as well as those simply looking for free online classes for fun. Nearly 350,000 students have already enrolled in the course, making it one of the most popular free online college courses currently available. Taught by Professors of Machine Learning Emily Fox and Carlos Guestrin, the course addresses fundamentals of machine learning such as:

  • Linear Regression: A Model-Based Approach
  • Classification Tasks
  • Clustering and Similarity
  • Deep Learning

The curriculum for the program dictates 18 hours of study, and all course material is available 100% online. Upon graduation, students may apply their learning to the broader Machine Learning specialization.

Cost: $0/49 per month

#18—Design Thinking for Innovation

Platform: Coursera

College: University of Virginia

Website

University of Virginia - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Offered by the University of Virginia, Design Thinking for Innovation is one of the most popular free online courses for adults on Coursera. This beginner-level course takes just seven hours to complete and is part of the Leading the Modern Day Business specialization. Taught by Professor of Business Administration Jeanne M. Liedtka, the course addresses contemporary business topics such as:

  • Business Model Innovation
  • The Idea Generation Process
  • The Physics of Innovation
  • Strategic Opportunities

This six-hour course is available entirely online, and students can complete coursework at their own pace. Over 350,000 students have enrolled in the course thus far.

Cost: $0/49 per month

#17—Initiating and Planning Projects

Platform: Coursera

College: University of California-Irvine

Website

University of California Irvine - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

One of the most versatile free online college courses for adults in our ranking, Initiating and Planning Projects can be taken as a stand-alone course or applied to one of two available specializations. The course is offered through the University of California-Irvine and taught by Continuing Education instructor Margaret Meloni. Topics addressed through the curriculum include:

  • Role of Stakeholders
  • Role of the Project Manager
  • Identifying the Project Scope
  • Authority Versus Influence

The course takes just seven hours to complete and is available entirely online. To date, over 350,000 students have enrolled in the class, and it has maintained a 98% approval rating.

Cost: $0/49 per month

#16—Psychological First Aid

Platform: Coursera

College: Johns Hopkins University

Website

Johns Hopkins University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Perhaps one of the most important free online college courses for adults in our ranking, Psychological First Aid teaches individuals how to provide care for people experiencing a psychological crisis. Specifically, the course instructs students on the proper use of the RAPID Model, which stands for:

  • Reflective Listening
  • Assessment of Needs
  • Prioritization
  • Intervention
  • Disposition

The course is taught by Bloomberg School of Public Health Professor George Everly, Jr., PhD. It can be completed entirely online and takes approximately six hours to complete. Nearly 400,000 students have enrolled in the course to date.

Cost: $0/49

#15—Introductory Human Physiology

Platform: Coursera

College: Duke University

Website

Duke University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Whether you’re looking for free online classes for fun or want to build a foundation for a career in healthcare, Introductory Human Physiology is a good place to start.  Offered online by Duke University, the course provides an overview of the human body and how it works, including topics like:

  • The Nervous System
  • The Cardiovascular System
  • Muscles
  • The Respiratory System

This comprehensive online course can be completed within approximately 33 hours of study. So far, over 375,000 students have enrolled in the course, and it has an approval rating on Coursera of 96%.

Cost: $0/49

#14—Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator

Platform: Coursera

College: Yale University

Website

Yale University- Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Negotiation isn’t just for the corporate world. Instead, the ability to negotiate is a life skill, and the better you are at it, the more rewards you’ll yield, both personally and professionally. Perhaps that’s why Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator is one of the free online college courses for adults with more than 350,000 enrollees to date.  Offered by Yale University and available on Coursera at no charge, the class probes topics such as:

  • Approaches to Negotiation
  • Back and Forth Bargaining
  • Game Theory
  • The Value of Negotiating

The class is taught by Yale School of Management Professor Barry Nalebuff. It is available entirely online and takes approximately 31 hours to complete.

Cost: $0/49

#13—Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal and Professional Productivity

Platform: Coursera

College: University of California-Irvine

Website

University of California Irvine - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Time is arguably our most valuable asset, so it’s no surprise that a course on how to make the most of it makes our list of the top free online courses for adults. Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal and Professional Productivity is available for free on Coursera and is offered by the University of California-Irvine. Once enrolled, students will view video lectures from UCI Continuing Education Instructor Margaret Meloni and study topics such as:

  • Task Prioritization
  • The Myth of Work-Life Balance
  • The Myth of Multitasking
  • Focus as Competitive Advantage

Nearly 400,000 students have already enrolled in this course, and it enjoys a 97% content approval rating. Moreover, the course takes just 10 hours to complete and is available entirely online.

Cost: $0/39 per month

#12—Social Psychology

Platform: Coursera

College: Wesleyan University

Website

Wesleyan University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

If human behavior intrigues you, then Social Psychology is definitely one of the free online college courses you’ll want to consider. This class, taught by Wesleyan University Professor of Psychology Scott Plous, delves into fascinating topics such as:

  • Social Perceptions and Misperceptions
  • Group Pressure and Conformity
  • Social Beliefs and Judgement
  • Psychology of Prejudice, Stereotyping, and Discrimination

Considered a beginner-level class, this course takes approximately 38 hours to complete. Nearly half a million students have enrolled in the course to date, and it maintains a 96% approval rating. Students who pay for the certificate track will receive a free membership to the Social Psychology Network, the largest social psychology community online.

Cost: $0/49

#11—Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking

Platform: edX

College: Harvard University

Website

Harvard University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

No matter what your professional or personal ambitions are, making a convincing argument (whether in writing or in speech) is a useful skill to have. Perhaps that’s why Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking is one of the most popular free online courses for adults. Available via edX and offered through Harvard University, this inspiring course teaches students how to construct effective arguments and analyze the arguments of others. Key topics addressed by the curriculum include:

  • Rhetorical Structure and Style
  • Logical Fallacies
  • Argument vs Rhetorical Technique
  • Using Rhetorical Devices

This introductory humanities class will take approximately 8 weeks to complete, and students should expect to spend between two and three hours per week on course content and assignments.

Cost: $0/139

#10—Child Nutrition and Cooking

Platform: Coursera

College: Stanford University

Website

Stanford University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Ideal for new parents or for individuals looking for free online learning resources, Coursera’s Child Nutrition and Cooking provides basic instruction in nutrition as well as simple cooking lessons within the context of family health and wellness. Taught by Stanford School of Medicine lecturer Maya Adam, MD, the course addresses topics such as:

  • Childhood Obesity in America
  • Stocking a Kitchen Pantry
  • Hunger and the Glycemic Index
  • Sustainable Eating

This beginner-level course is available entirely online and takes just 11 hours to complete. Nearly 430,000 students have enrolled in this course to date, making it one of our most popular free online college courses for adults.

Cost: $0/39

#9—Justice

Platform: edX

College: Harvard University

Website

Harvard University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Described as an “introduction to moral and political philosophy,” Justice is one of the most popular free online courses for adults currently available. Offered by Harvard University and taught by esteemed Professor of Government Michael Sandel, the class probes enthralling topics surrounding the modern justice system such as same-sex marriage and affirmative action. It also prepares students to be more effective in philosophical debates. General topics addressed through the course include:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Social Justice
  • Fundamentals of Political Philosophy
  • Moral Philosophy

The class is estimated to last approximately 12 weeks, and students are expected to devote 3 to 6 hours per week toward their studies.

Cost: $0/139

#8—The Architectural Imagination

Platform: edX

College: Harvard University

Website

Harvard University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

For centuries, architecture has fascinated scholars, apprentices, and common bystanders alike. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the field, or you’ve just always wanted to study architecture, you’ll be happy to learn you can do so for free through edX. The Architectural Imagination is one of the most popular free online college courses offered by Harvard University, with nearly 470,000 enrollees to date. This introductory course features topics such as:

  • Reading Architecture: Column and Wall
  • The Dialectics of Glass and Steel
  • Aldo Rossi and Typology
  • Hegel and Architectural History

The course is self-paced, but students are advised to devote three to five hours per week to their studies. The estimated completion time is 10 weeks.

Cost: $0/169

#7—Marketing in a Digital World

Platform: Coursera

College: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Website

University of Illinois - Urbana- Champaign - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Whether you work in the field of marketing or are just looking for free online classes for fun, you’re bound to find Coursera’s Marketing in a Digital World captivating. Offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and taught by Professor of Marketing Aric Rindfleisch, this class explores how the Internet and social media are transforming the field of marketing as we know it. Topics addressed throughout the duration of the course include:

  • Online Shopping
  • Sharing Economy
  • User Generated Content
  • Doppelganger Brands

Students can take this course alone or combine it with other free online courses in the Digital Marketing Specialization.

Cost: $0/79 per month

#6—Fundamentals of Graphic Design

Platform: Coursera

College: California Institute of the Arts

Website

California Institute of the Arts - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

If you’re a creative type, Fundamentals of Graphic Design on Coursera is one of the free online college courses for adults you won’t want to miss. Offered through the California Institute of the Arts, the course requires 15 hours of study and can be taken alone or as part of the larger Graphic Design specialization. Topics include:

  • Design Theory
  • Fundamentals of Typography
  • Techniques of Imagemaking
  • Introduction to Shape and Color

This beginner-level course is taught by Michael Worthington, a faculty member from the Institute’s School of Art.

Cost: $0/49 per month

#5—Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies

Platform: Coursera

College: Princeton University

Website

Princeton University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

 One of the completely free online college courses for adults, Princeton University’s Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies is an introductory class for individuals interested in Bitcoin. The course is available completely online and takes just 23 total hours to complete. Topics covered by the course’s curriculum include:

  • Mechanics of Bitcoin
  • How to Store and Use Bitcoins
  • Bitcoin Mining
  • The Future of Bitcoin

This extremely popular course is taught by Princeton Associate Professor of Computer Science Arvind Narayanan. No certificate is available, making this one of our free online classes for fun or simply for learning’s sake.

Cost: $0

#4—The Science of Happiness

Platform: edX

College: University of California-Berkeley

Website

Among the most popular free online courses for adults on edX, The Science of Happiness is offered through the University of California-Berkeley. Both instructors for the course are affiliated with the Greater Good Science Center at the university, and topics include:

  • What is Happiness?
  • Fostering Happiness
  • Community and Social Connections
  • Mindfulness

The course is 11 weeks long, and students are expected to devote 4-5 hours per week for successful completion. Over half a million students have enrolled in the course to date.

Cost: $0-$169

#3—Buddhism and Modern Psychology

Platform: Coursera

College: Princeton University

Website

Princeton University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Princeton University’s Buddhism and Modern Psychology has attracted over half a million enrollees since it first debuted on Coursera. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of the best free online learning resources with implications for real life. The 16-hour fully online course explores topics such as:

  • Religious vs Secular Buddhism
  • Mindfulness Meditation and the Brain
  • Modern Psychology and the Self
  • Evolutionary Psychology

No formal credential or certificate is awarded for this course, making it one of our free online classes for fun, not credit.

Cost: $0

#2—Stanford Introduction to Food and Health

Platform: Coursera

College: Stanford University

Website

Stanford University - Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

Food and health are two topics that affect us all, so it’s no surprise that Stanford’s Introduction to Food and Health is among the most popular free online college courses for adults on Coursera. This short, seven-hour course packs a lot of punch in terms of content, covering topics such as:

  • History of Obesity
  • Contemporary Trends in Eating
  • Sensible Substitutions for Cooking
  • Reading Nutrition Labels

The course is available at absolutely no charge to enrolled students, though a $39 certificate track is also available. It is taught by Stanford School of Medicine lecturer, Maya Adam, MD.

Cost: $0-39

#1—Introduction to Psychology

Platform: Coursera

College: Yale University

Website

Yale University- Top 25 Free Online College Courses for Adults

You don’t have to be enrolled in a social sciences degree program to be captivated by the subject of human psychology. Perhaps that’s why Yale University’s Introduction to Psychology is one of the most popular free online courses for adults available. To date, well over 700,000 individuals have enrolled in this online class, which is taught by Yale Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science Paul Bloom. As its title implies, the course explores foundational topics in psychology such as:

  • The Psychodynamic Approach
  • Parts of the Brain
  • Classic Conditioning
  • Personality
  • Mood Disorders

This beginner-level course is accessible entirely online and takes roughly 15 hours to complete.

Cost: $0-49

About Distance Education: Then and Now

Distance education is a term that has evolved over the years alongside technological advancements in the field. There was a time in the not-so-distant past that distance learning involved mailing assignments to professors at faraway universities. Times have certainly changed. Today, it’s possible to enroll in an online course at one of the hundreds of different online colleges and begin learning right along with on-campus students. Lectures can now be streamed live or recorded for later viewing. Likewise, class discussions and meetings with professors can occur over Zoom or other videoconferencing software. Students no longer have to be present physically in order to reap the benefits of college classes. Cutting-edge technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality stand to further improve and transform distance learning in the future.

Free Online Courses Are for Everyone

The whole idea behind the distance education revolution was to make learning accessible for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, online learning isn’t just for high school or college students. In fact, there are plenty of free online courses for adults and senior citizens. Some of these are free online college courses for credit, while others are simply free online classes for fun. Essentially, online learning is what you make of it. You can use it for entertainment, to earn a degree or other credential, for professional development, or to satisfy your need for intellectual stimulation. It’s really up to you.

Types of Free Online College Courses

When choosing among the thousands of different free online courses available, it’s a good idea to know what distinguishes them from one another. Not all online courses are offered through universities. Some are made available by corporations while others are developed by individuals with a passion for a specific subject. Still, you’ll find that a good percentage of free online courses for adults are indeed offered through colleges and universities, even highly prestigious ones such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT, for example.

Benefits of Free Online College Courses for Adults

Aside from the prestige factor, there are several advantages of pursuing free online courses for adults that are offered through accredited colleges and universities. For example, you’ll have the assurance that the content delivered through these free online college courses is legitimate. Often, these online classes are taught by the same professors who teach similar (if not identical) courses on campus. In many cases, they are tenured faculty members with advanced credentials in their respective fields, even PhDs. You can trust that the information you receive from these professors is completely up-to-date and trustworthy.

Another benefit of free online learning from a college or university is the potential to earn credit for your work. Not all free online college courses for adults are associated with credit, though, and in many cases, you may have to pay a small fee to receive verification that you’ve successfully completed a course. In our ranking, these fees ranged from approximately $40-$200 per course. Still, this is a much more cost-effective alternative to traditional college enrollment. Credits earned from online college courses can often be applied toward a degree. Some online learning platforms even have entire degree programs that can be completed through low-cost distance education.

Free Online Courses for Adults Seeking Professional Development

A college degree isn’t on everyone’s bucket list, though. Perhaps you’ve already checked it off, or maybe you work in a field where a degree is unnecessary. Whatever the case may be, you still have options for free online learning opportunities that can benefit your career and livelihood. For example, Coursera alone has over a thousand free online courses devoted to professional development. These options span various skill levels, subjects, and skills. There are beginner-level classes on project management, as well as advanced classes on data engineering. You can take a quick refresher course in just two hours, or devote months to learning a new skill. The possibilities are nearly infinite. Similarly, edX offers free online courses for adults looking to upgrade their skills to align with the modern workplace. These courses follow trends and technological advancements in various fields and industries such as business, finance, engineering, and more.

Like free online college courses for adults, these professional development classes are often free to audit but may come with an additional charge if you desire a certificate of completion or other verification that you’ve taken the course. Sometimes, an employer may require that you show proof that you’ve successfully met all course requirements, or you may want some sort of evidence of professional development to give you an edge when applying for a promotion or new role, for instance. Whatever your situation, there are options to fit your needs.

Free Online Courses for Personal Development

Sometimes we forget that learning has implications beyond academia or career pursuits. In fact, there are many free online learning opportunities that can boost our wellness, relationships, and other aspects of personal development. For example, the second most popular free online course of all time is The Science of Well-Being offered through Coursera and Yale University. Other popular and free online courses for adults interested in self-improvement include:

Whether you want to become a more efficient learner, achieve job satisfaction, or even become funnier, it seems there are free online courses to help you reach these personal goals.

Free Online Classes for Fun

At an early age, we’re bombarded with messages that learning is fun. Teachers at this early learning level often go to extreme measures to engage their students with activities that are not only instructional but entertaining as well. Somewhere along the line, though, the messaging changes. We’re told to get serious about our studies, and learning inevitably loses its appeal. At this point, we tend to start thinking about learning as a means to an end, whether to earn a degree or get a promotion at work. Enter free online classes for fun. These distance education opportunities can be a game-changer and have the power to transform the way we view learning. And they’re not just for kids. There are hundreds of free online courses for adults that celebrate learning for learning’s sake. Here are some examples:

Most Frequently-Searched Free Online Courses for Adults

You’d be hard-pressed to think of an academic subject or professional field where free online learning opportunities don’t exist. Still, some disciplines are more popular than others when it comes to distance education. Below, our editors list the most frequently-searched free online courses for adults as well as our picks for the top courses in each category.

Free Online Courses for Animation

Pursue your passion for animation or hone your existing skills with these free online classes for fun and skill-building:

Free Online Courses for Business Management

Learn to be a more effective leader with free online college courses in business management:

Free Online Courses for Coding

Qualify for a job or promotion in coding with the following free online courses:

Free Online Courses for Data Science

Learn about data science and its many applications with these free online college courses:

Free Online Courses for Education

Discover trends in educational theory and pedagogy as well as hands-on instructional techniques with these free online college courses for teachers and aspiring educators:

Free Online Courses for Digital Marketing

Find out how the field of marketing is being transformed by digital technologies or upskill by learning new digital marketing techniques with the following free online courses:

Tips for Taking Free Online Courses

Just because free online courses are free doesn’t mean they’re easy. Below, you will find our editors’ tips for successfully navigating these online learning opportunities.

Choose Something that Motivates You

Taking online classes of any kind—free or otherwise—can be a challenge for many types of learners. If you’re used to having someone to keep you accountable such as an instructor or classmate, then you may find distance education lacking in this area. While professors and peers may be virtually present, this may not have the same effect on you compared to being physically in their presence. Depending on your personality and learning style, you could find yourself feeling a bit unmotivated. That’s why it’s crucial to practice discernment when choosing from the free online classes available to you. Whether you’re learning for school, work, or for yourself, it’s important to select a topic aligned with your interests, or at the very least, your goals. That way, when boredom sets in or you just decide you’d rather do something else besides study, you can remind yourself why you enrolled in the class in the first place—and you’ll have a good reason!

Consider Paying a Little

It’s an unpopular opinion, but paying for an online class instead of auditing it for free can have some substantial benefits. For one, we tend not to value things as much when we get them for free, so paying a fee (even a small one) can make us appreciate the experience more. It’s just basic human psychology. Moreover, forking over some dough for your otherwise free online learning experience may add something in the way of accountability. It’s like paying for a gym membership—you may be motivated to show up just because you know you’re on the hook financially. Some online courses have fees as low as $30, so you may find it worth your while to reach into your wallet as opposed to only considering free online courses for adults.

As we’ve mentioned, another advantage of paying for these courses is that doing so grants you access to a certificate of successful completion. These digital credentials can have real-world benefits in the form of college credit, employment opportunities, raises, and more. And even if you’re taking free online classes for fun or for personal growth, having a token of achievement can give you a self-esteem boost or motivate you to continue your online learning pursuits. That’s not nothing!

Use Tangible Tools and Resources

Sometimes participating in things that are virtual can have a surreal effect on us. This may be especially true if you didn’t grow up online. If you’re taking free online courses for adults, you may feel as if your studies aren’t quite real. Maybe you feel a tad detached when viewing an online lecture, or you may think your online discussion posts lack legitimacy, for example. It happens to the best of us.

Turning your virtual studies into something physical may help you connect to them on a more meaningful level. It doesn’t have to be extreme. You may find that printing a chart or diagram so that you can hold it in your hand may be beneficial, for example. Other strategies include ordering the print version of your online textbook, making hand-written notes, and adding assignments to your physical calendar. Remember, just because you’re taking free online courses doesn’t mean that everything needs to be digital.

Frequently-Asked Questions About Free Online Courses for Adults

Q: Are free online courses really free?

A: Yes. All of the courses highlighted in this ranking are free to audit. You may have to pay an upcharge for a certificate of completion, however.

Q: How long does it take to complete these free online courses?

A: It varies depending on the specific class you’re enrolled in. You could complete the class in ten hours, or it could take you ten weeks. Usually, the course complexity and scope will determine the time commitment required.

Q: Will I have to attend class at a specific time?

A: It’s possible. While most of these free online courses are asynchronous in nature, meaning you can log in at your convenience, a few of them could require live attendance at preset times. Check with the course website for specific details and expectations.

Q: Will there be deadlines?

A: Typically, yes. While you may have some flexibility in terms of deadlines, there is usually an expectation to complete all assignments by a certain date.

Q: Which free online courses are accredited?

A: Typically only free online college courses from colleges and universities evaluated by accrediting boards that are approved by the U.S. Department of Education can be considered accredited. A course must be accredited in order to be eligible for college credit.

Q: Who can enroll in free online courses?

A: There are truly free online learning opportunities for everyone. Most beginner-level courses have no prerequisites. Look out for intermediate or advanced courses that may require mastery of certain skills prior to enrollment, though.

Sources:

Related Resources

Bambi Majumdar
Author

Melissa Anderson
Expert

Julie McCaulley
Editor-in-Chief