The 8 Best Free Online Courses of 2022 – Intelligent

Free online courses can be a convenient way to learn new skills and brush up on existing ones. In some cases, they may even be a stepping stone to a professional credential or academic degree. Online courses have been especially useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continue to be a great resource for distance learners who aren’t located near an academic institution that offers the course they’re interested in. Free online courses make it easy to access high-quality content from industry professionals without having to commit to a set schedule or pay university-level tuition. They’re also a good option for beginners, since many don’t have any formal prerequisites in order to enroll. You can simply sign up and get started right away!

8 Best Online Courses

How We Chose the Best Free Online Courses

Free online courses can be a great study resource, but they come in many different lengths and formats, so it’s important to choose one that’s right for you. We put together this list of the best free online courses based on several factors, including the time they take to complete, their flexibility, and the prerequisites required. You may also want to consider factors like which mobile devices they’re available on.

Popularity. All of the courses on our list have been taken by a substantial number of students, many of whom have left positive reviews. The most popular courses on our list have had over 1,000,000 enrolled students, while others have had at least several thousand. We’ve included enrollment numbers where available.

Time to complete. Another key factor to consider is how long a course takes to complete. We focused on courses that take anywhere from a few hours to a few months, and have avoided courses that require a significant time commitment beyond that.

Flexible schedule. One of the most appealing things about free online courses is that you can study at your own pace. We’ve selected classes that have a flexible schedule, so you can study at night or on weekends and you don’t have to attend any live streams or video conferences.

Prerequisites required. We focused on courses that don’t have formal prerequisites. In some cases, previous experience with IT or computer programming is recommended.

Top 8 Free Online Course Providers

Codecademy (1)Codecademy (1)

Intelligent Award: Most Personalized Experience

Instead of a set curriculum or series of video lectures, Codeademy focuses on lessons that are tailored to your needs and interests. You can start off by taking a quiz that will help you determine the best program for you. Then, choose a programming language that you want to learn, such as Python or JavaScript, or follow a specific career path such as game development. Codecademy is free to use, but you’ll need to pay for a “Pro” subscription in order to get access to all of the quizzes and learning content.

Who should use Codecademy? Codecademy is great for people who want a customized experience, even if they don’t know yet which programming language they want to study.

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Intelligent Award: Best for College Students

Coursera has an extensive library of courses created in partnership with several major universities and businesses, including Google, IBM, and Yale. While many courses offer free enrollment, you’ll have to pay if you want to get a certificate of completion that you can add to your LinkedIn profile or resume. College students, however, can get access to free courses and guided projects through the Coursera for Campus program, making this a useful platform for supplementing your academic coursework. Available subjects include IT, data science, business, and personal development.

Who should use Coursera? Coursera is geared toward students and professionals who want to improve their career prospects or prepare for an exam.

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Intelligent Award: Most Gamified

Online classes don’t have to be boring, and if you want to earn XP instead of As and Bs, then DataCamp may be the platform for you. Like Codecademy, DataCamp is focused on computer programming, so you won’t find as wide a range of courses to choose from as some of the other platforms on our list. Instead, you’ll get free coding exercises that you can access from within your browser, or from mobile devices if you upgrade to a paid subscription. DataCamp also offers skills assessments and progress tracking so you can see how far you’ve come.

Who should use DataCamp? DataCamp is ideal for hands-on learners who want to practice coding in a fun, interactive environment.

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edX home pageedX home page

Intelligent Award: Best for Idealists

edX is a nonprofit that’s committed to positive change through education. That means you’ll have access to timely and relevant course material, covering topics in healthcare, data science, business, design, and more. edX courses are developed in partnership with major brands and universities, including Harvard, MIT, and UC-Berkeley, and can lead to professionally-recognized credentials. It’s free to enroll, and you’ll only have to pay if you want a verified certificate, which costs around $49-199 per course.

Who should use edX? This platform is best for unconventional thinkers who want to change the world through business, medicine, or computer science.

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Intelligent Award: Most Flexible

FutureLearn offers one of the best free subscription options of any platform, with free access to the material for the duration of the course, plus two additional weeks. If you upgrade to a paid subscription, you’ll get access to the material indefinitely, and you’ll be eligible for a digital certificate of achievement. Each course is split up into weekly segments, and you’ll be able to comment on the course material and discuss it with other learners. FutureLearn also offers ExpertTracks and online degree programs, which may include in-person exams and assessments.

Who should use FutureLearn? FutureLearn is perfect for those who want the most flexibility in a learning platform, without missing out on classroom discussions and feedback.

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Intelligent Award: Best for College Prep

Khan Academy is a nonprofit that focuses on giving students the tools they need to succeed on the SAT, AP tests, and other K-12 material. Learners can sign up to the platform themselves to get personalized study material and practice content. Parents and teachers can also sign up to monitor the progress of their students and improve their standardized test scores. In addition to math and science material, there are also courses on life skills such as applying to college and starting a business, making Khan Academy the best platform for college prep on our list.

Who should use Khan Academy? Students, teachers, and parents can all sign up to Khan Academy to gain access to free online material suitable for grades K-12.

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Intelligent Award: Best for IT

Udacity’s course range focuses on digital skills, including programming, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. Courses are presented by industry leaders like Google, rather than academic institutions, so you know that you’re learning skills that will make you more employable in today’s business world. You can take standalone courses, or enroll in a “nanodegree” program with an expected workload of 10 hours per week. You’ll also get access to 24/7 support to help you navigate any technical difficulties.

Who should use Udacity? Udacity is ideal for individuals who want to learn about cutting-edge technologies like AI and robotics, as well as businesses and government agencies who want to upskill their workforce.

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Intelligent Award: Best for Online Business

Udemy’s offerings are tailor-made for business professionals — in fact, their Udemy for Business program can help level up your entire team. Individuals can benefit from their personal development courses, business courses, and more. Whether you want to learn coding, web design, or musical theory, Udemy’s offerings will help you succeed as a freelancer, business owner, or creative professional. Free users get access to online video content, while paying users can interact with the instructor directly and get a certificate of completion.

Who should use Udemy? Udemy is best for freelancers, employees, and other professionals who want to improve their business, marketing, and creative skills.

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Student Resources

What can you expect from an online course

Online courses usually include pre-recorded lectures and reading assignments, but some also contain quizzes, games, and interactive exercises. You’ll usually be provided with a recommended amount of material to get through each week, but you can move at your own pace and you don’t have to attend sessions at a specific day or time.

Some courses are more interactive, and there may be a student forum where you can engage with your classmates and get feedback on assignments. If you’re looking for college credit or a professional certificate, be sure to find out in advance if that’s an option; this will usually incur a fee and may require a greater time commitment.

Tips to succeed in an online course

1. Consider the cost

This list is focused on free online courses, so in most cases, you won’t have to pay a dime to access the material. Several platforms are nonprofits and are committed to making online education accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Keep in mind, though, that some platforms restrict free users to a limited number of courses or assignments. If you want unlimited access to the platform, then you may have to pay a subscription fee. You can expect to pay $10-20 per month for some platforms, or $49-199 to receive a formal certificate of completion.

2. Get your tech squared away

Online courses don’t require any expensive technology, and in fact, some are designed to be entirely accessible on mobile devices. Still, if you’re going to be streaming a lot of video content, it’s important to have a device that can handle high-quality video, and a reliable internet connection. You may also want to invest in a set of noise-cancelling headphones to cut down on any distractions in your study area.

Some courses, especially advanced programming courses, may have additional tech requirements, but this should be clearly explained in the course syllabus.

3. Use the right study resources

Many online courses come with downloadable study materials, quizzes, and exercises. There may also be a required textbook or recommended reading list. It’s a good idea to look over the syllabus in advance in case you need to order anything.

Depending on your learning style, you may also want to supplement the course material with additional resources to expand your knowledge of the subject.

4. Create a consistent study area and schedule

Studying from home can be a very different experience than studying in a classroom. If you don’t already have a dedicated workspace, set up a study area that’s out of the way of other housemates or family members so you don’t get distracted while you work.

Also, try to attend class at a consistent day and time, and pace yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed by trying to get through too much material at once.

5. Make the most of the learning platform

It can be hard to motivate yourself to study when you don’t get to spend time with your classmates face-to-face. Fortunately, many online course platforms provide options to engage with other learners, either in community forums or interactive projects. Some platforms also allow you to message the instructor directly or submit your work to be graded.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, participate in discussions, and leave feedback on other students’ work if the course requires it. The more you interact with the content, the more likely you are to retain the material after you’ve finished the course.

Free versus paid online courses: What’s the difference?

It’s natural to wonder whether free online courses aren’t as high-quality as paid courses, but that’s not necessarily the case. In many cases, free and paid courses deliver exactly the same content, but the free version doesn’t include graded exercises or a certificate of completion. If you’re on a budget, you can still access high-quality course material presented by professional instructors without upgrading your subscription.

The other great thing about free online courses is that you can try out a subject before deciding whether you want to commit to a course at full price. That’s why free courses are popular with lifelong learners and students who have many interests.

That said, paying for a course may give you more of an incentive to see it through, and you may end up with an official credential to put on your resume. It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of free versus paid online courses.