The Best Online Learning Resources for All Ages

Table of Contents
  1. Free Online Learning Courses
    1. Khan Academy
    2. Code.org
    3. edX
    4. Harvard's Online Learning
    5. TED Talks
    6. YouTube
    7. Alison
  2. Paid Online Learning Courses
    1. MasterClass
    2. Udemy
    3. Coursera
    4. The Great Courses Plus
    5. Lynda.com
  3. Summary

When my son was younger, he had a minor speech impediment. As a busy mom of four on a tight budget, I cringed at the thought of adding speech therapy to our busy schedule and to our tight budget.

I searched for free online speech videos for his particular issues, and within a month Sam and I had corrected the issues together–for free. That experience taught me a powerful lesson regarding the value of online learning tools. Online learning resources make it possible to learn just about anything you want or need to learn right from the comfort of your own home.

Online classes come in all shapes and sizes. You can find online learning resources for any age, in just about any subject and in a variety of price ranges.

Here's a summary of several online learning resources and what they have to offer you. Whether you have a subject you need to know more about for work or personal reasons, are looking to start a business, or simply need to pass some time, you can probably find what you're looking for online.

Free Online Learning Courses

These online learning classes are offered for free, but that doesn't mean they lack value.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy has been offering free online courses for internet users since 2008. One of the reasons we like Khan Academy at our house is that they provide online learning for nearly everyone. They offer courses for all ages from preschool through adult learners.

You can learn in a variety of areas such as:

  • Economics and finance
  • Personal finance
  • Basic math up through calculus and trigonometry
  • Science-based courses like physics, biology and astronomy
  • Test prep for LSAT and MSAT

They offer a number of other subjects as well, including entrepreneurship. Khan Academy doesn't offer college-level courses, but their courses do offer a solid foundation for learning just about any subject.

Code.org

Code.org is a non-profit organization that seeks to teach kids about computer science through free online courses. They've help facilitate computer science education in many school districts in the United States and has a lot of free courses online for every age group from K through 12.

Coding is more than just looking at lines of code. For the younger ages, K through 5, it's about helping them think about how to build applications through making games and doing drawings. Older students will build real working apps, games and websites using simpler languages like CSS, HTML, and Javascript. It's really a great way to get you or your kids excited about programming.

edX

edX hosts online college-level courses in a wide array of subjects. You can take classes from more than 100 colleges and universities.

The courses involve videos with interactive learning exercises. Each course description will tell you how long the course is, information about any prerequisites, and what the weekly time commitment is as well.

Most classes are free, and if you're willing to pay a small-ish fee ($99 is typical), you can get a validation certificate that you've passed the course. Some of the colleges that offer courses on edX offer college credit for them as well.

In addition, some colleges offer entire degrees via edX. At about $166 per credit, this could be a more affordable way for you to get your degree.

Harvard's Online Learning

Did you know you can take classes at Harvard for free? Harvard's Online Learning site offers free courses in subjects such as:

  • Computer science and programming
  • Humanities and social sciences
  • Art and design
  • Health and medicine
  • Science
  • Education

They offer these and many more. Most of the courses are offered via the edX platform. You can pay a fee to get a validation certificate–and in many cases you can pay to earn college credit as well.

Bonus: Do you want more free Ivy League School learning? Check out MIT's OpenCourseWare and Yale's Open Courses.

TED Talks

You've definitely heard of TED Talks before but I want to remind you of how great these short talks are. The TED organization seeks to find “ideas worth spreading” in the subjects of Technology, Entertainment, and Design but the breadth of the subjects have far exceeded the original name. There are now smaller TEDx talks all around the world and they get some of the best speakers to come talk about their work and discoveries.

If you want something focused on money (or money adjacent subjects), you can start with these great TED talks about money.

YouTube

YouTube might not be as “professional” as the other free online learning platforms we've talked about, but you can't underestimate its value for learning just about anything you want to learn.

As I mentioned earlier, I first found the real value in learning on YouTube when I learned how to coach my son through his minor speech issues. I can't begin to count the number of DIY home repairs and improvements I've been able to complete thanks to YouTube.

If you're a budding entrepreneur, YouTube can help you with that too. Just search on the YouTube site to find whatever you want to know about your business's subject.

Need to know more about good money management? You can find YouTube videos on everything from budgeting to investing. Want to know how to fix your vehicle's carburetor? That's, probably, on there too.

While YouTube isn't necessarily “classy” in its learning approach, there's no doubt there’s a wealth of education on the site in regards to life and living.

Alison

Alison was founded in 2007 with the goal of sharing education with everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. The site offers free courses in nine different subject areas:

  • Technology
  • Language
  • Science
  • Health
  • Humanities
  • Marketing
  • Math
  • Business
  • Lifestyle

Alison offers digital completion certificates for courses when you achieve 80% or higher on all course assessments, but you do have to pay for the certificates.

The basic plan on Alison is free, but they have a Premium plan that costs about $10 per month. With the Premium plan, you can get monthly discount points that can be used toward digital certificates.

Now let's look at some paid online learning resources.

Paid Online Learning Courses

These online courses will cost you some cash, but they might be worth it if you're learning something that's important to you or if you're learning from courses that could help you advance at work.

MasterClass

MasterClass has online learning courses from experts in a variety of fields. You can take cooking classes with Gordon Ramsay, writing classes with James Patterson, acting classes with Natalie Portman and more.

While most of the classes aren't interactive with the instructor, they do offer insight from well-known field experts. The courses include extensive video classes, workbooks, and interactive assignments. Some of the larger classes will create cohorts and add a social aspect so you can interact with other students.

The average class includes 20 ten-minute lessons. Individual classes are $90 each, or you can pay $180 for a year-long All Access Pass. This pass lets you take any course you want for an entire year.

MasterClass

Udemy

Udemy is an online learning platform that has over 100,000 courses to choose from. You can take courses in a variety of subjects, including:

  • Business
  • Photography
  • Personal development
  • IT & software
  • Marketing

It offers these and many other subjects. Courses on Udemy start for as little as $10.99. Each course has ratings and reviews too. Reading the student feedback on the reviews page for each course will help you get a better feel for the course and instructor.

Udemy is a great site for budding entrepreneurs as well. They offer courses on hundreds of types of business and side hustle startups.

Try Udemy

Coursera

Coursera shares online courses taught by top instructors from world-class universities and world-class companies.

Founded in 2011, Coursera has thousands of paid courses starting at $39 and going up from there. The company offers hundreds of free classes too.

Free courses include options such as:

  • English for Career Development
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills
  • AI for Everyone

They also host a number of others in a variety of subjects. Paid courses through Coursera include subjects such as:

  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • IT
  • Data science

The list includes over 3,900 courses. You can even earn online certificates and online degrees in some subjects. Coursera classes are set up so you can work at your own pace.

Try Coursera

The Great Courses Plus

The Great Courses Plus is like the Netflix of online learning.

It's a streaming model that offers courses in a variety of genres such as:

  • Economics and finance
  • Health, fitness, and nutrition
  • Literature and language
  • Philosophy and religion
  • History
  • Personal growth and development

The site has courses in other genres too. The courses are taught by subject-matter experts from top universities. This site lets you choose from two plans: A monthly plan that costs $19.99 a month and a quarterly plan that averages out to $10 a month.

Both plans offer unlimited streaming across all your devices. While this site doesn't have as many courses as some of the others (they offer about 500), they do have some really cool classes to choose from.

They also offer a free trial for an entire month!

Try The Great Courses Plus for 1 Month

Lynda.com

Lynda.com was founded in 1995 by a multimedia professor. As of 2015, the company is a subsidiary of LinkedIn. This site focuses primarily on teaching business, software, technology, and creative skill courses and has over 4,000 courses to choose from.

This site has classes in five different languages. You can try Lynda.com for free for the first 30 days. After that, you have two subscription plans you can choose from:

  • A monthly subscription plan that costs $29.99 per month
  • An annual subscription plan that costs $239.88 (an average of $19.99 per month)

One downside to this type of monthly cost, as opposed to a per-course cost, is that you'll be throwing away money if you don't use the site. That's something to think about when you're choosing which online learning sites to utilize.

Summary

If you're interested in learning a new skill, improving a current skill or expanding your knowledge base, there are several great, free and paid, online learning resources to choose from.

You may as well do something productive with the free time you've got on your hands. Learn a new skill and get yourself a side hustle that will give you more money to save and invest.

Why not take courses that will put you in line for a raise or promotion at work? You can even give your kids a healthy and productive way to pass time at home. What will you do with all the online knowledge available to you?

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Laurie Blank

About Laurie Blank

Laurie Blank is a blogger, freelance writer, and mother of four. She’s psyched about teaching others how to manage their money in a way that aligns with their values and has been quoted in Bankrate.

She's a licensed Realtor with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, Minnesota (also licensed in Wisconsin too) and has been freelance writing for over six years.

She shares powerful insights on her blog, Great Passive Income Ideas, that will show you how you can create passive income sources of your own.

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  1. Joan says

    Some public libraries offer free access to subscription sites like Lynda.com. Public libraries are the best!

  2. Andrea says

    Thanks for the information. Clicked on your link for edX and started to do a search on “spirituality.” As soon as I typed “spiri” the results started coming up for “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology.” Now THAT sounds interesting.

  3. Florie Barry says

    Thank you, Laurie and Jim, for this valuable info on courses. As a Freelance Writer, my goals are learning and keeping up with technology. I will research these, thank you.

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