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10 Free Online Courses That Will Get You a Diploma

10 Free Online Courses That Will Get You a Diploma
Written by Oana Schneider

There was a time when online degrees were faced with skepticism by employers. When a job applicant shows a certificate for an online degree as part of the credentials, it’s not necessarily met with enthusiasm. Over the years, however, the popularity of online courses and MOOCs or Massively Open Online Courses has increased.

Educational institutions like colleges, universities, graduate schools and even private companies are putting their resources towards offering free education online for those who’d like to take advantage of it. Anybody can now enroll in any of the hundreds of free courses available online. Not only can you enhance your knowledge, but your hiring potential can also increase as you earn online certificates.

Read on to find out more about why it pays to take online classes, and which courses are the most useful.

Why Take Online Classes in the First Place? 

Before counting down the most useful online classes that you can enroll in, let’s take a look at why you should take online classes in the first place:

  • Online courses fill the void that traditional colleges and universities leave behind.
    Among the many problems faced by traditional educational institutions are higher tuition fees, budget cuts, shortage of facilities, courses or even the number of student enrolees. Today, almost 3 million students are enrolled in a fully online degree program while 6 million students are taking at least one online course as part of their degree program. With studies showing that online learning can be equally effective as getting education in physical classrooms, there’s no doubt that the popularity of online courses will soar even higher over the next few years.
  • You can take your pick from a wide array of online programs and courses.
    Adults who did not finish their high school education can do so through online courses. Those who are already working but would like to earn a college diploma can also finish their degree online. For those who already have a degree but would like to branch out their skills and knowledge, there are plenty of online courses to take.
  • The costs involved are lower.
    There are short online courses which are available for free while others are available for a fee. Although we can’t necessarily say that the tuition fees of online courses are lower than courses at universities or colleges, the overall costs are definitely lower. With online courses, you can deduct room and board; the cost of books; and even miscellaneous expenses like food allowance.

10 Free Online Courses That Will Get You a Diploma

  • You can study at your own pace and free time.
    Through online courses, the learning environment is a lot more comfortable and you can study at your own pace, at your own time. This is especially useful for adults who feel that they cannot keep up with the pace of students who are younger than they are. With online courses, lectures are held and study materials are sent electronically. Test results are also sent online, and those who are holding a day job or are taking care of their families can study at their own free time.
  • You can gain career advancement, keep up with any classes you might have missed or continue in your profession.
    Finally, the flexibility of online courses lets you gain career advancement, continue with your work while studying or keep up with any classes that you might have missed before. All in all, the freedom offered by online classes allow you to study your lessons at your own pace and at your own time, so you have utmost flexibility.

10 Useful Online Classes

If you would like to maximize the free time that you have while working, if you’re fresh off college and are looking for fun classes to take or if you’re a professional who simply want to acquire more knowledge or a new skill, here are some of the most useful online classes that you can enroll in:

1. Entrepreneurship: From Idea to Launch

Offered by: Udemy

According to Udemy.com, this entrepreneurship course explains the process from the creation of an idea to the successful launch of a new venture. The site offers a variety of free online courses, ranging from languages to music to sports. For Entrepreneurship, 32 lectures and 10 exercises are included – which you can study at your own pace and free time.

The goal of the course is to guide aspiring entrepreneurs through the steps that will greatly increase their chances of successfully turning their ideas into a successful business.

2. Personal Finance

Offered by: Missouri State University

Personal finance management is not necessarily something that’s taught in schools or even by parents of kids at home. From the Missouri State University comes this course for personal finance which includes eight classes. Videos and lectures for personal saving, credit management, budgeting and retirement planning are included here. You can easily access the course through iTune U, YouTube and Open Culture.

3. Designing Your Life

Offered by: MIT OpenCourseWare

Would you like to take charge of your own life? This is exactly what you will learn from this course by MIT OpenCourseWare. The goal of the online course is to provide an ‘exciting, eye-opening, and thoroughly useful inquiry into what it takes to live an extraordinary life, on your own terms’. It will also teach you how to succeed in your own terms, be proud of what you have in life, and be happy with it.

4. Useful Genetics

Offered by: Coursera

Unlike other online courses which are more flexible, Useful Genetics is more specific – there are start and end dates which you need to follow. Offered by Coursera, it aims to teach a college-level understanding of how genes function. What’s the role of inheritance? Is there such a thing as a ‘gay gene’? What does race have to do with genes? If this is something that interests you, you should definitely enrol in this online course.

5. Introduction to Statistics

Offered by: Udacity

This self-paced course by Udacity requires a student to be knowledgeable about basic Algebra. If you’re planning to establish your own business, you will definitely benefit from this course because statistics and data analysis are skills required in almost every industry. Through it, you will learn how to interpret and gather data; visualize it; and understand its relationship with mathematics.

6. MIT: Introduction to Microeconomics

Offered by: MIT OpenCourseWare

Another self-paced online course offered by MIT OpenCourseWare is Introduction to Microeconomics. Over the years, economics has had a bad rap with people – especially business owners who would not like to concern themselves about this subject. Microeconomics is all about making the best decision if you have scarce resources like money or time.

7. Wharton/Coursera: An Introduction to Financial Accounting

Offered by: Coursera

This ten-week course is very useful for those who are running their own business, or those who simply would like to take charge of their financial life. No background in accounting is required and the commitment is six to eight hours per week, depending on your availability. Through this online course, you will learn about the basics of accounting, how to read a balance sheet, how to interpret income statements and cash flows.

Accounting is the language of business so those who would like to take charge of their finances should definitely think about enrolling in this course.

10 Free Online Courses That Will Get You a Diploma

8. Wharton/Coursera: An Introduction to Marketing

Offered by: Coursera

An Introduction to Marketing is a nine-week course offered by Coursera, where you can commit to studying around five to six hours per week. It’s better if you have a business background when taking this course but if you really would like to learn about marketing, there’s no stopping you from enrolling in it.

The classes are taught by three of Wharton’s marketing stars, Peter Fader, David Bell and Barbara E. Khan. Entrepreneurs who would like to know how to relate to customers, how to sell their products and how to improve their business in general should enrol in this course.

9. MIT/EdX: Introduction to Biology

Offered by: EdX

Lasting for 14 weeks, this online course requires individuals to have studied biology and chemistry in high school. The per-week commitment is about 12 hours. Written by Kevin Carey, this Introduction to Biology course is virtually the same biology class that students at MIT take. It’s a fascinating look at how life works, and is something that you should consider enrolling in even if you have no wish to be in the health care or medical industry.

10. Udacity: How to Build a Startup

Offered by: Udacity

Finally, feel free to pace yourself when taking this Udacity course called How to Build a Startup. In it, you will learn about the practical side of starting your own company, how to develop a viable product, and how to figure out how your business is actually going to make money once it gets off the ground.

Computer science, artificial intelligence, software, innovation, commercialization, money and banking – the possibilities of what you can learn from online classes are practically endless. With very little or no money at all, you can study the subjects at your own pace during your free time – and gain new knowledge and skills along the way.

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10 Free Online Courses That Will Get You a Diploma

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

15 Comments

  • That’s actually very exciting and very good in this generation. Online training is something I have been using for quite a while. I’ve used Coursera and I’ve used Lynda.com and it was really interesting because I thought they teach even better than going to college or university.

    • Martin,

      I too enjoy Lynda.com. The areas of coverage have broadened since I first used it several years ago. I’ll be printing this list to keep on hand when I have the time to gain more skill sets. Like many comments here, I really enjoy a traditional lecture from a subject-matter-expert, but I also enjoy learning in different areas that a degree will not always include. The marketing and personal finance courses would be interesting and compliment my current skill sets. While online courses may not be a good fit for some, for others they are the only option and I am so happy to have the opportunity to increase my knowledge for minimal cost.

      • Hi Molly,

        That’s really awesome and thank you for sharing that. I’ve really learnt a lot through Lynda.com because they’ve given me a lot of material where it’s more practical rather than theoretical, or putting the theory into practical. I’m very satisfied with it and it could be an alternative to college or university.

  • I think it’s great that free and low courses are available online. This might be good for people who aren’t sure if they’ll be able to master the coursework, as well as those who need special accommodations for various types of disabilities. It would be great if courses and diplomas/certificates from these classes led to increased employment opportunities via entrepreneurship or jobs.

    • Agreed, I’d like to know for sure that a free course like one of these would increase my hiring potential, as online courses are the most practical for my current situation. There’s a part of me that thinks some employers might still balk at this concept. That said, these courses are certainly full of useful info and it’s wonderful that they’re available.

  • I have to say I am quite dubious of this. Some people really enjoy studying at their own pace and such. However I personally think going to a classroom, sitting down and have someone there to explain and teach certain theories is the best. I have partaken in a TEFL course online and now even though I am a qualified techer of English as a foreign language I feel like I would be in a much better position if I had someone teaching me the way it should be taught. It may just be my opinion but I know if I am left to my own devices I would be weary to spend the time to complete something like this on my own

    • Plenty of people excel in online courses, and most classes allow students to interact with instructors in the same manner they would in person. Online classes continue to evolve and get closer to a traditional classroom experience while offering the benefits of remote access to such courses.

  • I’ve always sort of looked down on the concept of achieving online certificates myself, even though I’ve always thought of them as convenient and a newer way to learn subjects on your own time and earn the paper showing your qualification. I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to studying and learning academically but it is quite good to see that some contempt towards this way of earning a certificate is fading.

  • I’ve looked into Open Colleges, online, but looks like that money would be the hindrance. My age should not be a hindrance. An 102 yr-old Israeli woman of gets her PhD just recently, 77 years after completing thesis in diphtheria and passes her doctoral exams at the University of Hamburg! Wow!

    I have written the list down to remember to look into my options. Thank you. I look forward to studying Law and Justice, if there are offers for free. I’m excited to have found this article. Very encouraging. Thank you!

  • MIT OpenCourseWare is one of the best platforms out there with hundreds of free online courses that include lecture notes and everything else from the instructors. I’ve browsed through that site countless times and found some incredible classes available for free. You don’t necessarily get anything for taking them, but the knowledge you gain is a great enough benefit.

    • I like the Knowledge gain from stuff like that too. and if you do good you can always go for the full thing later and get a certificate with a better grade since you know a bunch of it.

  • Nice there is some sites there I have never heard of. I think I will check out that Accounting one. I know there is no way for me to go back to school unless it is online.

    • Absolutely. I haven’t heard of some of them as well but I’ve also tried a few of them and I really like it, it’s much different than college or university, it’s more fun and interactive.

  • These look like fantastic courses for the person who wants to start their own business, or is in the process of doing so. So many people can not afford the cost of going to college to take a whole bunch of classes on things they will never use in their career, just to have a degree and take a few actually useful classes. This is wonderful that there is a way people can learn thing like basic economics for free. I think that is one of the most needed courses in the western world today.

  • As a teacher with more than 40 years experience, I love online learning. I can pause videos to take notes, go back and check thoughts against concepts, pause and make coffee, take a bathroom break; what’s not to like. I do agree though that there is still some stigma surrounding non-traditional education, but with more and more recognised institutions offering these types of courses, maybe the traditionalists will change their tune. Perhaps they’ll even sign up for a “How to Change Your Tune” course.

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