It used to be that you’d have to attend evening classes or go back to university to learn new skills – options that can be difficult to fit around our lives, and are often quite pricey. However, nowadays, there are lots of free online courses and resources out there that you can use around your schedule!
Most of us have a skill that we’d like to add to our toolkit. Perhaps you’d like to learn something for fun – such as a musical instrument or a new language – or maybe you want to develop a new skill to advance or change your career.
Whatever it is, there’s sure to be a free resource online to help you in your learning journey. Below, we’ve listed some of the best …
FutureLearn offers a variety of short free courses that can help you develop skills and knowledge in a huge range of subjects.
Courses cover everything from history and politics to nature and creative arts. They’re also run by professors and other highly-qualified individuals from leading universities and cultural institutions around the world.
FutureLearn courses are comprised of readings and pre-recorded video lectures that you can work through on a schedule that suits you. Plus, every page of the course allows students to engage in discussion with one another, and some have assignments or online practise quizzes to complete.
The full duration of each course will vary, but all free courses can continue to be accessed during this time. Though, it’s worth bearing in mind that, if you wish to have unlimited access to a course for as long as it remains on the FutureLearn site, or if you want to receive official certification for having taken the course, then you’ll usually have to pay for this.
Each course has a set start date, but you can still join after the start date and catch up – and most courses are run multiple times. Before you start a class, you’ll also be given an outline of what exactly you can expect to achieve during that time.
Duolingo is a free language-learning programme that aims to make learning fun and manageable for people of all ages and levels. It has 32 languages to choose from including Spanish, Japanese, and Latin. You can access it on the web, or by downloading the free app on your smartphone or tablet.
If you’re someone who wants to improve their language skills and learns best in short, manageable bursts, this could be for you!
Duolingo offers a number of interactive quizzes and games – each of which only takes a few minutes to complete. And if you download the app, it’ll remind you each day when it’s time to learn if you haven’t yet completed at least five minutes.
Learning for a few minutes each day won’t seem like it’s making a big difference right away, but over time, this can compound and have big effects. Plus, with Duolingo, you can dedicate as much of your time to it as you want.
If you’re still on the fence about whether to give Duolingo a try, why not take a look at the research they’ve conducted to show what learning with the app can do?
And while you can use Duolingo completely free, you can also sign up for a premium subscription for an ad-free experience and access to content whilst offline.
To learn more about how you could benefit from learning a new language, check out our full article on the subject.
If you’re keen to explore your creative side, Skillshare is another resource that could help you to do this from the comfort of your own home.
Skillshare offers plenty of free online classes – taught by industry experts – that’ll show you how to do everything from painting with watercolour to creating interesting photographs of food!
Classes are taught in short segments of a few minutes, so you can have regular breaks and take on new challenges in digestible, bitesize chunks.
Skillshare has hundreds of free classes and thousands of premium ones – but you can enjoy all classes for free for the first week after signing up. So even though it’s a limited-time offer, it’s worth checking out. Plus, there are also opportunities to share your artwork with other Skillshare users and receive feedback.
If you’re looking to earn a degree, The Open University can be a great way to pay less than a traditional campus university while being free to study on your own time. However, if you aren’t interested in getting a degree and just want to develop your skills, why not check out Open Learn?
OpenLearn is a free online course provider that’s powered by The Open University. Each of the courses features material from their full degree programmes – so you can be assured that you’re getting high-quality tuition.
Spanning nine different subject areas (from History & Arts to Digital & Computing), there are hundreds of courses to choose from. Each course is available immediately and you can work to complete it in your own time – which means no deadlines or time limits.
Upon completion of each course, you can also download a free statement of participation. These courses are ideal for those who want to expand their knowledge of academic subjects at their own leisure. Head over to the OpenLearn website to find out more, or check out their courses on our website.
No matter what you’re looking to learn – whether it’s a musical instrument, drawing, calligraphy, a style of dance, or how to set up a blog – YouTube will usually have several useful videos that can help you do it.
You won’t gain any certificates or formal qualifications for learning a skill through YouTube. However, if you’re simply wanting to expand your knowledge for fun, and you’d like to learn directly from people of all different ages and backgrounds who have first-hand expertise in the skill you’re learning, then it can be an invaluable tool.
It can also be used alongside more structured learning resources (like courses), to help you top up your learning.
If you’re looking to boost your skills or expand your knowledge for free, then another excellent resource to check out is Udemy.
From leadership and WordPress classes to lessons on mindfulness and thinking more optimistically, Udemy currently provides a wide range of courses for 49 million students worldwide.
While their main offering is paid-for courses, you can find some free lectures and tutorials on their website. And who knows, if you like what you find, you might want to splash out for one of their courses, which are detailed and affordably priced.
7. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to providing quality education for all ages; from preschool children right up to adults wanting to study at the university level. And while you can choose to donate to their cause, all of their courses are free of charge.
The bulk of the learning at Khan Academy is delivered through video lectures, though there are supplemental exercises that offer a more hands-on learning approach, as well as things like progress trackers to help you stay on route to achieving your goals.
While Khan Academy offers learning opportunities on a wide range of topics, it’s particularly helpful if you’re interested in getting an introduction to science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) topics.
8. The Skills Toolkit
If you’re currently looking for work, thinking about a change in career, or simply wanting to boost your skills in your current profession, then you could check out the free online courses offered on the government’s Skills Toolkit scheme.
Here, you’ll find learning opportunities covering practical maths and computer skills, as well as personal growth and wellbeing courses.
These are aimed, as the government website states, to “boost your job chances and unlock exciting opportunities, no matter what your industry or current skill level”. But they also can be studied if you have no professional interest and you’re just looking to expand your knowledge for fun.
9. Libraries (online services)
Check your local council’s website for information about your local library's online services
As well as a range of books, at most libraries, you’ll be able to access some online resources, including eBooks and journal articles.
The best way to find out what may be available to you is to check your local council’s website for information about your nearest library and what online resources they may have to offer. You may still need to be a member to gain access to these resources – but if you’re not already registered, you can usually do this online for free.
Check out the British Library’s online resources
If you’re into history or literature, then you might find it interesting to take a look at some of the free resources available on the British Library’s website.
There are plenty of online exhibitions, academic articles, creative activities, and teacher resource packs that are ideal for home-based learning . For example, the sacred texts section of their website will introduce you to literature from all kinds of religions, while on this page you can discover stories from the Windrush Generation.
As well as being fun and widening our career prospects, learning can be an incredibly empowering experience and help us feel more in control of our lives. If you’re feeling particularly bored, stressed, or worried, then consider challenging yourself to learn something from one of the resources above. You might be surprised at how much of an escape learning something new can offer you from the realities of everyday life!
And if you’re interested in a particular subject, but you’re not sure which resource to access, then you might like to try using our search engine below to find free and paid-for courses.