Not every employer will pay for training to get you ahead but they all notice when you're falling behind.
by John Boitnott
To maintain a strong career trajectory, professionals need continuing education. Whether it means learning about the latest technology or mastering a new skill, with the right training, employees can boost their resumes and remain competitive. Thanks to the Internet, consumers now have access to an endless array of free courses, on almost any topic they need to learn. Here are eight free tools that can help entrepreneurs connect with the online learning opportunities they need.
1. YouTube videos
Consumers use YouTube to watch old TV commercials and cat videos, but they may not realize the site is filled with tutorials on a wide variety of topics. Prospective students can search for classes by topic or subscribe to specific channels like those hosted by Bloomberg Business, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Entrepreneur. YouTube is also a valuable resource for learning how to use software, from popular solutions like Microsoft Office to more obscure software specific to an industry.
ALISON brings free courses in everything from entrepreneurship to psychology, making it the perfect resource for pursuing various interests. Courses are self-paced, with assessments helping students gauge what they’ve learned. At completion, students can download a learner record that shows all of the courses they’ve passed. Courses are offered at both diploma and certificate levels to help students build a resume.
With courses from the world’s top universities and colleges, Coursera can help entrepreneurs get certificates from respected institutions. Lectures and non-graded materials are free, with financial aid available for courses that come with graded assignments and certificates. Entrepreneurs can learn more about popular topics like data science and machine learning or study basic business skills.
Udemy bills itself as an online learning marketplace, with more than 40,000 courses. Not all of the courses are free, but a search of free courses on the site reveals pages of free courses on topics such as web design, iOS programming, and SEO. For personal development, Udemy has free courses on painting, photography, goal setting, and more.
With courses from Harvard University, MIT, The University of California Berkeley, and other universities, edX is the only leading Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider that is both nonprofit and open source. Students take free courses in subjects like supply chain management, data analysis, healthy living, and Linux. In addition to study materials and instructors, edX provides unique learning tools like game-like labs and 3D virtual molecule builders for hands-on learning.
6. MIT OpenCourseWare
Known for its research and education in science and engineering, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a top-notch reputation. MIT OpenCourseWare brings some of the school’s courses online, with free lecture notes, videos, and exams from the school’s instructors. Students can choose from thousands of courses in the fields of business, engineering, science, and more.
In addition to providing courses, FutureLearn offers a community of learners, with students communicating with each other to enhance the experience. There are numerous free upcoming courses, including many covering business-related topics. The site’s workplace learning program gives businesses the tools they need to managing training for all of their employees in one place.
For Apple device users, iTunes has a wide variety of courses available for download. Professionals can search iTunes for the subject they need or browse through this list of free courses offered through the platform. Through iTunesU, instructors put together their own classes and offer them to consumers, including participants like Harvard and Stanford universities. While some of these classes can be found elsewhere, Apple device owners may find it easier to search for the classes they need where they can download them directly.
Professional development courses can be a great way to improve efficiency and boost a resume. With so many courses available online, professionals can take these classes in their free time, often on their favorite mobile devices. Interested students should first determine the courses they’re interested in taking and search one of the above platforms for an affordable option that fits their unique learning needs.
John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.