One of the best things about the Internet is how freely available it makes information—Wikipedia contains vast amounts of information, and resources like YouTube and eHow include volumes of how-to content.
Learning institutions, from companies to community colleges to major universities, have gotten into the game, too. For free or a relatively small fee, you can learn everything from coding to ancient history without having to leave home, and often on your own time.
One very popular modern model, the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), often brings elements of the classroom experience like lectures, assigned reading and exams straight to your computer, and is growing as a means for people to acquire skills they can use in their careers. Depending on who’s offering the courses, it may be possible to complete an educational program using MOOCs and qualify for a credential, too.
More and more schools are developing MOOCs and are delivering more diverse courses in technical and career skills all the time. Here are just a few places where you can search for courses:
- Class Central—This website lists MOOCs offered by major universities in a wide variety of topics. Registration is free, but some of the courses may require a fee to participate.
- Saylor Academy—Saylor delivers its own free courses in a MOOC format, and includes its own user community. Pathways include career-related courses and opportunities to earn credits transferrable to some state colleges and technical schools.
- edX—In addition to curriculum presented by international colleges and universities, edX includes courses in technical and academic subjects presented by companies and nonprofit organizations in several languages. edX students have earned more than 100,000 credentials.
- Coursera—Courses are offered by 117 partner institutions from around the world, and are free to Coursera users. In addition to skills gained, you can earn certificates for completing courses.
One of the best benefits of MOOCs is the flexibility they can offer you as a learner—if a subject turns out to not interest you or the course isn’t what you were looking for, you can switch at little to no cost. You can even change fields and find a career path that works better for you.