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How to level up your education for free

BusinessCategory
11 min read
Ashley Grant

I first heard the phrase “learners are earners” from Marie Forleo early on in my writing career. I’ve always believed it to be true. So much so that to this day I continue to take courses, get certifications, read books and blogs, and listen to podcasts.

But let’s face it - all the educational resources out there can cost a pretty penny. That’s why I went looking for the best no-cost options to get schooled.

That’s exactly what I intend to share with you in this post. But, before we get to that, you might be wondering - what’s the big deal? Why should you care about resources to level up your education for free?

Disclaimer: This is strictly a roundup of products based on the top-rated/top-reviewed items in each category. As with all things, do your homework and your own research before making any purchase decisions. This post is not in any way considered an endorsement of any product.

How furthering your education is beneficial

There are several reasons you should pursue lifelong learning. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Overall well-being: According to Psychreg.org, your mental health benefits when you learn new things
  • You can do better at your current job: Indeed.com reported ongoing learning can “help employees expand their skill set to adapt to an ever-changing environment”
  • Or you could advance your career: Constant Contact found that learning can help you climb the corporate ladder, or find/qualify for new job opportunities
  • Boost your confidence: Cornerstone University shared that when you learn and gain knowledge, your confidence skyrockets making you more likely to go after the things you want in life
  • Improved cognitive function: According to Cognition Today, “Learning any skill stimulates the brain and adds to what psychologists call a ‘cognitive reserve.’” This can help prevent damage and “biological deterioration” as you age.

And hey, if nothing else, you might learn some new things to share at cocktail parties and networking events.

So, now that you know why learning is beneficial, let’s get to what you came for - resources to level up education for free.

To try and keep this list from being a blob of unorganized chaos, I’ve broken it down into a few categories:

  • General education
  • Reading and writing
  • Math and science
  • History and social studies
  • Business and entrepreneurship
  • Electronics and technology
  • Creative pursuits

Please note: Some of these resources could fit into multiple categories, but I have done my best to include them where they felt most appropriate.

General education

This is the best place to start if you’re trying to level up your education for free. Each of the resources in this list offer courses, books, lessons, etc… in a variety of subjects.

  • Khan Academy - This nonprofit has courses for pre-k through college level on the subjects of math, reading, language arts, science, arts and humanities, and economics. There are also courses for life skills, computing, and test prep.
  • Udemy - This online course platform features free courses in the categories of development, business, finance and accounting, IT, design, marketing, photography, video, music and more.
  • Edx.org - This website features more than 3,000 courses and lessons in a large variety of subjects from more than 160 universities that have partnered with the platform to make learning more accessible to all. University partners include Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Dartmouth, and University of Cambridge.
  • Coursera - Though not quite as many free courses as Edx.org, there are thousands of courses for free from a variety of University partners. Subjects include: arts and humanities, business, computer science, math and logic, and personal development to name a few.
  • Open University - Like many of the learning platforms on this list, the mission of The Open University is to offer free learning resources to “break down barriers to education.” Subjects include money and business, society, politics, law, languages, history, the arts, and more.
  • Alison.com - As they state on their course page, they have everything you could want to learn from art to zoology. At the time of this writing, more than 3600 of the courses on their website are free to enroll in.
  • PBS Learning Media - Watch videos curated for the subjects of social studies, science, engineering & technology, world languages, the arts, health and fitness, math, language arts, and professional development. The site also lets you browse by grade.
  • Podcasts - I spoke to a lot of people researching this post, and so many people mentioned podcasts. I guess it makes a lot of sense considering I was obsessed with the likes of Amy Porterfield, Pat Flynn, and John Lee Dumas when I was building my business. These days, I search for specific topics and if it’s in podcast form, regardless of the host, I will likely download it to my phone to listen to on my walks. Considering there are podcasts in every category, if you want to learn for free, podcasts are certainly a good option!
  • YouTube - I know, I know, but hear me out. I used YouTube to learn how to fix my blog when it broke. I also used it to learn how to fix my headlights and taillights, how to cook my new favorite dinners, how to meal plan, get more writing gigs, save more at the grocery store and so much more.

The trick is to look for super specific things and once you have a list of YouTube channels you like, add them to a bookmark folder.

Sure, you could subscribe to a bunch of channels, but like this list, I prefer to break things down by category!

With that in mind, here are some fun resources featuring lists of channels to check out by category:

Reading and writing

  • Openlibrary.org - With just an email address you can get your virtual “library card” and gain immediate access to millions of books. Borrow them like a traditional library, and organize them in your reading log. Backed by the non-profit Internet Archive, Open Library says it’s “an open, editable library catalog, building towards a web page for every book ever published.”
  • Project Gutenberg - This website features a library of more than 70,000 eBooks you can read for free. Unlike many of the resources in this list, you don’t need to register to read ebooks on their website. And, you don’t need to download any apps either.
  • Odyssey Writing Workshops - The site does charge for webinars and online workshops. However, you can find a lot of wonderful free tips on writing here, and tips on publishing here. I particularly like how they break their writing tips down into sections including punctuation and outlining your plot
  • Creative Writing Now - There are currently six free writing courses you can sign up for free here.
    • Endless Story Ideas
    • Suspense Techniques
    • Beginnings, Middles, Endings
    • Intro to Character Development
    • Intro to Mystery Writing, and
    • Intro to Description Writing
  • Reedsy Learning - This site features courses on everything from creative writing to how to write a business book, and even how to stop procrastinating with your book.

Math and science

  • School Yourself - From Algebra to Statistics, Geometry to Calculus, and many of those other math classes I struggled with in between, School Yourself offers loads of free tutorials to help you learn various subjects of math.
  • Math Games for Adults - Because why can’t learning be fun too?
  • Math Goodies - This site offers worksheets, games, puzzles, and more. Just be sure your ad blocker is working because this site seems to be fully funded by a boatload of ads. But, free comes at a price I suppose. The resources here are worth the visit, though.
  • Science Journal for Kids - Okay look, this might be a website for kids, but if you’re an adult that didn’t do too well in chemistry or biology like me, it’s still really cool to learn again with no pressure! I personally liked all the experiments you can do at home and the hands-on lesson ideas.
  • Fun Science Experiments for Adults - I’ll be the first to admit a lot of these are really silly, but ya know what? They are also fun. So get schooled in science here.

History and social studies

  • Free History Courses Online via Coursesity - This is the most thorough list of free history courses online I found. They break down where you can take the class for free, what the subject is, how long it will take you, and they offer reviews of the courses in their list as well.
  • C-Span American History TV - I was today years old when I learned that C-Span has a bunch of educational resources on their website. Their Lectures in History series for example, features “ lectures on topics ranging from the American Revolution to 9-11.”
  • Free World History Courses - If you’re looking for history lessons beyond the United States, Learn Out Loud has a fabulous list of free courses on world history.
  • iCivics - This website makes learning a little more fun with games intended to teach you about things like the branches of government, taxes, citizenship, etc…

Business and entrepreneurship

  • Hubspot Academy - I have taken many courses on Hubspot. I love how they break things down and then give you a certificate of completion. Course subjects include marketing, sales, service, web design, and data privacy.
  • The Small Business Administration - From how to start a business to how to fund it, the SBA has a bunch of online learning resources for people interested in entrepreneurship.
  • 5 Minute Classes for Small Businesses - Strapped for time, but still want to learn? This resource is just the thing for you. They’ve also got business classes on Money and Marketing that are also intended to take five minutes or less.

Electronics and technology

  • Codecademy - Free courses include learning Javascript, HTML, SQL, C++, and more. Their free plan allows you to start learning within minutes, and if you want additional support and certificates of completion you can upgrade to paid plans.
  • Grow with Google and Google Digital Garage - Backed and built by the Google gods, these platforms feature courses in digital marketing, career development, IT support, and data.
  • FreeCodeCamp - Offers more than 9,000 tutorials that teach students how to learn to code, build projects, and earn certifications for free. The website boasts that many of their graduates have been hired at Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Spotify. One woman I spoke with learned how to code using this website and is now a solutions architect at Amazon Web Services.

Creative pursuits

We all need a hobby right? That’s where these ideas come into play. These educational resources should be pretty self explanatory:

If you didn’t see your hobby of choice here, and you have something you want to learn, head to your favorite search engine and type “Free [your hobby] classes,” “Free [your hobby] lessons,” or “Free [your hobby] resources.”  You will likely be amazed by all of the options available to you.

And, if that feels too overwhelming, you could always head over to YouTube and search “[your hobby] tutorials” and start watching people do exactly what you want to learn how to do.

Conclusion and next steps

If nothing else, I hope this post inspired you to start looking for more ways to level up your education for free. We have so much knowledge out there just waiting for us, and far too many of us use the technology available to mindlessly scroll cat videos and celebrity gossip. Instead, I challenge you to learn something new this week, and then never stop learning.

This list was far from an exhaustive one. We didn’t even touch on the free resources many communities have such as free in-person fitness, cooking, and computer classes. Start looking for what’s available in your area. You truly have no idea what you might find - a new hobby, a new career possibility, or simply a new interest that inspires the rest of your life.