You’ve Been Schooled…For Free Online!

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”
– William Butler Yeats

There’s nothing I love better than mastering a skill or gaining a new piece of knowledge. I find learning to be one of the few vices in life that are both addictive and good for me. Considering I often indulge in those other vices that aren’t really in my best interest, I try to get a big dose of education as often as I can.

But here’s the catch: school can be really expensive.

Most courses will set you back a few hundred dollars even if they only take a few hours to complete, and that’s only to pay for the privilege of sitting in the classroom. The cost can double (or worse) once you factor in miscellaneous expenses such as gas, parking, and textbooks.

As much as I may love education, I’d much rather learn something new without having to break the bank to pay for it.

If you feel the same way, here are a few tips that can help get you schooled for free online…

Image by loop_oh via flickr


Send School to Your Inbox 

You can get everything from daily deals to daily inspiration in your inbox, so why not get your classes delivered there too? There are some really great groups out there who email lessons on pretty much anything, so do some searching and see what peaks your interest. My personal favourite right now are the design lessons sent out weekly by Hack Design.

Get in on a MOOC

One of the most significant advancements post-secondary education has made in recent years is the creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Provided by professors/instructors from real universities and colleges, MOOCs are university-level classes that are taught online, open to anyone, and FREE! What’s more, many of the professors/instructors that offer MOOCS will give you documentation proving you’ve finished the course (if you actually do, that is). Sweet, no?!

Whether you’re interested in the foundations of business strategy, quantum physics, or the history of rock music, there’s a MOOC out there with your name on it.

Some very reputable institutions (such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT) have already jumped on the MOOC bandwagon, and the selection of courses available is expanding all the time. As of today, the best MOOC websites are,, and

Watch an Expert in Action

By now you’ve probably heard of TED talks, as nearly every city has created their own version of the conference to get in on the craze. As their website states, TED is a non-profit organization dedicated to ideas worth spreading. Started in 1984, TED hosts two annual conferences in the US and Scotland where guests are invited to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less.

From Bill Gates to Jamie Oliver, anyone worth listening to has given a TED talk. Check out the 1,400+ videos on and spend a few minutes inside the head of an expert.

Social Networking for Learners

Have you ever wanted to learn more about something, but you didn’t really want to search out all the details yourself? Before you waste another minute trying to find the answers you seek, you should head over to Learnist ( and see if someone has already compiled the information for you.

Learnist is a social networking site where users curate their own digital bulletin boards filled with information related to a topic (or topics). The boards are posted for public viewing, and you can follow user’s boards to keep up to date with the content they share. Learnist is very similar to Pinterest, but it’s for people who want to learn something rather than for those who just want to look like they have good taste in shoes.

Watch and Learn

Sometimes you need to watch somebody do something in order for the skill to really sink in and make sense. For instance, do you really think you could solve an algebraic equation just by reading about how to do it? No seriously, come on. It would be nearly impossible, and you know it.

Rather than making yourself crazy by trying to read about how to do things, you should visit Khan Academy ( and watch your way to a new skill. With over 4,000 videos on everything from organic chemistry to microeconomics, you might as well learn something new while you’re wasting time surfing the ‘net.

Image by laffy4k via flickr

And there you have it! Those are my top five tips for getting schooled for free online.

I have a few more thoughts on this subject that I’ll be posting soon, but in the meantime I’d love to hear about the best websites you’ve found for learning something for nothing. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!

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