Where to Educate Yourself for Free Online – You Don’t Need to Spend to Learn

With the average cost of a college education increasing 12 fold in the last 30 years (Huffington Post), some are deciding it’s not worth the expense and simply shunning the college experience.

For those who do want to attend, college is beginning to feel more and more out of reach.

In fact, “Bloomberg reports that the rate of increase in college costs has been ‘four times faster than the increase in the consumer price index'” (Huffington Post).

But if you shun attending a traditional college, all is not lost.  There are plenty of ways to get your education for free, thanks to the Internet.

Eight Places to Get a Free Education Online

Where to learn online for free.

1.  TED Talks.


Instead, you can simply turn to TED Talks

TED talks are based on the topics of Technology, Entertainment and Design and have featured famous speakers such as Peter Gabriel, Bill Gates, and Bono, to name just a few.  TED Talks are usually 5 to 30 minutes and are both inspiring and educational.

Take a look at TEDEd for talks specifically geared toward educational lessons.

2.  Coursera.

courseraThis is an online site that offers college courses for free.

Coursera’s mission is to “partner with organizations around the world to create collaborative programs which strive to make education a basic human right” (Coursera).  There are institutions from the U.S. and all over the world that are partnering with Coursera to develop these courses and make them available for students.

Currently there are 429 courses available, with 397 of them in English.

3.  Open Culture.

Open_CultureThis site appears to be the mother lode of online courses.

They list over 750 that are available, and unlike other sites that are just available for high school students, this site also offers courses for kids in elementary and high school.

They also have a resource of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), which may offer certificates and/or actual college credit.

Open Culture, which was founded in 2006, is on a mission to find all of the free educational material available online and centralize it.  Besides courses, you can also find free movies, ebooks, textbooks, and language lessons, just to name a few.

4.  Project Gutenberg.

Project GutenbergProject Gutenberg offers over 42,000 free ebooks to download.  (These books are available for free because their copyright has expired, and Project Gutenberg digitalizes them.)  You can search from 23 different categories or by title to find the books you’d like to read.

While this amazing service is free, Project Gutenberg does ask that you consider making a small donation to show your support.

5.  Khan Academy.

Khan AcademyKhan Academy offers thousands of 10 minute lessons on math topics in particular, though you can also find lessons on biology, chemistry and physics as well as finance and history.

Khan Academy is for students in grades K-12, and also keeps track of how students do when completing problems related to the instructions.  Many parents like to use Khan Academy as a supplement to the other math instruction their children are receiving, though some use it for a stand alone curriculum for homeschooling.

6.  Open Courseware Consortium.

Open Courseware ConsortiumCreated because of a desire to bring quality education to the masses, Open Courseware Consortium now has 62 universities participating including prestigious U.S. universities such as the University of Notre Dame, John Hopkins University, and the University of Michigan, among others as well as many prestigious foreign universities.  There are currently over 5,000 courses available in English.  You can search for courses by topic or offering university.

7.  Open Education Database.

OEDbOpen Education Database is said to be the largest collection of free courses anywhere online. 

You can search by courses, professors, topics or featured schools.  MIT is a featured school with over 1,700 courses available as is The University of Michigan with 144 courses available.

8.  Morningstar’s Investing Classroom.

If you’d like to learn more about investing in particular, you can’t go wrong with Morningstar.com’s Investing Classroom.

These classes are free, but you have to be a registered Morningstar user to accrue points.  (Registering is also free.)  Once you earn 790 points by taking quizzes to reinforce what you are learning, you can earn a free 60 day Morningstar Premium membership.


While these courses don’t offer university credit (usually), they do offer a way for you to educate yourself for free, which can help you personally as well as help you to advance in your current job.  They can help you keep your skills sharp, which is so important in this competitive marketplace.

Even better, many of these sites can also prove useful for your children.  You could use the courses during the summer to prevent the summer slide or as a way to help your child pursue his passions and interests.

Do you use free educational sites?  If so, what is your favorite one?  Let us know in the comments!

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Published or updated November 5, 2013.


  1. This is a great list of resources. Thanks for posting!

  2. As someone who lives by the motto learn something new every day, this is an excellent list of places where anyone can learn more. Thanks for the great post, I’ll pass on the link.

  3. My online education usually consists of blogs and YouTube but I definitely will check out the sites from this list.

    • Glen Craig says:

      Blogs and YouTube have tons of great information. Sometimes you need a more structured course or instruction though and that’s where these sites come into play.

  4. I’ve heard really good things about the Khan Academy online. It’s supposed to be great for math especially. Great for kids and adults!

    Great list! Thanks!

    • Glen Craig says:

      I’ve looked at a few videos and they do break down the concepts pretty well. The site has grown a lot since I first discovered it. You, or the kids really, can learn and take quizzes to see how well you took in the info and it will track your progress as well.

  5. Hi Glen,

    I was familiar with Coursea, Khan Academy and TedTalks (which are my favorite). You’ve added to my list of awesome sites to learn from, thank you! We live in an amazing time to have access to all this free information! Growing up the card catalog was a challenge for me, the internet has made it so much more accessible with amazing sites like the ones you have listed here. Thanks for the great list!


    • Glen Craig says:

      I remember learning about microfilm and microfiche in school. That seems so far away now with the internet!

      Please come back and let us know if you found any of the sites to be particularly useful.

  6. I am actually a student taking free classes on line check out this web site. I’ve learned so much with the GED Program they offer!

  7. I love GCFLearnFree.org! It has 128+ free self-paced tutorials and a free accredited online class program in Microsoft Office. Just awesome!

  8. Just passed by a high school today with a sign suggesting Khan Academy to their students for tutoring help.

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