Own your education – Free Online Courses

Own your education – Free Online Courses

“But I don’t want to study Economics, I want to take ICT!” said a very frustrated 16-year old me (rhyme unintentional!).

It was 1999 (yes – I know, last century!) and I was having a (probably heated) discussion about my A-level options. I was struggling to understand why I couldn’t pick the A-levels that I wanted and why I was being bound to the options chosen by my school. I’d always thought that moving up to sixth-form would bring more freedom. However, here I was facing yet another barrier. So, being the stubborn person that I was (hmmm….and still am), I decided to put the proverbial foot down. Several conversations (okay, debates) later…it had been agreed that I would self-study ICT and the school would support me with the required coursework and exams. I was pretty happy with this outcome, as I’d always struggled with the classroom environment anyway (“too chatty” they said). I went on to obtain a grade A and actually (for once) enjoyed studying. I learnt that I absorb information much better first thing in the morning and I write my best material at night. Actually, this is probably still true today.

I was reminded of this story recently, whilst harping on to a friend about all of the things that I wish I’d been taught at school. Like ‘how to negotiate’ (important when agreeing a salary!) or ‘how to develop a brand’ (be it your own brand or that of a product/service). Anyway, it got me thinking about the plethora of online courses now available. For free or a small fee, you can go from ‘zero to hero in Python‘ (a programming language); learn how virtual reality works; and even get help to start your own business. I fancy doing a nanodegree in artificial intelligence in the new year – I’ll keep you posted on that!

Anyway, I digress. My point is that today it’s much easier to personalise your education. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my top 5 online course providers to get you started.

Don’t let the system dictate your education like I almost did!. Take control, tailor your learning and open your mind. Here we go….


Created in 2012 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, edX provides online courses in a wide range of subjects from Architecture to Energy and Earth Sciences. They also do something called ‘edX high school courses‘, which are specially designed to help bridge the gap between what you learn in high school and the knowledge needed to get ahead at university.


Another online provider that hosts a massive amount (over 55,000) of courses is Udemy. From mobile photography to learning Russian to game design, Udemy offers something for everyone. To browse free courses either type ‘free’ in the top search bar or select a category and filter by price ‘free’. What I love about Udemy is that the courses are self-paced and can be started and finished at any time.


Udacity is for you if you’re thinking about a career in web / app development, data science, machine learning etc. In addition to courses such as the ‘self-driving engineer nanodegree‘ (which requires a fee) there are also free courses that have been built by the likes of Google and Facebook. The best way to access these courses is via the ‘course guides‘ section or search for free courses via their ‘catalogue‘.

Google Digital Garage

Now, if you’re thinking that Marketing is more of your thing, then you may want to check out the Google Digital Garage. Here you’ll find free courses on everything you need to know about ‘digital marketing’. And, if you complete all 26 topics successfully you’ll earn a certificate from Google – not a bad thing to add to your CV for free!

Princes Trust

Do you want to start your own business doing something you love? Or do you have an idea that you are itching to test and make a reality? If so (and you’re aged between 18 and 30), then the online Enterprise programme by the Prince’s Trust may be just the ticket for you. The Enterprise programme provides everything from ‘training and mentoring support to funding and resources’. Plus you’ll be connected to a community of likeminded young people and be assigned an e-mentor (I’m one) to help you on your journey. All for free!

Still can’t find what you’re looking for…..?

If you still can’t find what you are looking for via the above providers then you may wish to try Alison or Future Learn – both of which are free (my favourite word in this post).

Once again – good luck and enjoy exploring.