8 Educational Websites Offering Free & Low-Cost Online Courses

Never Stop Learning With
Online Education & Certifications

Many of us follow a pretty typical education trajectory: from elementary and middle school, to high school, maybe college or university, and sometimes beyond. But learning doesn’t have to stop once our formal education wraps up. At some point or another we all have to learn new skills, whether it’s to grow a skillset for work, to support a career change, or maybe it’s just for fun.

We’ve found eight learning platforms that are leading the way in online education. These websites are oftentimes free or low-cost, and offer a number of courses—from knife and cooking basics to graphic design, all the way through cloud and mobile development. From the tech lover to the curious cook, there’s something for everyone, no matter where you are in the world or what level you’re at. Let’s re-invest in our education, professional or personal development, and our overall growth.

1. Coursera

Course Topics | Business, Science, Programming, Social Sciences, Languages, Arts & Humanities
Pricing | A la carte ($29+/course), degrees available ($20,000+)
Certifications Available | Project Management, Entrepreneurship, IT
Our Pick | Python For Everybody

Started in 2012 by two Stanford professors, Coursera believes that everyone should be able to learn anywhere, anytime, from the world’s top education providers. In the last seven years, they’ve reached over 35 million learners and partnered with more than 150 universities to bring all kinds of content to users. Whether you’re looking for a general course, a specific specialization or a university-recognized degree, Coursera will be your one-stop shop. Courses range from $29 to $99, specializations in topics like data science or econometrics go up to $39-99/month, and degrees run up to $25,000 that can be taught over 1 to 3 years.

Review | “A brilliant tool for lifelong learners. The best part about Coursera is the diverse range of subjects and topics available for us to learn and grow. It offers someone like me who has a passions for lifelong learning, an opportunity to keep learning within the confines and comforts of my house. I can get access to some of the best faculties in the world and institutions in the world without moving an inch.” - Nelson T.

2. Udemy

Course Topics | Development, Business, Health & Fitness, Photography, IT + Software, Marketing, Language, Music, Lifestyle
Pricing | A la carte ($10–$200+)
Certifications Available | Certificate of completion only
Our Pick | Ultimate Photoshop Training: From Beginner to Pro

Udemy was founded by Eren Bali, Oktay Caglar, and Gagan Biyani with the goal to make quality education more accessible—and they’ve made some serious progress. To date, they’ve reached 24 million students around the world with courses on how to play piano to Instagram marketing to aromatherapy. Starting at just $10.99, you can access more than 80,000 online courses that work with your pace and your lifestyle—plus, it’s yours forever. There’s a reason why businesses like PayPal, Adidas, and Pinterest utilize Udemy for their teams. Available in many languages and accessible around the world, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking up Udemy’s trial offer—and get to learning.

Review | “I like the fact that the videos are self-paced. You can utilize the training for any duration of time. Also, you can read the reviews of others prior to choosing a course. Once you purchase a course, it is yours forever and you can always refer back to it. Many courses with a lot of material can be purchased for less than $20. I would equate this to an App store for training courses. Courses are submitted and Udemy provides a large and competitive market which brings down the price and improves the quality.” - Tom K.

3. edX

Course Topics | Computer Science, Languages, Engineering, Psychology, Writing, Biology, Marketing
Pricing | Free–$30,000 (online Master’s Degrees)
Certifications Available | MicroMasters Programs, Online Master’s Degrees, Professional Certificates
Our Pick | Corporate Finance, Columbia University

What happens when two of the most prestigious higher education institutions come together for open learning? edX. Harvard and MIT collaborated to create the only open MOOC (massive online open courses) provider and nonprofit around. Today, they work with more than 130+ partners, many of whom are globally recognized like Georgetown University, Brown University, and Dartmouth, to name a few. And their online learning options run the gamut: you can choose one course all the way up to online Master’s Degrees, with a range of professional certificates and “micro” Master’s programs.

Review | “I love the self-paced modules on edX, in a range of different subjects. Professional development opportunities can be somewhat limited in Higher Education, but edX is a terrific way to explore different areas at no extra cost to the department. I've been able to continue my Spanish on my own time, learn additional skills through International Business courses, and even explore personal interests related to Human Rights - and I can do it on my lunch break! None of this would be possible without edX!” - Ilse D.

4. Skillshare

Course Topics | Creative, Business, Technology, Lifestyle
Pricing | Free, subscription ($8.25/mo annually or $15/mo)
Certifications Available | None
Our Pick | Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design

Skillshare offers more than 20,000 classes to anyone, anywhere, based on design, business, tech, and more. And they pride themselves on being more than just access to education: they consider themselves an online learning community of more than seven million strong, where you can learn skills, network, and discover new opportunities, all in one place. There are classes available for free like Going Freelance or Intro to SEO, or for $99 ($8.25/mo), you can unlock all 30,000 courses at the premium level. Those funds enable them to pay teachers, and you’ll have access to classes without ads and for offline viewing. Not sure if you can afford them? They offer plenty of scholarships (and free or low-cost trials), too, so there is something for everyone.

Review | “I love Skillshare for its variety of classes. You can learn anything from knitting, to cooking, writing, logo design, analytics, photography, and so on. The platform has thousands of classes on any topic you can think of. The classes are taught by business owners, freelancers, and people loving what they teach about which is a nice change when you compare it to classes at your school where some teachers seem like they don't really care about the topic they teach.” - Michaela B.

5. Alison

Course Topics | Technology, Science, Humanities, Business, Marketing, Lifestyle
Pricing | Free, paid certifications/diplomas available
Certifications Available | Subject areas include math, health, marketing, business, and more
Our Pick | Introduction to Spanish

No matter what your interest is, Alison likely has a course for you, including ones that offer certifications and diploma courses. Completely free to use, payment only comes in with certified/diploma courses; otherwise, you can learn to your heart’s extent on topics like project management, web design, or amateur French or German. Not sure where to start? Check out their Career Guide that gives you a number of career paths and associated classes you can participate in—from architecture to manufacturing to human services, you can find knowledgable instructors, high-quality content, and any area of interest you can imagine.

Review | “I think Alison courses are very standard online educative and informative programmes, and that is why they are gaining [popularity] around the world. I took some of their courses myself and as a teacher, I find them very rich in content and delivery as well. I will recommend them to anybody that is interested to broaden their knowledge in any area of their interest.” - Uzadinma O.

6. Udacity

Course Topics | Development, AI & VR, Data Analysis, Marketing, Robotics
Pricing | Free–$599+ (Nanodegrees)
Certifications Available | Industry-valued Nanodegrees
Our Pick | Intro to Programming

Students first—that’s the policy of Udacity, an online learning platform started by two Stanford instructors who knew that offering up quality education would revolutionize the future of learning. What started with “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” soon became hundreds of classes that focus on in-demand skills like virtual reality, full stack development, or even self-driving cars. Ideal if you’re looking for a job in the world of tech or programming, Udacity’s classes are free and paid if you want to pursue a “nanodegree” which takes you down a specific career path. Whether you have experience or none at all, these nanodegrees walk you through the basics, get hands on, and upon graduation, leave you with options for you to take on your newly developed skills.

Review | “The best thing about Udacity is that its training programs are developed by the industry experts from Google, Facebook, etc. Also their training program contains a lot of assignments which are reviewed by a real person. This helps the student to learn effectively and retain it for long time.” - Arif K.

7. General Assembly

Course Topics | Development, Marketing, Design, Science
Pricing | $750 (five weeks, online)–$15,000 (full-time immersive)
Certifications Available | Letters of Completion only
Our Pick | Digital Marketing

Ready to invest in yourself or your team when it comes to technology? General Assembly (GA) is the way to go, with their programs that offer full- and part-time options for students. The biggest names in the industry, including Salesforce, Ernst & Young, and PayPal use General Assembly to teach employees about everything from coding to HTML/CSS to iOS and Android development to build skillsets that will be used for decades to come. What’s most impressive about General Assembly is that their instructors come from the likes of Google, Facebook, and other leading employers who hire the best and brightest talent. (And they offer in-person classes out of major cities as well so you can learn IRL.) While the prices are slightly higher than most, GA offers installment plans, low-cost loans, and even scholarships that subsidize the cost, so you can stop worrying about tuition, and focus more on the learning experience.

Review | “I honestly did learn a lot at GA, and I felt like without it, I would not have made as much progress as quickly as on my own. My instructors were great, and everything went relatively smoothly.” - James

8. Pluralsight

Course Topics | Technology (Cloud, Mobile, Security, Data)
Pricing | Subscription service ($35/mo–$449/annually)
Certifications Available | Development, IT Ops, Security
Our Pick | Digital Forensics

If you know your future is in technology, look no further than Pluralsight. Their courses are focused on specific tech skill sets like C#, IT Networking, and Cyber Security and Malware Analysis, all of which are updated regularly and added to often. Plus, they want to meet you where you are: a novice? No problem. Got some experience? Dive a little deeper. Opt for their monthly or annual plan, and you’ll have access to the entire library, so you can research and study whatever you’re in the mood for. Once you start a course, you can check your Skill or Role IQ, too, so you’ll always have a baseline of where you are in your learning and growth. Not ready to bite the bullet just yet? They offer a free 10-day trial!

Review | “One of the best ways to quickly get up to speed with the latest development related technologies. [What I like best is] how knowledgeable the presenters are. They give you insight into specific technologies that are cutting edge and show you best practices so you can immediately be productive. Many times I have went from zero knowledge on a specific subject or technology to feeling very confident with that same technology just by going through a single course.” - Mike D.