If you can go to college, do it, unless you have a vocational skill or interest, of course. For adults who are hoping to make their resumes more competitive, going back to college proves both optimal and challenging. While there are grants and loans available, not everyone has access to them, and furthermore, taking out a loan to complete a college degree is risky in a volatile economy. Open courses, free online classes, and non-credited free colleges offer a low-risk opportunity to show your current or future employers that you’ve got an educational edge.
Develop your Free Degree Plan
Before you start taking free online courses, figure out what you want to do. If you are employed, use your current experience as a starting point. If you’re working as a cashier, you might consider moving up into retail management. If you work for a nonprofit agency, perhaps you want to go into social services or nonprofit management. Once you figure out what course you want to take, ask your employer or potential employers what types of educational background they look for in potential employees. If you have some work experience and you obtain a self-education, you will find that employers are beginning to take notice of people like you.
Compare your educational needs to degree programs offered by the local colleges for your intended program of study. By aligning the feedback you’ve received from potential employers to the degree programs offered by traditional colleges, you know which types of courses to find online.
Find Free Online Courses That Offer Validation
Many colleges are working on open course classes offered through websites such as Coursera.org. Coursera.org offers several categories of free classes through a variety of traditional colleges and universities. The structure of the classes is different than online classes offered through traditional colleges in that much of the coursework is peer-reviewed and the teacher to student interaction is incredibly minimal. Students who complete all of the coursework to a satisfactory degree receive certificates of completion, but they may pay additional fees to obtain college credit for some of the classes.
Looking at local university or college degree program guides, find the free courses that compare to the course requirements of your intended plan of study.
Free Educational Options
The University of the People is a free online university that has recently been awarded accreditation by the Distance Education and Training Council. The university is not regionally accredited yet, so transferring training to regionally accredited colleges and universities may not yet be possible; however, some employers regard the education from the University of the People to be just as honorable as from a regionally accredited educational institution. While the tuition for the University of the People is free, it does require an application fee and exam fees for the completion of the courses; however, the overall cost of receiving a four year degree could cost less than one semester at a state college or university.
Coursera.org partners with high ranking colleges and universities to provide free classes to people world-wide. The classes are completely online and asynchronous (meaning you don’t have to meet at any particularly scheduled time to complete coursework). Coursera.org offers courses in over 25 different educational categories. Students can take free courses in math, science, social sciences, humanities and arts to complete the general requirements of an educational program of study, but Coursera.org also offers specialized classes in subjects such as computer programming and teacher development.
EdX.com is a nonprofit initiative to offer interactive online courses from prestigious educational institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Berkeley University of California.
Academicearth.org offers free open courses and videos on a wide variety of subjects. Not only does Academicearth.org offer free course materials from a variety of universities and colleges, it also provides free test preparation material for tests such as the ACT, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and the SAT.
The MIT Open Courseware website at ocw.mit.edu has laid the foundation for many of the free open course projects available on the Internet. While MIT Open Courseware provides materials, videos and lectures for free, it is not as structured as courses provided through initiatives such as Coursera.org and EdX.com.
Free-ed.net has been offering free courses for many years, and the design of the website in 2014 may hint at the time-frame in which free-ed.net got its start; however, the course material on the website is surprisingly comprehensive and useful for anyone hoping to enhance her educational goals. Free-ed.net offers self-paced course material in general education, vocational specialties, test preparation, and life-long learning.