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May 29, 2020 4 min read

What is Online Education? 

Computer-based training, Web-based training, Internet-based training, online training, e-learning (electronic learning), m-learning (mobile learning), computer-aided distance education - online education goes by many names and comes in a variety of styles, but at its core:

“Online education is an electronically supported learning that relies on the Internet for teacher/student interaction and the distribution of class materials.”

From this simple definition comes an almost infinite number of ways to teach and learn outside of traditional classrooms and away from college campuses. With online education, students can turn anywhere with Internet access and electricity into a classroom. It can include audio, video, text, animations, virtual training environments, and live chats with professors. It’s a rich learning environment with much more flexibility than a traditional classroom.

When used to its full potential, online education is more effective than pure face-to-face instruction. It can be engaging, fun, and tailored to fit almost anyone’s schedule.

Online Education Programs

  • 100% Online Education - fully-online degrees are earned from the comfort of your own home with no required visits to your college or university campus.
  • Hybrid Education - Hybrid education allows students to pursue a combination of online and on-campus courses.
  • Online Courses - While online courses may be part of a degree program, they can also be taken on their own to master a certain subject or learn a specific skill.
  • MOOCs - MOOCs, or massive open online courses, are usually delivered in lecture form to online "classrooms" with as many as 10,000 people.

It's not easier to study online! Online institutions must meet with the same quality requirements as brick-and-mortar institutions. With the advancement of online learning technologies, virtual institutions have enhanced automated processes to deter fraud and/or plagiarism.

Many online institutions will partner with universities on campus to develop and deliver online programs. This enables an online service while providing validated course studies through the brick-and-mortar institution, to benefit from the advanced expertise and technology that an online provider provides.

Here Are The Top 7 Websites For Free Online Education

The following online education websites offer thousands of online courses for students and life-long learners alike. While many are fee-based courses, you can also find many free courses as well.

 

1. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a non-profit whose mission is "to provide free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere." Khan Academy is free for both learners and teachers, and offers lessons for students from kindergarten through early college, with topics including math, grammar, science, history, AP® exams, SAT®, and more. Khan Academy's founding partners include, among others, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, Ann & Jon Doerr, and Reed Hastings.

Sample Free Courses: Algebra, Geometry, Statistics & Probability

2. edX

Founded by Harvard and MIT, edXis a global non-profit that seeks to remove three barriers of traditional education: cost, location, and access. edX has more than 20 million learners and 2,400 courses from a majority of the top-ranked universities in the world. Open edX is the open-source platform behind edX, and it's open to educators and technologists who want to develop new educational tools. In addition to free courses, edX also offers courses for a fee.

Sample Free Courses: The Architectural Imagination (Harvard), Financial Analysis for Decision Making (Babson), Omnichannel Strategy & Management (Dartmouth)

3. Coursera

Coursera has more than 35 million learners, 150 university partners, 2,700 courses, 250 specializations, and four degrees. In addition to free courses, Coursera offers courses generally ranging from $29 - $99. Specializations and degrees are priced higher. Course instructors include experts from the world's top colleges and universities, and courses include recorded video lectures, community discussion forums, and both graded and peer-reviewed coursework. You can also receive a course certificate for each course you complete.

Sample Free Courses: Machine Learning (Stanford), The Science of Well-Being (Yale), Successful Negotiation (University of Michigan)

4. Udemy

Udemy, a global education marketplace, has 30 million students, 100,000 courses in 50 languages, 42,000 instructors, and 22 million minutes of video instruction. Unlike other online education platforms driven by content from colleges and universities, Udemy allows content creators to curate their courses and teach them online.

Sample Free Courses: Introduction to Python Programming

5. TED-Ed

TED-Ed is TED's award-winning youth and education arm whose mission is to share and spread ideas from teachers and students. TED-Ed has a global network of more than 250,000 teachers that serves millions of teachers and students around the world every week. TED-Ed includes innovative content such as original animated videos and a platform for teachers to create interactive lessons.

Sample Free Courses: The Mysterious Science of Pain, How Do Self-Driving Cars See, What Causes Turbulence

6. Codeacademy

Codeacademy is an interactive platform that teaches you how to code in multiple different programming languages. Most free courses can be completed in less than 11 hours. Codeacademy has helped train more than 45 million learners in topics such as web development, programming, computer science, and data science. Codeacademy alums work at Google, Facebook, IBM, and Bloomberg, among other top companies. Codeacademy also offers a premium plan for a monthly fee.

Sample Free Courses: multiple programming languages

7. Stanford Online

Stanford Online, an education initiative at Stanford University, offers free online courses as well as professional certificates, advanced degrees and executive education. Stanford Online offers courses from Stanford's undergraduate and graduate schools, including Stanford Law School, Stanford Business School and Stanford Medical School, among others.

Sample Free Courses: Introduction to Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship Through The Lens of Venture Capital, How To Learn Math

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose to supplement your existing education or learn a new skill, it's never too late to become a life-long learner. These online education courses can help you gain valuable knowledge, earn a certificate, complete a degree or simply expand your horizon.


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