6 places to take free and affordable classes online, on everything from programming to photography

  • Learning new skills online is often far more convenient and inexpensive than in-person enrollment.
  • Online learners tend to appreciate controlling the pace, paying a lower fee, and in some cases, having access to the course materials for life.
  • Below are six of the best and most popular options for online learning, including Udemy, Coursera, and MasterClass.
There's a reason people are turning to online learning en masse. Students can learn on their own schedule, save money on commuting, boarding, and a host of other expenses, and can often download course lectures for convenient offline reading. Plus, some options let you have access to classes forever once you've paid for them. Some are free, and some sites let you take as many courses as you want for a small payment. You can pick up professional certifications online, skills that help you get hired in a quickly changing market, and even masters degrees.Advertisement

Whether to advance your career or to pick up new hobbies that help you enjoy everyday life, online courses are one of the best perks of the 21st century, and one way the internet is democratizing information - even in the form of free Ivy League courses. All you need is internet access.

Below, find six of the most popular online learning communities:

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Udemy

Udemy
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Udemy has probably the largest selection of online courses, with over 100,000 video courses and new additions published every month. With sale prices as low as $10.99 per course, it's often one of the most affordable options as well. Currently, there are over 30 million students using the service, and courses available in over 50 languages.

Topics range from business to IT & software to music and more.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address to browse courses.

Popular classes to consider:

Coursera

Coursera
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Coursera has thousands of classes taught by top instructors from some of the world's best universities and educational institutions, including Stanford, Penn, Johns Hopkins, Duke, Columbia, and Yale. You can even earn degrees and certifications through the site.

Topics range from data science to personal development to linguistics to social sciences and more.

Each course is like an interactive textbook with pre-recorded videos, quizzes, and projects. You can connect with thousands of other students to debate ideas, discuss course material, or get help in mastering the concepts. You can earn certificates for your work, and share your achievements with friends, colleagues, and employers.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address. On average, individual courses range from $29-$99 each though there are free courses you can audit.

Popular classes to consider:

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Skillshare

Skillshare
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Skillshare has over 25,000 classes taught by creators, entrepreneurs, and professionals from around the world. For instance, I enrolled in a class run by one of my favorite authors.

Course topics span categories: design, illustration, business, technology, photo and film, entrepreneurship, and writing.

Each class has short lessons and a hands-on project for you to work on, which can be shared in class for feedback and collaboration from the community. Skillshare will also recommend classes and "lists" — essentially a curated curriculum for a topic like graphic design or branding — based on your interests.

How to get started: Get a free account with just an email address. You'll have access to free classes on web and mobile. For full access to all classes and offline viewing, you'll need a premium membership. A premium Skillshare membership is $15 billed monthly, or $99 up front for the year ($8.25 per month). Enroll in one or multiple classes with no extra charge.

Popular classes to consider:

CreativeLive

CreativeLive
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What CreativeLive is: CreativeLive is a learning platform designed specifically for creators, with more than 1,500 classes taught by more than 650 industry-leading experts. Each class falls under one of five categories: photo and video, art and design, music and audio, craft and maker, or money and life. Ultimately, the classes are centered around making creativity a habit, be it for personal or professional use.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address. Classes are as low as $20, and you can buy and own them forever — just in case you one day need a refresher.

Popular classes to consider:

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EdX

EdX
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EdX is similar to Coursera in that it hosts classes from some of the world's leading universities, nonprofits, and institutions. EdX was founded by Harvard University and MIT, and it's currently the only leading MOOC provider that is both non-profit and open source.

EdX has over 100 institutional partners, including Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard, and offers courses in everything from the arts to architecture, economics, law, and more. You can also enroll in MicroMasters, Masters programs, and get professional certificates.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address. Except for professional education courses, edX is free to enroll and audit. If you want a verified certificate, there is a fee ($50 - $300 typically).

Popular classes to consider:

MasterClass

MasterClass
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What MasterClass is: MasterClass offers online classes created for students of any skill level, taught by world-renowned instructors in each field, like Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, and Serena Williams, among others.

Masterclass has over 75 classes with 20 10-minute lessons per class on average. Each class was created by the instructor and typically includes pre-recorded video content, a PDF of a class workbook, interactive assignments, and community activities. Periodically, MasterClass may have opportunities for students to submit work to instructors for feedback.

How to get started: Find a class or classes you'd like to take. Students who purchase classes individually ($90 each) will have unlimited access to every lesson in their chosen course. Students with an All-Access Pass ($180 per year or $15 per month) can enroll in any MasterClass. They can access course lessons for as long as their subscription is active.

Popular classes to consider:

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