Best Free Online Courses: COVID-19 Hands You Lemons? Make Lemonade!



UPDATE 5/9/2020: Free Learn at Home projects with Scholastic: PreK through 9th grade.

UPDATE 5/3/2020: You can get a FREE 5-Year Subscription to 200+ Microsoft Azure Courses:

Pluralsight and Microsoft have partnered to help you become an expert in Azure. With skill assessments and over 200+ courses, 40+ Skill IQs and 8 Role IQs, you can focus your time on understanding your strengths and skill gaps and learn Azure as quickly as possible.

Found here and there is a lively discussion, too.

Are you desperately bored at home? MOOC can help. There are thousands of world-class free online courses COVID-19 can’t take away from you. In fact, some providers even offer additional promotions to help people cope with COVID-19 isolation.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses. And thousands of them are free. Some even allow you to earn and transfer credits to your college or university. Others offer free courses but charge a small fee for the certifications. And if you don’t need credits or a certificate, but have always wanted to learn a new skill or hobby, this is your chance. COVID-19 hands us lemons – let’s make lemonade. What do we have to lose, right?

Of course, not all free online courses I’ve collected are the same quality, but there are lots of fantastic, high-quality courses you can take right now for free from leading colleges and universities. I’m sorry, did I mention “high quality”?

I’ll start with the best, to spare you the need to scroll down if you find what you like right away, although I strongly suggest you do. 🙂

Best: SOPHIA free online courses

Best Free Online Courses: COVID-19 Promo


  • 30 courses in Business, Math, English, Humanities, and more

  • Can start anytime

  • Free access is available until July 31, 2020

  • Tutors are available (yes, for free!)

  • ACE Credit Recommended and DEAC-approved

  • 29 Credit transfer guarantee partners and 300+ schools where the credits are sent (the list)

  • Mostly excellent reviews

I found this deal accidentally on Slickdeals where it hasn’t gained nearly as much recognition as it deserves, so read more about SOPHIA courses there.

EDX free online courses

EDx is a major online educational platform founded jointly by Harvard and MIT. It features 140 schools worldwide, and each of those schools offers free online courses: some – just a few, others – a few dozen.

The programs below offer very few free credit-eligible courses, but if you’re more interested in personal and professional growth than college credits, you’ll find a truly mind-blowing range of free online courses from some of the leading world universities. Certificates are extra, though; expect to pay $25 – $250 or more if you need one.

Tip #1: Not every course in their free courses catalog is free – look for a green or blue stripe under the course name.

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons. 🙂

Because the number of their offerings is so immense, here are a few shortcuts (and here is the full list):

Harvard free online courses

Harvard offers 125+ free online courses from Art to Business to Humanities to Medicine to Computer science and more.

45 Stanford free online courses

170+ MIT free online courses

40+ Berkeley free online courses

9 Princeton free online courses

12 Cornell free online courses

International schools

Australian National University: 7 free online courses

If that’s not enough, there are also 200 free online courses from Microsoft, 23 from IMF, 18 from IBM, 3 from Red Hat, and the list goes on and on. And on again. 🙂

Coursera free online coursesBest Free Online Courses: COVID-19 Promo

Navigating Coursera can get a little confusing. The thing is, Coursera has 3 types of “free.” Free to audit, free with graded assignments, and the “free” that includes both graded assignments and the certificate.

Coursera is a leading MOOC platform with 4,200+ courses taught by the top professors of world-class schools around the world. Most Coursera courses are free to “audit,” a term I find kind of funny, but it is what it is. It normally means that you can access and take the course for free except for graded assignments and certificates. However, there are supposedly over a thousand free courses that include graded assignments (but not a certificate).

The problem is, though, finding free courses is not as straightforward as it is with EDX. It takes an effort (although, in all fairness, EDX doesn’t even offer any free online courses as COVID-19 promotions, from what I can tell).

Coursera, on the other hand, made dozens of its courses completely free due to COVID-19, and that does include the graded assignments and certificates. Initially the promotion was supposed to last until the end of May, but now it appears they have extended it until July 31, 2020.

To enroll in completely free online courses (COVID-19 promo) that do include the certificate, go to the Coursera blog, pick the course you’re interested in, and follow the instructions.

  1. First, click the link to visit a promotion page.

  2. From the promotion page, click to visit a specific course and wait for the page to fully load [emphasis mine]. Once loaded, you will see a promotion banner at the top of the page. If you don’t see the banner, please refresh the page.

  3. Next, click the “Enroll for free” button.

  4. Select “Purchase Course.” Note that with the promotion applied, there will be a message in parentheses that says “Your promotion will automatically be applied at checkout.”

  5. At checkout, your purchase total will read “$0.”

  6. Complete checkout and start learning!

What I like about Coursera is that there are reviews. And since the platform is very popular, there are often hundreds and even thousands of them. What I don’t like about Coursera is that finding free courses beyond the ones advertised is a drag. A lot of courses show as free when you click on them, but, again, you have to click first.

There is help available, however. If you’re interested in Coursera courses, use Class Central, a site dedicated to all things MOOC.

Here you’ll find all 85 online courses free due to COVID-19 (including the certificates). And this page features a massive list of many more online courses that you can have almost completely for free (meaning graded assignments, but not the certificate).

That’s a mind-blowing opportunity, IMHO.

Short free online courses from Coursera

If a prospect of starting a 4-, 8-, or 11-week-long program doesn’t appeal to you, there are courses that you can finish faster.

Top free beginner courses under 15 hours

Top free courses under 8 hours

FutureLearn free online courses

Best Free Online Courses: COVID-19 Promo

UK-based FutureLearn offers courses from 80+ schools around the world, mostly from Europe, Asia, and Australia. Short courses (2 to 5 weeks) are free (minus the certificate and access to tests). However, FutureLearn currently has a catalog of 51 courses that include a “free upgrade,” meaning you will get access to the tests and the certificate.

Udacity free online courses

Best Free Online Courses: COVID-19 Promo

Udacity offers one free month on any of its 40 Nanodegree programs: Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Cloud Computing, Programming and Developing, Autonomous Systems, and Business. You’re limited to one course only, and they claim it’s possible to finish it in a month if you can dedicate more time to your study. Read more about Udacity Nanodegree programs here.

Other free educational opportunities

If you still feel that something’s missing, that’s because it is. 🙂 While EDX and Coursera are the biggest MOOC providers in the world, there are others I have to mention – just to be thorough.

Academic Earth is an astonishing aggregating educational site featuring hundreds of free video courses from 2 dozen top universities. I didn’t have a chance to play much with it because, well, this post is already getting kind of long. Totally worth a visit from what I can see, though.

You can access hundreds of free online courses on Udemy.

Skillshare is offering a 2-month access period to its premium membership (tens of thousands of courses). Keep in mind that the quality of those courses (both Udemy and Skillshare) varies widely. Some are great, others – quite mediocre. Comes from my personal experience.

ItunesU is a free app that gets you access to tens of thousands of free online courses. Unfortunately, I can’t check it out; I’m an Android guy.

Ted Talks are informative, thought-provoking, and usually entertaining. And free!

I never heard of 99U talks before, but I’ve listened to a couple and loved them! And there are other talks too. Wow!

Rosetta Stone offers 3 free months of language learning to all K-12 students in your life. 20 languages are available.

Khan Academy offers thousands of classes free, including videos and the ability to comment or ask questions.

OK, I think that’s enough already. But wait! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve earned yourself a bonus.

ReadItFor.Me — an amazing fast-reading tool for FREE!

It distills a business book into a 12-minute combination of video, audio, and text. Or just audio if you prefer. The problem is the membership costs $99 a year.

If you’ve ever read a business or self-improvement book (hey, no judgment here) and wished it’d been 99% shorter, then you’ll agree this is a godsend. So much so, that it might well be worth the $99 price tag, but who cares, because the ReadItFor.Me 1-year membership is now free via the App Sumo. Yes!

Featured image by Jamierodriguez37

Well, that’s about it. What do you think? Are you currently using any free online courses or planning to? Have some to recommend (or recommend to avoid)? A penny for your thoughts.


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