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10 institutions and tools for valuable free tuition and free courses

by Zima Meli

The educational landscape is constantly evolving as institutions find innovative new ways to deliver relevant educational content. “Nanodegrees” are the latest entrant on the scene, and refer to 6 – 12 month long online courses aimed at employees wishing to improve their skills in preparation for the next step on the career ladder. At about 34,000 per month, these degrees pack the potential to disrupt traditional University education as we know it. They are most welcome in societies where straightforward university education is an unheard of thing, and where the default university selection process via the JAMB/WAEC/NECO route only offers candidates a 30% chance of gaining admission into a tertiary institution.  Nanodegrees offered in partnership with selected American Universities have low entry requirements (a minimum of secondary school mathematics), offer skills in areas such as software development and data analytics, offer certificates, and also come complete with a hungry, undersaturated job market.

Other types of online courses include MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and short distance courses from reputable Universities such as Cambridge, Oxford University and Harvard University. With the latter however, the decision to enrol needs to be taken fairly quickly as the chances of these selling out are directly proportional to their earning potential.

Where do I start?

Free Online Courses
1. Coursera. The beauty of Coursera is that all the courses offered are free, and from accredited educational institutions. Whether you’re studying to to improve your career prospects, or studying to gain knowledge for knowledge sake, you can rest in the knowledge that the content you’re investing your time in is backed by academic professionals from an accredited educational institution. You also have access to discussion forums to discuss with your lecturer, and fellow course mates – as close to a real-life classroom as you can get!
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2. edX. Edx is quite similar to Cousera, but differs in their choice of Universities, offering courses from institutions like MIT and Harvard.

3. Khan Academy doesn’t just cater for graduates – this websites caters for children/teens of school age, offering courses for children in Maths, Science, Economics, Humanities and Computing. KA’s informative videos come with interactive question and answer forums, where the author takes the time to answer participants questions. This probably takes the place of any foreign lesson teacher that could be hired for your kids.

4. Udemy. One of the newer entrants on the scene, Udemy operates an open-source teaching system. This means that anyone can teach their skills on the platform, using a series of videos and PDF. This also means that career-minded students can learn specific skills needed for employment in specific areas. Udemy is much preferred because it offers the opportunity to learn from people with boots on the ground experience, rather than just people armed with teaching experience.

5. Openculture. This site is likely to be more appreciated by the artistically minded, though it offers a range of courses in other areas. It excels in offering free cultural movies, free language lessons, audio books, art images and more and is more suited to those who truly enjoy learning about art and media. You can take these courses on your mobile, and you start when you want to.

6. FutureLearn. Offers web taster versions of one of the UK’s main exports to the world – education. Futurelearn describes itself as “a private company wholly owned by The Open University, with the benefit of over 40 years of their experience in distance learning and online education”. It is an easily navigable site running a series of courses from UK Universities, for which you can purchase certificates upon completion. You can access the courses on your mobile devices as well, with learning programs requiring as little as an hour a week.

7. Alison. Another free course provider offering printable certificates, Alison sounds truly too good to be true – but it is true. They offer diplomas in a variety of employable areas such as accounting, photography, graphic design, languages, C programming, Carpentry, Customer Service, Electrical studies and much more. Applications to life are endless.

8. ESOL. Esol offers free English reading and writing courses for those who are seeking to polish their grammar skills within specified time frames. The courses are interactive and offer computer generated tests, so students keep assessing themselves

9. University of the People. Last but not least, this tuition-free, fully-online University offers full Bachelors degree programs – yes, bachelors programs for free. Well, or as close to free as possible. According to the site, the only charges involved are an application fee of $10 – $50, and an exam free of $100. In the grand scheme of things, these costs are nothing compared to the value they deliver. On the downside, just 3 degree programmes are available at the moment – BSc Business Administration, BSc Computer Science and BSc Arts & Sciences. Not a bad selection also,  if you ask me.

About Zima Meli

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