16 inspiring ways to learn for free

If you are going to compete on an open playing field with bigger companies for business, you need to stay on top of your game. But you probably haven’t considered a training budget, have you?

As luck would have it, there’s a heap of free and cost effective ways to get yourself trained up to compete. And then, of course, there’s the incredible rise of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). These are aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access on the web. As well as videos, readings, and problem sets as course material, MOOCs provide interactive user forums around which you’ll find huge communities of people who can help you. Access to free courses has allowed students to obtain a level of education that wouldn’t have been available to many in the past.  In The New York Times article Instruction for Masses Knocked Down Campus Walls, author Tamar Lewin stated, “in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree.”Education-Quotes

Some organisations set out to offer a broad range of training for free, but don’t forget to check out the websites of organisations offering software as a service or other tools that freelancers use. They often run free webinars.  Sign up to Eventbrite in your area and you will get alerts for all sorts of free training that people offer as a way to introduce and try out their services.

Here are some of the resources that we’ve found incredibly useful.

Working with Universities

1. Coursera

Coursera is a social enterprise which partners with 62 top universities across the globe to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. And it appears to be growing every day.  The breadth that they offer is outstanding and since they believe in that free education is a human right for all – it is absolutely free to everyone.

2. FutureLearn (available soon!)

FutureLearn – a new UK based version of Coursera will offer online courses from some of the world’s best universities for free, enabling everyone, everywhere to enjoy learning throughout their lives.

They’ve partnered with the British Library, the British Council, the British Museum, 21 top UK universities, and 2 International Partners, and their first courses will be launched later in 2013. FutureLearn Ltd is a private company owned by the UK’s Open University.

3. OpenCourseWare

The OpenCourseWare Consortium makes university level materials free through the internet. You just search for a specific topic or language that interests you, or the source of the coursework.

There are more than 5,000 classes in English alone, and they cover just about every topic, however niche, that you can think of.

4. MIT Open Courseware

The MIT Open Courseware site posts course materials from a wide variety of classes you can search by MIT department. They list all courses by including details of who taught it and when. The format is as close to the original delivery as you can get, so it can almost feel like you are there at MIT. You can download the course materials and work through the course in your own time too.

5. Academic Earth

Academic Earth was founded in 2008 with the mission of giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education. Backed by an angel investor group, including four Yale professors, Honest Tea founder Barry Nalebuff, and Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Yergin, Academic Earth has been instrumental in the online learning revolution.

It is a free course aggregator which has a collection of courses from around 50 universities across the globe. You can search by source or general subject. It’s not all stuffy either. It has curated, up to the minute playlists which we love on topics such as Living a Good Life, The, The Nature of Evil and the economic crisis. And the Video Electives are full of great stuff too.

Bring learning to life through video

6. iTunes U

You don’t need to have access to a PC or laptop to access a lot of these courses. iTunes U is a free app from the Apple iTunes app store that can be downloaded to your iPad or iPhone.  It says that it includes over 500,000 different courses, with material ranging from elementary school to college-level.

There’s stuff there from a wide variety of respected institutions, but what’s really great about it is that you can add your own notes to the videos, share with others who might want to learn collaboratively with you and store everything in iBooks.  But you do need to be in the Apple bubble. ;-(

7. TED

‘Ideas Worth Spreading’,  TED talks have been a primary source of inspiration for people across the world for many years. A search for just about any subject and you’ll find a video of someone giving a talk on the subject.  It’s not strictly speaking a ‘course’ but as part of your wider education and to help with your research, it’s fabulous.

8. DoLectures

The same applies to the DoLectures, which are a British born version of the Ted Talks. This is how the Founders describe it: ‘The idea is a simple one— that people who Do things can inspire the rest of us to go and Do things, too’. ‘They can be small Do’s or big Do’s or just extraordinary Do’s. But when you listen to their stories, they light a fire in your belly to go and Do your thing, your passion, the thing that sits in the back of your head each day, just waiting, and waiting for you to follow your heart’.

9. Udacity

Udacity was born out of an experiment at Stanford where students in Artificial Intelligence made their coursework open through the web. It’s a little more user friendly than some of the other university courses that are free online.  It’s very good for the more techie types, with plenty of computer science and design courses. .

10. YouTube

Aside from the fact that it isn’t that easy to find specific items on YouTube, just about anything you could ever want to learn is available these days on YouTube. You can browse channels to find general topics that interest you, or search for the specific thing you want to learn and you’ll be on your way in no time.

We tend to use YouTube for cooking tips, but in fact there are hundreds of other much more serious topics that you can learn here, across millions of niche and general subjects.

Hear from the experts.

11. MyCopyblogger

We rave about this resource for anyone who wants to get better at writing, whether for your personal blog, or to make money from content marketing.  They do have a paid content marketing course, called Authority, but there are lots of very useful, free articles, downloads and podcasts in the MyCopyblogger area of the site. Well worth checking out.

12. 99U

This is the ‘think tank’ part of Behance, the well-known online creative portfolio site. The goal of the 99U is to shift the focus from idea generation to idea execution. They do this by bringing together creative visionaries and leading researchers to share pragmatic insights on how ideas are brought to life.

 13. PSFK

If you are into innovation, PSFK is a trends-led innovation company that provides bleeding edge information and content about current trends. They have over 1,000,000 readers from the design, digital, marketing, media and technology industries. They also publish a series of ‘Future of’ reports in partnership with organizations such as United Nations, UNICEF and Microsoft.

They run single topic PSFK SALONS around the world and also host broader discussions at PSFK CONFERENCES in London, New York and San Francisco. We have created special PSFK events for brands.

14. Ignite

We’ve participated in several Ignite talks! This is a powerful way to tell a story in 20 slides in 5 minutes. Quite a way to pack in lots of information is a short time.  Check out the videos on their site for more inspiration on subjects that are trending right now.

Other open education resources.

15. Wikiversity

Those good folk of Wikimedia Foundation have also given us Wikiversity – the mother of all open learning resources, with a collaborative learning community around it. Like the rest of Wiki world it is open source and is great for browsing just about every topic that you can think of. Use this as an extra resource for learning.

16. Project Gutenberg

This fascinating site gives you access more than 42,000 free ebooks. It’s an excellent source for public domain books from throughout history which they have digitized as well as contemporary free ebooks. It’s not just contemporary books you’ll find, but literature, historic documents, nonfiction books on all sorts of subjects and much more, all free and downloadable to your PC or ereader. Project Gutenberg has digitized and diligently proofread them with the help of thousands of volunteers.




Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.


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