Want to Learn New Skills? Try These 8 Online Education Tools

Mar 28, 2014 - Joe Matar

Feeling lackluster about your skill set lately? How would you like to pick up some knowledge without all of the hardship of student loans, applications to postgraduate education programs and mind-numbing studying for the GRE?

We’ve compiled a list of eight free educational tools that cover many topics, including programming, entrepreneurship, entertainment and the sciences. (Click here to tweet this list.)

1. TED Talks

You may be familiar with TED Talks and their knowledge-friendly, inspiration-charming slogan, “Ideas worth spreading.” The conference, held every year in various parts of the world, gathers great minds of science, philosophy, journalism and creative professions to educate you on technology, entertainment and design.

At least, that was the original idea when the nonprofit was founded in 1984. Now all of the talks are available online. It’s one of the best places to learn about the hottest new ideas and world truths, which is why it’s at the top of our list as one of the most valuable tools to begin learning new skills.

TED inspires and shares knowledge you can’t find anywhere else, and it’s generally one big, grand lesson in less than half an hour.

2. Khan Academy

Bill Gates had a vision of educational bliss when he was introduced to Salman Khan’s project in 2006. The Khan Academy began when the MIT and Harvard Business school graduate was tutoring his grade school cousin, Nadia, in basic mathematics. Khan couldn’t always teach her in person, so he began filming YouTube videos.

The format was a simple lecture on an electronic blackboard paired with friendly and straightforward instructions and easy-to-understand drawings.

These lectures went viral, and Khan Academy was started using real-world anecdotes to teach many of the requisite K-12 courses in science and mathematics -- even postgraduate-level skills. It’s the second hottest online educational tool on the Internet because it’s perfectly free for viewing. All content is delivered on YouTube without user registration.

With thousands of lectures to choose from, anyone can pick up skills such as high mathematics, finance, accounting and computer programming. Khan Academy has also partnered with other renowned universities and museums to teach even more higher education topics. Exercise your cerebellum for yourself here: KhanAcademy

3. Coursera

Coursera is another educational effort to offer free education online to the world. It features some of the most prestigious universities and brilliant minds on the planet. Coursera is most notable for its courses on computer programming skills and having featured lessons with Google executives.

Coursera is taught by professors from world-renowned universities sch as Princeton, Stanford and Columbia. Who knew Ivy League education could be a Wi-Fi connection away?

Unbelievable? Check out their list of partners yourself. Courses last six to eight weeks and many include actual certificates of completion from the universities involved. They’re taught in dozens of languages by schools from around the world.

4. SkillShare

SkillShare is another hip way to learn skills online, especially with topics like DIY Audio Mixing from an actual DJ master, Young Guru, who has worked with much of the top talent in the music industry including Beyonce and Jay-Z.

SkillShare is unique in that the videos are mainly focused on modern and practical skills, such as entrepreneurship courses like Launch Your Startup Idea for Less than 1K. This course helps students define a minimum viable product to start their own company affordably.

Membership with SkillShare is only $9.95 per month for unlimited access to the video lessons. With a free membership, courses are on a per-class cost basis.

5. SkilledUp

With SkilledUp, 103,000 courses are available at your fingertips. SkilledUp is another resource to find and learn new disciplines online. Sixty-seven thousand of them are even free, including topics on Google software tutorials and lessons on Javascript.

The unique search engine format leads users all over the Web to a vast network of online course registries. If you have the appetite, SkilledUp has a list of resources to keep your brain occupied for hours learning about topics you didn’t even know existed. You might want to check out the Golden Rules of Entrepreneurship.

6. Lynda.com

Online video tutorials don't stop there. Lynda is another place to learn new skills on your own time. With 2,372 courses online, you can pause and continue based on your own schedule to learn photography, computer programming and software like Final Cut Pro using Lynda.com’s memberships.

It’s not free, unfortunately. Unlimited access to these videos start at $25 per month. Higher memberships come with downloadable course materials and the ability to watch offline via your iPhone and iPad. Keep it mobile with Lynda.

7. Open Culture

Open Culture is the most barebones way to find free education from the top schools of the world online. Have an interest in art, programming or physics? You can find about any course you’re seeking on Open Culture under a plain text heading with a direct link.

That’s all it is: a simplistic, practical catalog of online education for no cost. Consider it the Craigslist of online education. Open Culture is one of the most basic and useful places to find lessons on practical skills.

8. MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts has a catalog of courses for free online. The most prestigious technical college in the world is actually offering courses to laymen for no cost on relevant topics.

Sustainable energy, medicine and engineering are all examples of classes you can take online from MIT. The most impressive aspect of OpenCourseWave is that it includes virtually all of MIT’s in-person courses and is available to the entire world. Check it out for yourself: MIT OCW. Erik Hyrkas is the Editor and Founder of TechVoid.com. He’s part-time freelancer and full-time gadget freak based in Washington, D.C. He spends his free time using social media to annoy his friends and keep himself updated on the latest technology news and trends.