Learning a new skill can be an expensive undertaking, especially if you are seeking employment or the company you work for is not footing the bill.
But there are a plethora of free online courses that you can subscribe to offered by reputable organisations that you can tackle at your own pace.
Traditionally, lessons have been conducted in lecture halls on a face-to-face basis – but the introduction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and technology at your fingertips, it is more likely to be done through apps like Skype.
Course structures have changed to keep learners engaged. Here Anant Agarwal, president of edX, creates a tablet-based lecture as learners preferred handwritten videos to typeset PowerPoint slides
Fees for the certificates vary, but a quick search online by This is Money found some asking for as little as £37.
Some do offer the certificate as part of the course, but others don’t, a point worth considering if your employer needs evidence of your new skill.
If you’re willing to part with more money there are some courses that will cost you couple of hundred quid upon sign up.
For example edX, created from a joint venture between Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, offers two types of programmes for learners to take for career advancement, including MicroMasters and Professional certificate programs.
A spokesperson for edX says: ‘The average cost of a Micromasters program is $1,000 (£761.51), and the average professional certificate program costs $300 (£229).
‘At edX, we offer our learners the choice between an audit (free) and verified (paid) track.’
For those that have completed a professional certificate, edX has found that 93 per cent reported positive career outcomes which included an increase in salary, promotion or giving the learner the ability to change careers.
When it came to the Micromasters edX said 91 per cent of learners had reported positive outcomes for their careers, including raises and promotions.
Similarly, Coursera says in its learner outcomes survey in the Harvard Business Reivew published in 2015 that 84 per cent of career-focused learners who completed courses reported career benefits.
Coursera adds that other personal benefits were also noted with 72 per cent of learners completing the course reporting confidence gains.
Nearly 50 per cent reported benefits from connecting with peers from around the world.
It said: ‘The verified track includes feature-based value adds of graded assessments and unlimited access to the course, as well as certificate of completion upon successfully passing the course. ‘
The spokesperson explained that fees are charged for some courses in order to be able to offer free versions to those who want them.
‘We charge a fee for the verified track, which allows us to work with our partners to fund the running of the course, grade learners’ work at the highest level.
‘However, we recognize that not every learners’ goal is to earn a certificate, which is part of the reason why we have a robust audit (free) experience.’
The free experience also supports our mission of providing affordable access to high-quality content for all learners.
A downside to signing up to MOOCs is that the completion rates for these types of courses are pretty low.
Industry commentators put these rates at around eight per cent and put it down to the fact that many struggle to keep motivated in a self-paced learning environment where there’s little supervision.
If you plan on joining a free course it’s probably best to ensure that you’re familiar with the course outline and that you’re sufficiently motivated to complete it, particularly if you’re enticed by some of the paid premium versions.
10 Free online courses that could advance your career
All of these courses are freely accessible. However, some institutions may ask for payment if you want to upgrade to being awarded a verified certificate at the end.
1. Using Python for research (computer science)
After giving a review on the basics of Python 3 programming, the couse will go more in-depth on how you can apply your Python skills to research projects. It also includes a new module on statistical learning.
Institution: HarvardX (through edX)
Cost of certificate: $99 (£75.49)
2. This is how you make iPhone Apps – iOS Development Course
This Udemy course takes you through every step in the iOS app development from creating the app to submitting it to the app store. You don’t need to be an experienced coder to do this course.
Institution: The App Dojo (through Udemy)
Cost of certificate: Free, included on completion
3. Introduction to graphic design
Learn the basics to created amazing and real design. No prior design knowledge is needed.
Institution: Instructor Sean Berg (through Udemy)
Cost of certificate: Free, included on completion
4. Social media growth strategies
This is an email course which provides the latest tips and strategies for social media marketing. Lessons are conducted via tutorials, video, exercises and more.
Cost of certificate: Free
5. Communicating strategically
If you struggle to communicate ideas and insights to others then this course through Purdue University could be for you. You’ll learn the value of communication and acquire confidence in your abilities.
Institution: Purdue University Level: Refresher course
Cost for certificate: $49 (£37.77)
6. Introduction to journalism
You’ll learn about what makes a good news story, writing opinion pieces and features,as well as political and investigative journalism. Journalists from around their world tutor for this course and share from their own experiences.
Institution: University of Strathclyde
Cost of certificate: £37
7. The Manager’s Toolkit: A practical guide to managing people at work
It’s a practical guide to managing people at the workplace. The course would suit first time managers as well as the more experienced. You’ll learn HR theories and learn how to use them in an office environment.
Institution: University of London (through Coursera)
Level: Suitable for first time and middle management
Cost for certificate: £37
8. Mandarin Chinese for business
You’ll learn common phrases and scenarios of business negotiation in Chinese speaking countries. The course will also teach you about Chinese business culture and etiquette.
Institution: MandarinX (through edX)
Cost for certificate: $99 (£75.49)
9. Understanding the General Data Protection Regulation
Are you unfamiliar with GDPR and all the rules associated with it? This course will help you grapple with the basics of GDPR, the rights of consumers and what can be done with their data and will run through what liabilities and sanctions the company would be liable for if it broke the rules.
Institution: University of Groningen (through Future Learn)
Cost for certificate: £72
10. How to vlog
This is a beginner’s guide on vlogging and teaches you how to create online content. You’ll be taught how to shoot, edit and create engaging videos. In the end you’ll be asked to do your own vlog and upload it onto YouTube.
Cost of certificate: None, no certificate. But you can upgrade from £7 a month to the premium version with Skillshare, which will give you unlimited access to all classes and other perks