Tips for Finding Affordable or No-Cost Online Learning Opportunities

Christine Johnson, President, Cued Forward on

The other night, I attended an open house at my child’s high school.  For one of the sessions, I went to a presentation on ways your child can prepare for the SAT. They gave us two suggestions.

The first was to have your child read nonfiction, especially newspaper articles since much of the test is focused on condensed, information-packed reading selections that are used to answer questions.  Great idea for an easy-to-use learning technique.  For the next one, I was waiting for the pitch for tutoring sessions or SAT-focused in-person prep classes.  But what they said surprised me.  They recommend going to the Kahn Academy’s website and practice through the classes they offered.  A no-cost, unique online learning opportunity that can be done when my child is in the best mood to learn.  I was onboard.

While online learning may make some people a bit uncomfortable, the options for learning are almost limitless with even more content and opportunities being added daily.  To help sort through the clutter of what is available, I am going to discuss three popular online learning content websites as well as easy ways to find other no-cost or low-cost online learning options.  Keep in mind that I am covering a tiny fraction of what is available.  Feel free to contact Cued Forward to help you or your organization find the right online learning tool or website.

Three Popular Online Learning Websites

The aforementioned Kahn Academy is a free online learning resource who also happens to be a not-for-profit.  The Kahn Academy offers “personalized learning for all ages” with topics ranging from macroeconomics to U.S. History to grammar school math.  The classes offered can be used in conjunction or in addition to school-based learning or simply learning about a topic that interests you.  Their resources are translated into more than 36 languages.

Lynda offers over 4000 courses on business, technology, and creative skills.  Their mission is “to help you learn the skills you need to achieve your full potential.”   While is a reasonable-fee paid site, they do offer a free 10-day trial.  Businesses are turning to Lynda as an affordable learning option for their employees.  Lynda offers special discounts if you need to train 5 or more people and offers individual, corporate, academic, and government subscriptions.

Udemy offers 40,000+ courses that are available at any time that range from programming to photography.  Their motto is “own your future by learning new skills online” which reflects the movement in learning and development to self-directed learning.  Udemy offers two platforms: individual and business (with business-relevant courses).  Fees (when applicable as some classes are free) are paid by the course.  The number of students participating in any given course varies from under a hundred to tens of thousands.

“I Had No Idea” Online Learning Opportunities

Besides using a curated online learning site, there are additional ways you can grow your online learning repertoire by simply sharing your email address.

Many professional organizations offer webinars and other online events free of charge to its members.  If you are a member of one of these types of groups, check out your member benefits to see what you might be missing.  For example, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) offers numerous free webinars that not only provide a learning opportunity, but provide recertification credits for its credentialed members.

Your vendors are also a great place to look for online learning events.  While training may not be the vendor’s primary source of revenue, offering relevant training programs where they are the subject matter expert (or partner with a subject matter expert) are great ways for them to increase their brand recognition and for your to have an opportunity for a free (in most cases) online learning experience.  Vendors to look at could include your attorney group, accountant, insurance broker, or even you swag merchandiser.  For example, Validity, a background and drug testing company who is lists their HireEd program in our Learning Provider Directory, offers numerous programs ranging from how to create a background check program to understanding your organization’s culture.

Government agencies and sub-agencies are also a good source for online learning.  It may seem almost counterintuitive that the government would be on this list, but while some of their processes are still antiquated, many of their learning programs are not.  Government groups that offer online video program options include the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Department of Labor.

Additionally, some of the organizations list above also offer online virtual conferences where you can get the feel of attending sessions at a conference with a course track, exhibit halls, and networking areas.    One example of this is SCORE’s free online learning conference for small business owners.

Finally, use your social network to find out about other online learning opportunities.  Whether your direct contact is providing a webinar or another contact is sharing a learning opportunity from a different source, your own network is a great place to look for event communications.

Online learning has truly changed the way individuals and organizations learn by giving us ample topics, no-cost or reasonable cost ongoing learning opportunities, and learning on the learner’s schedule.  It’s exciting to imagine what might next.

What has been your best online learning experience?  We would love to hear about it.

Image credit: Pexels

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