There are many reasons why women choose to further their education. You may be battling empty nest syndrome after the last child has headed off to college or you may have recently suffered a loss due to divorce or death. You may want to learn a new skill or hobby, such as painting or creative writing.
Unfortunately, the cost of a college education has risen considerably over the years, even at local community colleges. However, there are other options available to further your education no matter what your reasons for returning to school may be through free online courses.
Why Did We Write This Guide?
Too often, women feel that returning to school will be far too expensive. You may have seen statistics that show college tuition has risen six percent higher than the rate of inflation. In addition, tuition costs are adding to the amount of debt students incur in order to achieve higher education. This is the reason this guide was created. It is designed to help women like you who want to advance their education but cannot afford to attend a traditional four-year college or university.
Who Is This Guide For?
This guide is designed for women who may are seeking new skills or want to advance their education. You may have been recently divorced after being a stay-at-home mom for many years. You may have recently lost your husband and need to bring your skills up-to-date for today’s workforce. You may have retired and simply want to learn new skills or begin a new hobby, such as stamp collecting or learning to write. There are as many reasons for developing new skills as there are women seeking those skills.
It is also designed for the woman with a busy social, work and family schedule that make it difficult for her to attend traditional classes. If you are a working mother, you know what it is like running to ballet, soccer practice and piano lessons after a busy day at work. On weekends, you may have be expected to do charity work or volunteer for an organization you are passionate about. There is just no time for you to drive to a college, sit through a two or three hour lecture and complete homework with your busy schedule.
Online courses make it easy to fit learning into your schedule. As long as you have internet access, you can attend class. While you are waiting for your children to finish sports practice, you can sign into the classroom and do some of your coursework. You can do research for a paper at night while you watch television. You can write your paper on your lunch hour, sitting in the park enjoying nature. You can even attend class on long car trips as you head from one destination to another when someone else is driving.
This guide is also designed to provide you with free online courses so you don’t have to worry about taking money from something else your family needs in order to pay for your classes. The classes described are free, yet they can help improve your skills and add to your knowledge base with a flexible schedule that meets your needs.
Why Continuing Education is Important
Continuing education is growing in importance today. Too often, people think that education stops once we graduate from high school or college. We don’t consider that learning should be looked at as a lifelong experience. Although some industries require continuing education so that those in the profession stay on top of changing technologies, trends and policies, there are many that do not have such requirements.
Technology changes at a rapid pace and, if you don’t stay on top of those changes, you could be passed over for promotions, have difficulty finding work or be unable to move into a new career that now uses technology different from what you remember when you were young. There are many free online courses related to technology. These can include tips on using Photoshop, creating HTML coding for a website or advanced uses for commonly used software like Microsoft Word. By increasing your skills in technical areas, you can become more useful to a current employer or become more attractive to a hiring officer in a different career.
Free university courses or those offered by independent learning centers can help you build industry expertise. Taking a free course related to a specific facet of your industry can help you improve skills and learn inside information about that portion of your industry so that others begin to look at you as an expert. This can lead to consultations, networking and speaking engagements that can boost your career even further.
There are free online classes available that can help you address issues that may be holding you back, such as the fear of public speaking or becoming more assertive in the workplace. There are courses on negotiation, public speaking and marketing, all available online for free.
Are you recently retired? Looking for something to do in your spare time? Have you always been told you have a talent for something? There are many free online courses available that can help you improve skills in various hobbies, such as painting, writing or cooking. Studies show that investing time in the arts improves your cognitive skills, can improve your intelligence and may slow the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses common among the elderly. In fact, a 2013 study conducted at Texas University in Dallas found that older adults who faced continuous and prolonged mental challenges had less memory loss than those who did not. In addition, the study found that those who built relationships and learned new skills showed less sign of brain aging than those who simply engaged in solitary activities, such as crossword puzzles.
What Makes a Successful Online Learner?
Online courses, although providing flexibility for students, have their own unique challenges. Therefore, it is important to have a few key characteristics in order to succeed in courses offered in an online format.
- Persistence – Online students must deal with issues that other students do not, such as technical problems or getting assistance when they are stuck on a subject. A traditional student has other students in class they can ask for help but it is difficult to get assistance when you are stuck on a math problem at 2 AM on a weeknight. You must be able to persist through challenges in order to succeed in an online class.
- Time Management Skills – Most online classes are not taught in real time and there are no set times for classes. Therefore, you must set up a manageable schedule for logging in, completing assignments and meeting the required number of “check-in” times each week.
- Communication skills – Because work is done online, a teacher cannot pick up on non-verbal cues that a student doesn’t understand, such as a puzzled expression. It is critical that you have the written communication skills to express when you don’t understand a topic so that the teacher knows how they can help you. An online classroom is not the same as a chat room, message board or text message. You should write in complete sentences with proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. Never write things in the classroom out of anger or frustration or post anything you would not say to a teacher or student in person.
- Technical skills – Online learners must have at least the basic technical skills necessary to maneuver the online campus. They must know how to use word processing software, use search engines to find online resources and download software. They must also have the skills necessary to access online libraries and search for research material. You may want to take the new student orientation course that many online learning sites offer.
- Ability to read and write – It goes without saying that to succeed in an online course, you must be able to read and write fluently. You will be required to read and write in order to communicate with other students and your instructor. Many of the assignments will require essay-type answers and most online courses require several research papers. If you type slowly, it may be a good idea to take a typing class.
- Motivation and ability to work independently – You have to be able to work on your own and have the motivation to succeed in an online class. No one is going to remind you that you have to go to class, that you have assignments due or have to finish a research paper. You won’t have other students around you to help motivate you either, so you must be willing to motivate yourself while also working independently toward your goals.
- Place to study – Try to set up a place where you can study that is quiet and comfortable. However, not everyone needs total silence in order to complete classwork, which is why online learning is beneficial for busy adults. If the television won’t bother you, sit in a comfortable chair and complete your work while you enjoy television with your family. Avoid installing computer games so that you are not distracted. If you are easily distracted by sounds or other people, set up an area in your home specifically for studying. Inform your family that when you are in that space, you are “in school” and are not to be disturbed. If you have an area in your home with a door you can shut to indicate you need privacy, set your study area up there.
These are just a few suggestions for becoming a successful online student so that you are more likely to reach your continuing education goals.
How to Prepare for Your Online Course
Once you have decided to further your education through an online course and prepared the area where you will study, you need to get yourself ready for returning to school. All online courses, free or not, have technical requirements in order to access the class and submit assignments.
Most online programs will work with you to identify whether you have the right technology, whether it is enough RAM on your computer or the right software to complete your assignments.
Most online courses will require word processing and spreadsheet software, especially if you are taking free courses online in the business field. Some may require graphic arts software, such as Photoshop, if you are taking courses that will expand your artistic expression. Others may require industry specific software, so it is important to discuss with the online program what requirements they have.
Create a schedule or “to-do list” in order to better manage your time. You may want to invest in a calendar that will allow you to write due dates for assignments or use an electronic version on your phone or computer.
Here’s The List!
Now that you have an idea what is expected when you begin free online courses, you need to know where to look to find courses that will not only provide you with the skills you want, but are also free for you to take. Here are five of some of the best free online courses available:
- Khan Academy – There are many video lessons available for free, all of which are organized into particular lessons. This allows students who want to learn one principle but do not want to take an entire course to watch just that section of the course.
- MIT Open Courseware – Taking an open course at MIT allows students to take courses identical to what are taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The courses are on-demand so there is no interaction with other students, but the open courseware allows you to study courses offered at the prestigious college for free.
- Coursera – One of the leading providers of open online courses, Coursera offers a wide variety of college courses often with lectures from university professors, discussion forums and tests. Some of the courses provide certificates of completion.
- Duolingo – If you have always wanted to learn a new language, Duolongo offers free university courses in Spanish, French, Italian, German and other languages. Video, audio and written learning are integrated so it is easy to become comfortable with the new language. The courses actually feel more like a game, so you are entertained as you take the course.
- Udemy – This site offers online courses free in a wide range of subjects, all taught by leading experts. You can learn more about Facebook, SQL databases, how to use Photoshop, Music Theory and other special interest subjects. The program allows instructors to create their own class but there is a bio about each instructor as well as a review area so you can see how others rate the class.
But Wait There’s More!
Below is a list of Free Online Education Resources:
- UMass Boston Open Courseware
- Learning Space: The Open University
- Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative
- Kutztown On-Demand Online Learning
- USQ Australia Open Courseware
- New York University
- Open Yale Courses
- University of the People
- Academic Earth
- Webcast Berkeley
- e-Learning Center
- Master Class Management
- Brigham Young Free Online Courseware
- University of Michigan Open
- NLC Open Learning Courses
- United Nations University
- Weber State University
- Universaid Colombia
- Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare
- Wolfram Demonstrations Project
- UC Irvine OpenCourseWare (Business)
- Financial Management Training Center
- The Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA
- Bookboon Free Business e-books
- Wikiversity School of Social Sciences
- OpenLearn (Arts and Humanities)
- Duke Law Center for the Public Domain
- American University
- Lewis & Clark Law School
- Case Western Reserve University School of Law
- Harvard Law School
- Stanford Law
- MoneyInstructor Business Law
- Code Academy
- Tufts Open Courseware
- Stanford on iTunes U
- Utah State Open Courseware
- University of California Irvine Courseware
- Gresham College
- Notre Dame Open Courseware
- Open UW
- Textbook Revolution
- The Library of Congress Files
- GCF LearnFree
- Google Code University
- Capilano University
- TU Delft
- Kendal College
- MIT Video
- VideoLectures.NET (Business)
- The National Science Digital Library
- Intute Law
- Boston College Front Row (Law)
- American Sign Language Browser
- One Minute Languages
- Mango Languages
- Capilano University OpenCourseWare
- University of Southern Queensland’s OpenCourseWare
- Wesleyan College Constitutional Law
- Oxford University Mathematics OpenCourseWare
- Whatcom Online Math Center
- Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students
These are just a very small sample of the free online course offerings available, not only from learning centers but also from accredited, high-quality universities and colleges.
How To Plan for Your Free Education
The first step in planning for your free education is to decide what you want to learn and what format in which you will learn it best. Some students prefer learning by watching videos while others prefer reading to absorb material.
If you want to learn a new hobby, you will want to choose a site that offers a wide range of fun courses such as painting, photography or music. If you are hoping to build your technical ability, you will want to choose a site that offers more technically-advanced courses.
Once you have determined what you want to learn, you can decide which classes will help you reach your education goals. Most people who begin taking classes to either advance their career or learn more about something they have always been interested in say that once they start learning, they want to continue. This means you may begin with a beginner course and move into more extensive, advanced courses as you start putting what you learn into practice.
Learning should be a lifelong experience. With the availability of free courses online with subjects that range from business to technology to hobbies, you can find the perfect free university courses that will help you achieve your education goals. You could even find yourself in a new career or moving ahead in your current career by successfully completing continuing education courses available for free online.