A Free Education is at Your Fingertips – 12 Ways

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With the new school year right around the corner, and with higher education costs growing at staggeringly high rates it's a prime time to discuss some ways to get a free education by some less than traditional methods (Related post: Is College Worth the Expense? My Husband's Story). This is a guest post by the lovely Melanie. xo, Anna

12 Free Ways to Get an Education

In the fourth quarter of 2012, total student loan debt reached $966 billion dollars. I can’t even comprehend that much money. I can’t even comprehend the average student loan balance of $24,803. Once upon a time, I was a student and I also work at a community college so I understand the debt struggle is real. It’s a complicated problem that I could write a novel about, but today we’re going to scratch the surface with a few free ways to get an education!

1. Open Education Consortium

The Open Education Consortium (OEC) is a group of higher education institutions and organizations from around the world. Last time I checked, the OEC presented 25,082 courses from 78 providers! The OEC is a great place to start looking for courses because they work with some of the most innovative educators in the world to compile and create awareness of massive-open-online courses (MOOCs).

2. Coursera

Coursera is another great place to start looking for MOOCs. Similarly to the OEC, Coursera works with global universities to offer courses in almost every subject imaginable. Personally, I cannot wait to take the e-Learning Ecologies course offered from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

3. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a bit different. Khan Academy doesn’t offer formal courses, but it’s a wealth of quick educational videos and great for learning at your own pace. Khan Academy offers introductory-level videos for mostly math and science, but they’ve also branched out to American Civics and Art History. They even offer explanatory videos on finance and capital markets!

4. University of Redditt
University of Redditt isn’t taught by professors, instead it’s crowdsourced. University of Redditt doesn’t just have a traditionally academic focus either. There’s classes on Cooking for the Single Life, An Introduction to Magic the Gathering and Lucid Dreaming, among the more traditional academics like Music, Philosophy, Science and Technology. Who wants to learn how to lucid dream with me?!

5. YouTube

I’ve learned so much from YouTube. Seriously, I don’t know what I ever did without it. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve learned how to do my makeup for my wedding, how to make beeswax candles and how to properly poach an egg! Discover the magic of YouTube, people.

6. SchoolTube

SchoolTube is just like YouTube, except it’s solely designed for students and educators. SchoolTube has a K-12 focus, but there are some seriously amazing teachers who have put up seriously creative and entertaining content. I recently used Mr. W’s Virus Rap to brush up on my biology.

7. iTunes U

This app makes learning super convenient. You can download it on your phone and then learn wherever it is convenient to you– whether that’s on the bus or in the bathtub! iTunes U contains courses from major universities, like Yale, and also claims to be “the world’s largest digital catalog of free education content.”

8. Academic Earth

Academic Earth was the first player in the free online college course game. Today they offer highly curated course links from some of the nation's top schools– Stanford, Harvard and MIT, just to name a few. Academic Earth is a wealth of knowledge with “curated links to over 750 online courses and 8,500 individual online lectures,” yet still remains an easy-to-navigate site.

9. Wikiversity

Wikiversity, one of the Wikimedia Foundation’s projects, is devoted to learning projects and resources, research and is caters to all levels from preschool to the university. What I like about Wikiversity is that it has a familiar interface. It looks just like Wikipedia!

10. Carnegie Melon Open Learning Initiative

Many large universities (and even small ones!) are jumping on the open learning bandwagon. Carnegie Melon’s initiative is definitely one of those worth mentioning. Through the Open Learning Initiative, you learn at your own pace through modules created by volunteer instructors. Notable courses include argument diagramming, responsible computing and STEM foundations.

11. GCF’s Learn Free

The Goodwill Community Foundation’s Learn Free is a favorite of the Office Systems Technology instructors at my school. It’s great for introductory computer classes like Facebook 101 and iPad basics and the Microsoft Office Suite. They also offer modules in resume writing, career planning and money!

12. The Library
Frank Zappa once said, “If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.” And I couldn’t agree with him more on both accounts. Bazinga! But in all seriousness, your local library is a wealth of knowledge and information that is right there– free for the taking. (You can find your local public library here: https://www.publiclibraries.com/) There’s knowledge that exists in books that you can’t find on the Internet– crazy, I know. But libraries aren’t just about books. Many libraries offer educational classes and programs on a whole host of things. I’ve seen everything from yoga classes to computer classes to knitting and 3-D printing. Interested in more ways to save money with the library? Check out 18 Ways the Library Can Help You Save Money.


Happy learning!


Have you used any of the free education resources mentioned? Do you know of others that weren't mentioned in the post? Would love to hear about your experience with non-tradional education methods!

Melanie is a recently married librarian living in an Airstream with her husband. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. Find out more about their life at Love Library.