A Roundup on the Best Free MOOCs and Other Online Learning Tools

free tools Photo courtesy of Morten Oddvik

The past few years have seen a dramatic rise in Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) that enables people all over the world to access quality education. While it is still being debated whether MOOCs can replace traditional college settings, it is still nevertheless very valuable for students who are interested in broadening their knowledge by taking advanced courses which they will otherwise not have access to in their universities. Some of these MOOCs offer certificates which you will be getting upon completion of your course assignments. The course assignments are at par with the american education standards and if you take them seriously you will be benefiting immensely from these free courses. You can also add these courses to your resume while job hunting or write about them in your statement of purpose for higher education. Apart from MOOCs, there are some other brilliant learning tools that will help you when it comes to cracking exams like CAT, GRE and GMAT.


EdX: EdX is a non profit MOOC governed by MIT and Harvard University and offers online courses from some of the world’s best universities such as MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and many more. You have courses on nearly all subjects under the sun and they all are free. Some of the courses can be taken any time and are self paced while some courses have a specific schedule. Each course comes along with a set of tests, projects and assignments which you have to complete if you want a certificate. All courses in EdX can either be audited or pursued for a certificate which comes along with a small fee. EdX offers 3 types of certificates: honor code, verified and X series certificates. Some courses are verified while some are honor code. A honor code certificate certifies that you have successfully completed the course but does not verify your identity. The verified course, on the other hand, verifies your identity and you have to pay a small fee for verification while honor code certificates are completely free. The X series certificate of achievement is offered by a few universities that expect you to pass a series of courses in a specific subject. The cost for X series will be the sum of each course’s verified certificate cost. EdX also has an online discussion forum open to all students for free and students usually use this to discuss concepts taught in class and ask questions regarding homework, assignments etc.

Udacity: Udacity is a for-profit educational organization started in 2012 and offers free courses related to web development, data science, mathematics and computer science. Udacity also offers a masters degree in computer science for $7000, where you will be getting a fully accredited online master’s degree from Georgia Tech University. This degree is not open to all and there will be an admissions process for enrollment into this online program. One of the best features about udacity is that all courses are self paced, meaning you can take the courses any time you want to. There is no fixed starting or ending date and all courses are free. Udacity also has this option called full course where for a fee of $150/month for each course, you will be getting a lot of benefits such as projects with on-going feedback and review, guidance from coaches and verified certificates. Each course takes approximately 2 months to complete. The full course has a limit on the number of students who can enrol and if the enrollment capacity is full, then you will have to wait until the course starts again to enrol yourself in. Apart from collaborating with universities for the courses, udacity also collaborates with industry leaders such as Google, Intuit and AT&T thereby helping students develop skills that the industry needs. Udacity has a discussion forum for each course that is open to all students for free and students can ask questions related to concepts taught in class, homework, assignments etc.

Coursera: Coursera is an educational platform started by two computer science professors from Stanford University in the year 2012. Coursera offers free courses in a diverse array of subjects from top institutions across the world. All courses have a fixed schedule, meaning you cannot take the course any time you want. Each course has a set of assignments, tests and projects that must be completed within a stipulated time frame if you want to get a statement of accomplishment signed by the instructor towards the end of the course. Coursera also offers a feature called signature track where for a small fee you will be getting a verified certificate. Students also have this feature called specializations where they can specialize in certain areas such as data science, mobile computing with android, systems biology etc. by taking a series of courses and ending the track by completing a capstone project. Each course in the series costs $49 and the capstone project, an additional $49. Towards the end, students will receive a verified specialization certificate. The signature and specialization tracks are optional and students can still take the courses for free and receive a statement of accomplishment but no verified certificate. The capstone project is only for students who complete 3 courses on the signature track and earn a verified certificate with distinction. Coursera also has a discussion forum for each of it’s course and they are free for all students to use. Students usually post questions related to homework, assignments, quizzes and other related stuff on the discussion forums.

Others: Many prestigious universities such as MIT, UC Berkeley, Stanford, CMU and Yale offer free open courses in the form of videos or audios that students can access from all over the world. The only downside with these courses is that you will not be receiving any certificate of accomplishment or credit of any sort nor is there any discussion forum where you can interact with other students or ask questions related to concepts taught in class. You will also not have access to the quizzes and assignments as these are only for students who are enrolled in the respective universities. But, they are still worth taking a look as they offer more number of courses than coursera, udacity or EdX and the videos and audios can be accessed anytime of the year.

Learning tools: Apart from MOOCs, there are a number of brilliant learning tools that has helped students worldwide for a variety of purposes such as studying for school and college exams, learn coding or for cracking competitive exams such as GRE and GMAT. They are as follows

Khan academy: Started by Salman Khan (not the hindi movie star), a graduate of MIT and Stanford, Khan academy is a non-profit educational website that features thousands of lectures on an array of subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance and many more and covers everything ranging from the basics to advanced concepts in every field. Each video is not more than 10 minutes and comes along with interactive quizzes and exercises. Khan academy videos can be used to brush your fundamentals in areas such as physics, chemistry and mathematics which will be very useful for semester exams and for cracking exams such as GMAT, IIT JEE and many more.

Quizlet: Quizlet is a very popular free flash card website created by an MIT undergraduate student, Andrew Sutherland. The website is used by students of all ages and are particularly useful for improving your vocabulary for exams such as GRE, GMAT and CAT. Apart from creating flash cards of your own, you can also use other’s flashcards and participate in various flash card based games that will help accelerate your learning.

Code Academy: CodeAcademy offers free coding classes in various languages such as Python, PHP, jQuery, JavaScript, Ruby, HTML and CSS. Apart from offering badges for completing exercises and other motivational incentives, the site also has a forum where people can discuss their questions and help each other out. Also, the lessons are interactive thereby making the whole coding process easier and fun to learn.

The Code Player: Are you someone who learns things fast if presented in a visually appealing format? If yes, then the code player will be the perfect fit for you. This website contains tons of videos related to front end technologies such as HTML, CSS and Javascript and each video contains a walkthrough showing viewers how cool designs are created while typing the code simultaneously. Sounds exciting? Go ahead and check it out.