Stay Sharp This Summer: 5 Affordable Online Courses

Stay Sharp This Summer: 5 Affordable Online Courses

(Image: Thinkstock)
(Image: Thinkstock)

In a time when the cost of a traditional college experience is increasing, many universities are experimenting with massive open online courses (MOOC) to make higher learning accessible for everyone.

Now anyone with access to the Internet can learn about physics, personal finance or poetry —for free or cheap.

And now that some universities are offering credit for these classes, there’s nothing stopping you from beefing up your resume this summer.


Founders Gordon Ng and Daphne started Coursera with the goal of making higher learning available to everyone without the hurdle of cost.

Since its launch last year, the online education portal has grown rapidly, now offering more than 350 courses in various subjects from 81 institutions around the world. Its roster of partners includes Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia and Duke University.

Coursera now offers Signature Track courses that allow students to earn a verified certificate upon completion.


Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) teamed up in 2012 to launch edX, offering online courses for free to anyone with an Internet connection.

The site currently offers 59 courses from 27 institutions, including Georgetown, Boston and Cornell universities.

edX is a continuation of work MIT began in 2002 with OpenCourseWare, where it published materials from 2,150 of its courses online for free.


Skillshare’s manifesto exalts its belief that the best way to learn is by doing and that everyone is a teacher.

Rather than offering classes from colleges and universities, classes are taught by professionals and hobbyists specializing in their field. Journalists teach classes on writing, graphic designers teach design techniques. Classes are available for a small fee.

While classes have a start date, they never expire and allow students to finish their class as their schedule allows.

Have a skill you can teach others? Skillshare is also platform for users to offer online classes to their peers.


Udacity started as an experiment at Standford University after it’s first MOOC attracted 160,000 students in 190 countries.

Founders Sebastian Thrun and Mike Sokolsky put a premium on active participation, not long lectures. And like others offering free online learning, they aim to make education more accessible to everyone.

Udacity professors are from institutions across the country offering beginning, intermediate and advanced classes in business, computer science and physics, among other topics.

When students finish a class they earn a certificate of completion.

Academic Partnerships’ MOOC2Degree

The MOOC2Degree initiative will allow students to start work toward a degree with a free online class from participating schools.

Academic Partnerships works with 40 universities across the country to turn classes offered on campus to online classes. Announced earlier this year, the new initiative will allow students to earn credits for one course taken for free online.

Participating schools include the University of Cincinnati, Arizona Statue University and University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing.