5 Skills to Learn This Year, and 5 Places To Get Educated Online for Free

By Andy Hayes

Do you have high hopes this year to increase your personal/professional development?  There’s nothing like feeling empowered by mastering a new skill – and today you don’t need to leave your job and go back to school to learn something new.

Below, we’ve got five skills that we think could improve your lifestyle in the months and years ahead – and as an added bonus, we share five places where you can take a class or course online, for free!

5 Skills to Learn This Year

We think these skills will serve you well, no matter what your plans are in the year ahead.

1. Cooking

What, cooking?  Why something so simple?  Here’s the truth: the economy has been rough for years, and who knows what is coming ahead.  One of the best ways to live frugally but not feel it is to cook more at home now and then.  It’s a great way to plan on spending more time with friends, and for many it is a welcome stress-reliever after a hard day’s work.

2.  Photography

We’re all photographers now, with smartphones and smaller/cheaper/still-great-quality cameras. If you’re a dabbler on Instagram or curate your thoughts on Tumblr, why not take a photography class that will up your game and give you more fun ideas to share?  There are even photography classes today focused on camera phones only.

3. Money

Ok, you knew we were going to throw that one in there, didn’t you?  But, let’s be specific about yours and our intentions.  Don’t go to a generic money class – look for a course that is teaching you about something that specifically interests you.  Do you want to learn how to better use Quickbooks?  Go to a Quickbooks class.  Want to learn how to do a monthly budget?  Go to a budgeting class.  You get the idea here.  The more specific, the more likely you’re going to use the skills you’ve learned.

4. Fitness

We’re leaving this one wide open – but there’s nothing more important than your health, so get out there and find something to improve your physical or mental health.  Yoga, meditation, kickboxing – it doesn’t matter what, just find an opportunity to breath and move.

5. Hobby

We’re a little nostalgic for hobbies – remember when we didn’t have all of these social media sites to update and blog posts to write?  We could relax with a knitting needle, put together a puzzle, or do some woodworking.  If you’re wishing you had something better to do with your free time, a hobby is a great opportunity.  Pick back up an old practice or start something new.

5 Places to Get Educated Online – for Free!

Now that you’ve got some ideas on what to learn, how about some excellent places to learn online – for free?  The Internet has been absolutely amazing in bringing us inexpensive and free education, from blogs to these 5 websites that feature an array of courses and programs.

1. Udemy

Udemy is basically an online university with courses ranging from cooking to photography, all taught by independent instructors.  The site is transparent with reviews and number of students who completed the course, and has both free and paid courses.  All courses are delivered via video.

2. Kahn Academy

Kahn Academy is the closest thing we’ve seen to a free college education.  The courses, all free, are wildly popular with students struggling with their studies.  While their library is more focused on traditional topics, like math and science, the academy also has interesting partner programs with organizations like the Getty Museum and The New York Museum of Modern Art.

3. OpenCourseWare Consortium

Founded by MIT but now expanded to include a variety of universities, the OpenCourseWare Consortium features a variety of classroom materials, courses, and resources to help you master topics from the arts to geography to languages.  Their directory is quite impressive – if you ever missed out on a class in college and regretted it, now is your change for redemption.

4. edX

Similar to OpenCourseWare, edX is another online consortium of universities offering free classes taught by college processors.  The class roster is impressive and features some fascinating topics, such as molecular gastronomy, public speaking, or even how to start a music business.  Instructors assign homework just like a real classroom, as well as the ability in some classes for interaction among students.

5. Youtube

Last but certainly not least is video behemoth, Youtube. Despite first impressions, the site is not entirely about funny cat videos and awkward family film reels.  The site has its own education section that highlights high quality, popular courses and instructional content.  But it’s not a bad idea if you are looking for something specific to do a Youtube search – as the world’s largest video archive, changes are high you might find just what you need.

 Lead Photo by Ed Yourdon

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