14 Best Online Courses for Seniors


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Lifelong learning is a great way to keep your mind sharp and the modern world has provided us a way to keep learning well into retirement with online courses. If you or a loved one are interested in taking more classes, there are many options available, including these 14 best online courses for seniors.

Knowledge is available all over the internet for a low price or free of charge. If you want a degree or certification in a skill, Coursera, Education Connection, and Udemy are great options. If you want free courses, MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenStax, and Academic Earth are all great sources.

Continue reading if you want to learn more about where seniors can find the best online courses. With so many options to choose from online, there’s sure to be something that will interest everyone.

14 Best Online Courses for Seniors

Academic Earth

Academic Earth is one of the first websites to provide a free college education for all. This site is an excellent source to use if you know you want to start taking courses but aren’t sure what you should take.

It offers in-depth descriptions about online degrees in business, IT, criminal justice, nursing, psychology, and more. It will explain what you can do with a certificate in that subject and how you can get a degree if you’re interested. They also summarize salaries for each field, so if you’re thinking about starting a new career in your retirement, this is an excellent site to use for career research.

Best of all, it will link you to free online courses. The free courses won’t earn you a certificate or degree, but you can at least get some enrichment and knowledge through learning. 

Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon University offers many of its courses for free or for an affordable price. These courses will not earn you a degree, certificate, or college credits, but you will be able to learn a new skill in the field of your choice.

The courses don’t have teachers, so you can learn at your own pace. The free courses don’t have exams, but some of the courses you can pay to take exams so you can test your knowledge and check your progress.

Keep in mind that just because you pay for a course and take exams, you still can’t earn college credits for these courses. This website is meant to be used as an educational resource, and it isn’t considered to be a school.

One thing to note about this course is that teachers can use it as a resource for their students, so there are three sections on the website:

  • Independent learners: If you’re looking for free or paid courses, this is the section you need to go to.
  • Course key students: Students who are in school and were given a code by their teacher will use this section to access their courses.
  • Teachers: This is the section where teachers buy course codes to provide to their students.

If you use this resource, make sure you’re in the independent learners’ section.

Class Central

Class Central is another great resource that pools together free courses from all over the internet. With thirteen subjects from Art & Design to Programming, you’re sure to find something on this website that will interest you.

It shows you many courses that are available in complex fields—interested in learning about robotics or nursing? You can find courses in each of these areas and many more. 

The best feature of this site is arguably the Rankings page. It shows all the highest-ranked courses online, and you can filter them by subject, so you can be certain that you’re enrolling in a course that will be worth your time. 

Their News page will also keep you up-to-date with the latest free courses and deals along with other news about free education. It’s a good place to stay up to date with the ever-changing world of online learning.

Coursera

Coursera is one of the best places to go for certificates and degrees. If you don’t want to learn for “no reason,” you can come here to earn a certificate in an area that will allow you to find a new career or get promoted in your current one. Coursera partners with hundreds of companies and universities to bring you the best of the best in online courses. 

All of the courses allow you to learn on your own schedule. Paid courses will usually have due dates for assignments, but there are no specific timeframes that you have to attend the class, making it a better option than a traditional university.

If you enroll in a paid course, you’ll be able to print out a certificate showing that you completed the course. You can show it to employers to prove you’re qualified for the job. 

You can also enroll in associate, bachelor, and master’s degrees online, as well. You can enroll in these degree plans through top universities just as you would if you were going to classes in person. You’ll need to pay a bit more for degrees, but financial aid is available in the same ways that it’s available for students attending physical classes on campus.

Coursera is also home to many great free courses. You can audit classes for free so you can get the full experience, but you won’t be able to get grades or receive certification. Many classes offer free trials before you pay, and others show the syllabus with all the course materials for free.

Education Connection

Education Connection will get you in touch with some of the top universities so you can take online courses through them. Provide your basic information, including your education history and what you’re interested in learning, and they’ll match you up with a program that will suit your interests. 

This site doesn’t offer free courses, but it does act as a gateway to online education. You’ll need to apply to these universities just as you would if you were going on campus.

You can easily continue your education as a senior, and there are many benefits of going back to school or enrolling for the first time. If you retired because you were tired of the job you had, education would allow you to get into the field you’ve always wanted. Or, if you enjoy seeking out new challenges and keeping your mind active, learning can be a great way to do so.

MIT OpenCourseWare

14 Best Online Courses for Seniors

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology provides a large database of free educational resources. You can see the syllabus and assignments of previous courses taught in the university, along with the reading material the class used. Some textbooks and articles are available for free online, while others will require you to purchase them if you want to read them.

There is also a plethora of video and audio resources, as well. You can get links to lectures taught by professors as well as other educational videos.

OpenCourseWare has a wide variety of subjects, including business, energy, fine arts, humanities, mathematics, society, and teaching – and that’s just to name a few. 

MIT’s goal with this website is to make education readily available for independent learners; that being said, you can’t earn a degree or certification with these courses. However, learning new things is a good way to keep your mind active and prevent you from getting bored. So, it will be a great way to spend your time.

Open Culture

Open Culture provides thousands of educational resources about different cultures. If you want to learn about different cultures, this might be the right place for you to look. Whether you want to learn about archaeology, food, film, music, or new languages, they’re likely to have the right course for you. They also have courses for journalism, business, sociology, and biology.

This website stands out from the rest for its wide variety of materials. You’re not limited to free syllabuses and course notes – they also have the following:

  • Audiobooks: Many of the classics are available as audiobooks. Open Culture will link to where you can listen to them. Many of them can be downloaded to your computer or are available on iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube. 
  • Ebooks: From Aesop’s Fables to Virginia Woolf, most of the classics are available for you to read online. Many books are available to read on an iPad or Kindle, so you won’t have to sit at your computer to read.
  • Films: There are a surprising number of films readily available on the internet, free for you to watch. Many films are from other countries, but there are also older American films and recent short films made in recent years.

As with the other websites that offer access to free courses, you won’t be able to get a certificate or degree by taking free courses. But, there are countless hours of education available on this site that are well worth your time. 

OpenStax

OpenStax provides free, open-source textbooks. OpenStax’s goal is to make textbooks affordable for all students, so they’re 100% free of charge and available for anyone in and out of school.

You can find textbooks for algebra, calculus, biology, physics, history, psychology, American government, and several others. Not everything has to be a freshman-level college course, though; there are business textbooks about business ethics, accounting, management, and entrepreneurship. 

For each chapter, the textbook will include a list of key terms, a summary for each section of the chapter, questions to test yourself with, and additional extras that fit the subject. For example, a math textbook will list equations, and the psychology textbook will ask questions that will make you think about the material you have just read. 

The textbooks are entirely free online, and they have a highlighting tool so you can keep track of the things you want to remember. If you would rather have a hardcover or paperback version of the books, they’re available for sale on Amazon for a fraction of most college textbooks’ price. 

The textbooks are high-quality and written by professionals, so you’re guaranteed to have a quality education with OpenStax. The only aspects that might be considered negative to some users are that there aren’t additional resources, and there are no videos or lectures to go along with the book – it’s only reading with a few test questions at the end. Grades aren’t provided with the books.

TED-Ed

You might have heard of TED Talks before, and you’ve probably seen a couple of them. They’re popular on YouTube and are frequently shared on Facebook. TED has a section on its website called TED-Ed that’s dedicated to making short, useful videos for teachers and students.

If you’re a visual learner in search of free education, TED-Ed videos might be the right path for you. Once you’re on the website, the student section will have a long list of short videos that are typically five minutes or less. The videos have these extra resources at the bottom:

  • Think: This tab has multiple-choice questions that will test you over what you watched.
  • Dig Deeper: This tab has background information that will be useful to what you watched. It may also link to additional resources and websites that will help you if you want to learn more about the topic.
  • Discuss: This tab has a place for you to respond to a question that has been asked. Guided questions may be provided along with the video, but users can ask their own questions to spark open discussions about the topic.

The Think, Dig Deeper, and Discussion tabs are completely optional – if you’d rather just watch the video, you can. TED-Ed videos aren’t college-course level videos and are intended for personal enrichment. Whether you watch them for learning or for enjoyment, that’s up to you.

TED-Ed offers videos in almost every subject you’d find available in a university’s curriculum, including the arts, business, health, literature, math, psychology, and science, but there’s plenty more to choose from. If you like the idea of learning but don’t want to commit to a program, these videos would be perfect for you.

Udemy

If you want to learn a specific skill, Udemy is the place to look. They offer in-depth courses in specific skills and show you the price, skill level, and time required to complete a course.

There are two types of courses:

  • Paid: Pay for the course once and return to the course as often as you’d like. Paid courses include a certificate of completion of the course and direct contact with the instructor.
  • Free: The number of paid courses outweighs the free courses, but there are still several options to choose from. When you pick a category you’re interested in, you can select an option that will only show you free courses. Free courses only give you the videos to watch. You can’t receive a certificate or contact the instructor. 

Unlike other educational resources, Udemy places a priority on tangible skills. You can learn photography, arts and crafts, organization, languages, and marketing, just to name a few. You can easily put the skills you learn to good use, whether the skills are meant to help you in your current or new career or even if they’re just for personal development.

Udemy doesn’t offer many certification options, but they do offer courses that will prepare you for certification in IT. If you like computer software development and want to get certified in AWS, the courses on this site are just what you need.

University of Oxford Podcasts

14 Best Online Courses for Seniors

The University of Oxford has a large collection of podcasts that will surely teach you something new. Many departments in the university have their own podcast, each with several episodes about different topics. Some series have multiple lessons about a topic if you’d prefer to dig deeper into a subject.

Many podcasts are recordings of lectures that were taught in the university. Oxford wants to provide open education for all people, so they have a long list of podcasts protected by a Creative Commons license.

You can look through podcasts by series, the people speaking in the podcasts, specific departments and colleges within the university, and podcasts with the Creative Commons license. So, if you’re interested in podcasts by Oxford’s Botanic Garden, you can look at everything that the department has created. 

The only downside is that you can’t filter podcasts by subject; only by departments. However, you can type in something specific in the search bar to see what comes up. 

While this isn’t necessarily a source for online courses, it’s still a vast source of useful information. Since it’s a podcast, you can easily listen to it while you do other things, so you don’t have to spend any time tied to a desk just to learn something new. 

VideoLectures.net

This website offers thousands of videos of lectures about a variety of subjects. You can filter videos by lectures, interviews, tutorials, or events. If you prefer to watch lectures for an academic setting, you can easily choose the setting to make only the lectures show up. 

This website only offers educational videos and doesn’t provide quizzes, grades, or certifications. However, there are so many things available to learn on this website, so it’s definitely worth your time to look at.

Videos will show the lecturer speaking and the slideshow that goes along with it if used. Below the slideshow, you can click on timestamps so you can go back to a specific slide. This is helpful if you’re taking notes as you watch videos or if you need more time to read a slide. You may also have the option to download the slideshow if you’d like to refer back to it later or print it out so you can write on it.

Underneath the video, there will be a comment section for viewers to leave their thoughts. There will also be a list of other lectures that are related to the video you just watched. This is a helpful feature that will make it easier for you to find more videos about the topic you want to learn.

VideoLectures.net offers twenty-six different categories, which is a bit more than many other sites in this list offer. You can learn about psychoanalysis, militaries, sports, data science, and much more. 

Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

This is another good source that lists open education resources from other platforms. You can select the subject you want to learn about, and it will pull up all the available materials. You can also choose which platform you’d like to use, including Coursera, YouTube, iTunes, and Open Yale Courses. 

The courses available through Yale are typically found on other platforms. Many courses will take you to the Coursera, YouTube, and iTunes websites to access the content; however, the content itself is provided by Yale. This is a good source to use if you want to find high-quality content through a top university.

They have many subjects to choose from, including math, philosophy, economics, and physics. If you want something a little more niche, they offer Italian language and literature classes, too.

Yale’s online courses can be videos, podcasts, or courses on Coursera. Many classes on Coursera are free or can be audited for free. 

For more information about Coursera, scroll up to the section to read more about it. That being said, you may or may not be able to get certification for these Yale courses. It will depend on where you choose to get the information and whether you want to pay for them or not.

YouTube Learning

YouTube might not have a reputation for being a source of academic learning, but it really does have a wealth of information on it if you know where to look. YouTube Learning is a channel that’s dedicated to gathering high-quality educational resources.

You won’t be able to get grades, of course, but there’s a wide variety of videos to choose from.

If you want to learn about the human body, the nineteen-part series Human | Seeker is a good place to start, with videos ranging from eight minutes to thirty minutes: 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6uC-XGZC7X4XUCKgI2EHiRakCdA3niyZ

You could also learn about math with Complex Numbers: 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5KkMZvBpo5CE__2qeqZQa5e8gSkt1Ypy 

Or you can better yourself with How to Make and Break Habits: 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLydZ2Hrp_gPSY3a5BAn1RG0D3Z-UgvQWC 

Most videos are made to educate through entertainment. They won’t be like watching a lecture; you’ll likely see infographics, animations, and jokes. That doesn’t mean this is a bad source for education, however. In fact, you might decide that you prefer this method of learning.

Are Online Courses Useful?

You may be wondering why you should take online courses, especially if they don’t provide any kind of grade, certification, or degree. There are several reasons why free courses and resources can benefit you:

  • They can keep your mind sharp. It’s no secret that our memories get worse as we get older. Committing yourself to lifelong learning can allow you to keep your mind in shape as you get older.
  • They can keep you busy. Some people aren’t sure what to do once they retire. If you find yourself in the same situation, learning can be a great way to fill the time. This leads us to the next point.
  • They can point you in a new direction. If you want to start a new adventure in your retirement, whether it be an education or a new career, free courses can help you get there. Maybe you spent twenty or thirty years in the same job and aren’t sure what you’d like to do next. Free courses can spark passion and interest and help you decide what to do next.

While free courses are abundant, they aren’t the only options. Paid online courses can earn you degrees and new careers. Here are the benefits of pursuing an online degree or certification in a skill:

  • Have the freedom to learn wherever, whenever. If you have a busy life or don’t want to spend most of your day on a college campus, online courses are the best option for you. Most of them can be completed whenever you have the time for them, and you can learn wherever you want. If you’re tired of being at home, take your homework to a coffee shop or library.
  • Start a new career. You can earn a B.A. or M.A. online just like you can in a classroom. You can also get certified in certain skills or get an associate’s degree if you don’t want to spend time getting a four-year degree. All of these options will get you the skills you need to start a new career.

Final Thoughts

Learning at home is becoming more common. It’s an excellent way for seniors to keep their minds sharp or take a new path in their retirement. There are so many online educational resources for every budget. If you don’t want to pay, there’s plenty to learn, whether it’s a new skill or a subject that interests you.

You can also pay to earn a certification in a skill or a degree. With these, you’ll be able to start a new career. It’s never too late to take a new path or go back to the path you think you should’ve taken.

Sources

Ruth

Hey there, my name is Ruth, I'm in my late fifties. My life was turned upside down a few years ago as I experienced a burn-out. But I saw it as a sign that something had to change in my life. I'm happy I used this tough experience as a stepping stone. I now feel happier than ever and hope to inspire you to do the same, no matter how old you are.

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