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Online Courses: Learn Digital Skills without attending University

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Do you want to expand your education? Do you want to develop skills to give yourself better work opportunities or to make a career shift? Are you looking for a way to do so without committing to a full degree program at a university? Do you need an accessible and flexible learning path? Massive Open Online Courses, MOOCs, might be a perfect option for you. Online courses offer a flexible learning environment, limitless subject areas, and are often free or cost a fraction of a traditional education. 

What is a MOOC?

Massive Open Online Courses, MOOCs, are online learning platforms, and each MOOC has its own specialty and structure. In this article, GetEducated will review the largest and most well known MOOCs and what they have to offer. GetEducated is here to help you find the MOOC that is right for you. We will do so by giving you an honest, transparent, and unbiased assessment of each MOOC.

Four Types of MOOCs

MOOCs can be divided into four categories. They offer online courses in: General Studies, Digital Skills, Language, and Creative. General Studies MOOCs offer online courses in a wide range of subjects from Art and Design to Business to Personal Development, all on one platform. Digital Skills MOOCs focus on online courses in Computer Science, Data Analytics, Coding, and skills that are in high demand in today’s technology driven work world. Language MOOCs are foreign language learning platforms. Creative MOOCs offer online courses in everything from knitting to graphic design to how to play guitar.  

This article’s primary focus is on Digital Skills MOOCs, and will briefly discuss General Studies MOOCs that offer courses in digital skills.

Digital Skills MOOCs


Codecademy was founded with the mission to build a learning platform for 21st century skills. They create their own online courses that are engaging, flexible, interactive, and accessible to as many people as possible. 180 free courses are available on Codecademy such as coding, data science, and machine learning. For unlimited access to all 1,800 courses, a person must purchase a subscription. The monthly subscription price is $39.99 per month. However, there is a 7 day free trial period for the subscription. With a subscription, the student also receives a certificate of completion for each finished online course. Codecademy is a great option if you are looking into expanding your digital skills.

Popular Courses:

  • Learn Web Development
  • Java Tutorial
  • Learn Data Science

Free: Yes
Free Subscription Trial: 7 days
Subscription Pricing: $39.99/mo
Access: Limited number of free courses; Unlimited content with subscription

General Assembly

General Assembly is a leader in today’s most sought after skills. Their goal is to help students expand their knowledge, gain skills, and connect with professionals in the industry. The courses are held either online or at one of their 15+ campuses that can be found in 6 countries. There are full time, part time, and short-form courses available. By offering online courses and with multiple payment options, they are an accessible option.

 Popular Courses: 

  • Data Analytics
  • Product Management
  • Software Engineering

Free: No
Free Subscription Trial: No, but there are some free events
Subscription Pricing: Dependent on the Program of Study
Access: Limited to the Enrolled Program of Study


Pluralsight specializes in digital skills courses that are in high demand in today’s job market. They do not offer any free online courses. The platform does however offer two subscription levels. The Standard level is $24.94 per month and comes with access to the core library and assessments. The Premier level comes with unlimited access to all online course content for $37.42 per month. It is important to note that both subscription levels are billed annually. Both subscription levels have a free trial of either 10 days or 200 minutes of viewing whichever comes first. Certificates of course completion are not available through Pluralsight. Although, they offer practice exams for external certifications. Because Pluralsight offers two subscription levels, it is allows for a student to customize their educational journey.

Popular Courses

  • C# Fundamentals
  • Artificial Intelligence: The Big Picture of AI
  • Core Python: Getting Started

Free: No
Free Subscription Trial: 10 day or 200 minutes of free viewing (whichever comes first)
Subscription Pricing: Standard $24.94/mo, Premium $37.42/mo (billed annually)
Access: Standard-core library & assessments/ Premium-unlimited


Krishna Kumar launched Simplilearn as a place where people could transform their lives through a digital skills education. Now, Simplilearn has 2,000+ instructors teaching over 400 different online courses. The instructors of Simplilearn’s online courses come from top university and industry leaders such as Amazon and IBM. Simplilearn does not offer free online courses through its platform. Although, it does offer limited free content on the Simplilearn app. The price of each online course varies depending on the length of the course. And, there is a 7 day free trial period. Simplilearn also offers a masters degree programs in data science and data analytics through its platform. 

Popular Courses:

  • Certified ScrumMaster
  • Cloud Architect
  • Digital Marketing Specialist

Free: No
Free Subscription Trial: 7 days
Subscription Pricing: Varies by Course
Access: Limited to Selected Course


Treehouse has the goal of being more than just a online learning platform. Treehouse developed a learning environment that provides a successful experience. The platform offers stand-alone online courses and course paths that lead to degrees. They provide networking opportunities and career resources. Treehouse also promotes Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the tech world. They have created apprenticeship programs with the Boys & Girls Club, Anita B, and the Salvation Army that connect youth interested in careers in tech. Treehouse is more than a learning platform. It is an engaged community. Treehouse is passionate about bringing tech opportunities to as many people as possible through online courses and career support.

Popular Courses:

  • Learn to Code for Beginners
  • Front End Web Development
  • UX Design

Free: No
Free Subscription Trial: 7 days
Subscription Pricing: $25/mo
Access: Unlimited with Subscription


Udacity provides a fast and effective way to learn job-ready skills for the careers of the future. Their learning model is based on four pillars: employable skills, project-based/active learning, individual schedule, and help when you need it. 200+ industry experts partnered with Udacity to build online course content.

The price of courses offered by Udacity depends on the length of the course. Because access to course material is limited to the purchased online course, you only pay for what you want to learn. Although Udacity does not offer a free trail period, they routinely offer discounts for their online courses. Udacity does offer scholarships, career services, and mentor support to its students.  

Popular Courses:

  • Data Engineer
  • Deep Learning
  • Ethical Hacker

Free: No
Free Subscription Trial: No standard trial or promotion
Subscription Pricing: Varies Program to Program
Access: Limited

The Breakdown: Digital Skills MOOCs

NameYear LaunchedFreeFree TrialPricingAccessIvy League CoursesDegree/


Codecademy2011Yes-Limited7 days$39.99/moFree-LimitedNoAvailable with Subscription
General Assembly2011NoNoVaries per CourseLimited to paid courseNoAvailable with Subscription
Pluralsight2004No10 days or 200 minutesStarting at $24.94/moDepends on Subscription LevelNoNo
Simplilearn2010No7 daysVaries per CourseLimitedNoAvailable with Subscription
Team Treehouse2011No7 days$25/moUnlimited with SubscriptionNoAvailable with Subscription
Udacity2011NoNoVaries per CourseLimited to CourseNoAvailable with Subscription

General Studies MOOCs with Digital Skills Courses

Do you want to learn to code and also learn about ancient civilizations? A General Studies Massive Open Online Course, MOOC, that offers online courses in some digital skills might be the right fit for you. The following is a brief summary of those platforms and the digital skills online courses they offer.

Academic Earth

Academic Earth offers free online courses from top universities. All the online courses are free with unlimited access to course content. Academic Earth offers digital skill courses in Computer Science.

Digital Skills Subject Area:

  • Computer Science

Free: Yes
Access: Unlimited


Coursera partners with over 200 leading universities and companies to offer job-relevant, self-paced online courses. They offer digital skill courses in data science, information technology, and computer science. All online courses can be audited for free. Coursera offers degree and professional certificate courses for a fee that varies course to course. 

Digital Skills Subject Area:

  • Data Science
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Computer Science

Free: all courses can be audited for free
Free Subscription Trial: 7 days
Subscription Pricing: varies by course
Access: Limited to selected course


edX was launched because MIT professor, Anant Agarwal, believed that everyone deserves access to high quality education. 3,000+ online courses taught by 15,000 teachers from 160 partner universities are available on edX. The courses are free, and for a fee you can obtain a Certificate of Achievement for completing an online course. Programs & Degrees pathways are available for a fee. Computer science, and data analysis and statistics courses can be found on edX.

Digital Skills Subject Areas:

  • Computer Science
  • Data Analysis & Statistics

Free: Yes
Access: Unlimited

Future Learn

Future Learn is a UK based MOOC that was launched in 2012. All online courses are free, but only for the duration of the course plus 14 days. With a subscription, the subscriber has unlimited access to the online course material as long as they are a subscriber. Future Learn offers courses in IT and computer science.

Digital Skills Subject Areas:

  • IT & Computer Science

Free: Yes
Free Subscription Trial: 7 days
Subscription Pricing: $279.99/year
Access: Free-Limited, Subscription-Unlimited


Kadenze aims to bring the best online education in art and creative technologies to the world. The online courses are free, but there is content within each course that is only available to Premium subscribers. The subscription includes a certificate of completion and unlimited access to online course content. Kadenze offers many online courses in digital skills from Game Design to Web Development.

Digital Skills Subject Areas:

  • Game Design
  • Creative Computing
  • Web Development
  • Entertainment Technology
  • Physical Computing
  • Digital Fabrication

Free: Yes
Free Subscription Trial: 30 days
Monthly Pricing: $20/mo
Access: Free-Limited, Subscription-Unlimited

LinkedIn Learning

In 2015, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Learning. LinkedIn Learning is accessible to anyone with a LinkedIn Premium account. The online courses offered on LinkedIn Learning are focused on up-skills in business, software, and creative fields. LinkedIn Learning offers digital skills courses in Cloud Computing to Cybersecurity.

Digital Skills Subject Areas:

  • Cloud Computing
  • Full-stack Web Development
  • DevOps 
  • Cybersecurity, 
  • Data Science 
  • AI

Free: No
Free Subscription Trial: 30 days
Subscription Pricing: multiple tiers available starting at $29.99/mo
Access: limited

Shaw Academy

Shaw Academy is based out of Dublin, Ireland, and was launched in 2013. It offers 100+ online courses in 10 categories. It offers a 4 weeks free trial period. Unlimited access to all online course material costs $69.99/mo. With a subscription, a student has access to such digital skills courses such as Web Development, Data Analytics, and Coding.

Digital Skills Subject Areas:

  • Coding & Computer Science
  • Web Development
  • Advanced Microsoft Excel
  • Game Development
  • Web Design
  • Data Analytics
  • Computer Science
  • Data Development

Free: No
Free Subscription Trial: 4 weeks
Subscription Pricing: $69.99/mo
Access: Unlimited with subscription


Skillshare is  a free online learning platform with the goal of connecting creative and curious people with teachers who are passionate experts in their fields. The number of free online courses is limited. With a Premium membership, there is unlimited access to online course materials. Skillshare offers popular courses in Graphic Design, UI/UX Design, and Web Development. 

Digital Skills Subject Areas:

  • Graphic Design
  • UI/UX Design
  • Web Development

Free: Yes
Free Subscription Trial: 14 days
Subscription Pricing: $19/mo
Access: Free-Limited, Subscription-Unlimited


Udemy was launched in 2010 and aimed at professional adults and students who wanted to take their skills and education further. They offer a wide variety of online courses in 60+ languages making its content globally accessible. Some of their digital skills courses include IT, Network & Security, and Operating Systems. The price of online courses varies from course to course depending on the content of the online course. Access is limited to the purchased course. Udemy offers a variety of discounts and promotions on its online courses, but there is no free trial period. 

Digital Skills Subject Areas:

  • IT Certifications
  • Network & Security
  • Hardware
  • Operating Systems & Servers
  • Other IT & Software

Free: No
Free Subscription Trial: Offers Vary
Subscription Pricing: Varies by Course
Access: Limited to Purchased Course

The Breakdown: General Studies MOOCs with Digital Skills Courses

NameYear LaunchedFreeFree TrialPricingAccessIvy League CoursesDegree/


Academic Earth2009Yesn/aFreeUnlimitedYesNo
Coursera2012Yes-Limited7 days$59/moFree-LimitedYesAvailable with Subscription
edX2012Yesn/aFreeUnlimitedYesAvailable for Purchase
Future Learn2012Yes7 days$279.99/yrFree-LimitedNoAvailable with Subscription
Kadenze2013Yes30 days$20/moFree-LimitedYesAvailable with Subscription
LinkedIn Learning2015No30 daysStarting at $29.99/moUnlimited with SubscriptionNoAvailable with Subscription
Shaw Academy2013No4 weeks$69.99/moUnlimited with SubscriptionNoAvailable with Subscription
SkillShare2010Yes14 days$19/moFree-LimitedNoNo
Udemy2010Yes-Limited7 days$19.99/moFree-LimitedNoAvailable with Subscription

In Conclusion

Massive Open Online Courses, MOOCs, are changing the landscape of online learning. You can find online courses from coding to calligraphy. There are free online courses, and there are subscription based platforms. Course are created by companies, industry experts, and universities. Some online courses stand alone. Some courses are combined with others to give the learner a comprehensive education on a subject matter. MOOCs are creditable and accessible. The options are endless. The opportunity to learn, grown, and gain new skills is limitless.