Don Holcomb needed help. The 55-year-old Phoenix engineer couldn’t figure out how to finish testing his invention—a solar-powered cooling system—despite a PhD in industrial engineering.
So, Holcomb decided to look for an online course. He ended up at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT is the pioneer of the Open Courseware movement, which places professors’ lectures (via video, audio, slides or text) into the public sphere for anyone to view. That's right: free online classes from MIT.
Holcomb took a free continuing education course online in chemical engineering processes, which helped him figure out how to proceed with testing his invention.
“Hearing it from the teacher and hearing his emphasis adds a lot to the learning experience,” says Holcomb. “You don’t get that out of just reading textbooks.”
MIT isn’t the only school to offer free Open Courseware courses. At least 200 colleges and universities now offer free continuing education classes, either on their own websites or through iTunes University or the YouTube Education channel. Nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and others also are offering free courses online.
While you won’t earn degrees or certificates for completing these courses, you can learn valuable information and job and career skills that can help you in the workplace. Maybe, like Holcomb, you need technical knowledge to help you with a new business. Or maybe you need to brush up on a skill or acquire key knowledge in order to land a job or promotion.
GetEducated.com's Top 10 top free online courses - online continuing education that can help you advance in your career or job at no cost.
1. iPhone Application Programming
Stanford University is offering a free course training people in iPhone app creation (you must have access to a Mac and know basic programming). Lectures are on Stanford’s iTunes University site.
Develop the right app and you can make millions for yourself or your company.
2. Learn Spanish Through Social Networking
Many jobs today require Spanish bilingualism. Knowing another language—especially Spanish—can give you a leg up over other applicants.
Livemocha is a free online service that uses social networking to help you learn a new language. The site lets you practice speaking and writing foreign languages through lessons and exercises, plus matches you up with native speakers who can correct your work. Basic lessons are free, but to receive phrase books, grammar guides and tutoring support, you will have to pay a modest fee.
Another option: Mango Languages, which is offered free by some library systems. Mango offers complimentary basic lessons for 10 major languages; more lessons require buying a package—unless your library will provide this for you. Check here to see whether your library carries the Mango program.
3. How to Win Customers in a Slowing Economy
The Small Business Administration has a series of video lectures about small business topics, including how to market during a downturn, how to procure government contracts and SBA loans (including those funded by the stimulus package), how to write a business plan, and other tips. Free, but on-site registration required.
4. Going Green
Whether it’s retrofitting office buildings or manufacturing and installing solar panels, green is in … and will be a great market in the coming months.
Learn about green technology by taking the iTunes University video lecture series, Going Green—43 videos produced by State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Another option: MIT’s Ecology II: Engineering for Sustainability.
5. Blogs, Wiki and New Media for Learning
Market yourself and your business through Web 2.0 tools in this series of lessons by Utah State University.
Also try: iTunes U course “Exploring Web 2.0” by Instructional Technology Services of Central Ohio (ITSCO@Ohio)—13 lessons about Twitter, Flickr and other services.
6. Teaching With Technology
Traditional teachers may want to shift to online teaching, either for new jobs or to supplement incomes. The University of Maryland University College teamed with Verizon to offer a virtual resource site with free online teaching tips explaining how to engage with distance learners through various assignments and activities.
Another great resource: Michigan State University’s Teach Online.
7. Medical Terminology
Health care is a relatively unscathed sector of the economy. Jobs in everything from pharmacy to health insurance require knowledge of medical terminology. Miami Dade College’s School of Applied Health has a brief but informative video course available at iTunes U.
8. Principles of Financial Accounting
The College of Eastern Utah’s accounting course includes ten YouTube video lectures.
Another option: the Small Business Development Center in conjunction with Kitzman University has produced a series of four accounting lessons using slides, audio, and case studies.
9. Grant-seeking basics
Nonprofit organizations often need people who know how to write grants, either as staff or contract employees. Learn specifics of how to prepare a grant application through a free program by the Minnesota Council on Foundations.
Another choice: the Foundation Center’s free “Proposal Writing Short Course.”
10. Project Management
Project management is a growing career field, with median salaries in 2006 of $96,000. Learn about the profession through a free 25-hour, master’s level course at the Open University.
Also: MIT offers a System and Project Management course.
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