5 places you can find online courses perfect for improving skills and professional development

February 12, 2021

As we continue to be in lockdown, you may find that you have far more time on your hands. It makes it the perfect time to look at how you can improve skills, whether you want to get ahead in your career or simply learn something new.

While traditional classes are not possible at the moment, there’s a whole range of free online courses available to start now. Some even come with a certification that can give your CV a boost in a competitive job market. With the freedom to learn at your own pace and pick something that you’re interested in, online courses can help get you through another lockdown.

Here are five online sites to explore to find something that suits you.

1. Open University

Since being established in the 1960s, the Open University has built up a reputation for pioneering distance learning. It’s known for offering flexible study options for undergraduates and postgraduates, with more than two million students choosing Open University. However, it offers plenty of qualifications and short courses too, including an impressive catalogue of free courses.

You can search for free courses here. They range from one-hour beginner courses to give you a taste of the topic, to advanced courses with 20+ hours to delve into. It means you can find something that suits your schedule and priorities. The range of courses is huge too, from how to write a SWOT analysis in business communication to a history course looking at art and life in ancient Egypt. It means you’re sure to find something that will capture your interest. Most free courses come with a statement of participation or badges.

2. UK Learns

UK Learns was launched in 2020 as a direct response to the impact Covid-19 has had on employment. The portal brings together a variety of courses, all designed to support workers who find themselves either furloughed or out of work. While most of them are self-study, some do come with scheduled sessions with a tutor for those that prefer contact-based learning. The courses are accredited and can be added to CVs.

Options include a range of areas, from learning a new skill that could be useful in a changing job market, such as computer programming, to building soft skills that are valued by employers, like communication, resilience, and digital literacy. The site allows you to set out a goal to bring up courses that suit your needs, from getting extra qualifications to progress in a certain industry to learning something new. Find out more here.

3. Coursera

Coursera collaborates with over 200 universities from around the world, from Imperial College London to Stanford, to bring valuable courses. Founded in 2012, its initial focus was on computer sciences, making it ideal for those with an interest in technology. However, it has expanded considerably since then to include various areas of study, as well as degrees and workplace development options aimed at businesses.

Heading to the free course list here means you can narrow down your search based on the subject area, time, and level. However, you can also filter results based on the institution offering the course, a great option if there’s a particular university or organisation that specialises in your chosen area. The rating system, which shows you how others have graded the course, is an excellent function too.

4. Class Central

Class Central works similarly to Coursera, bringing together over 15,000 online courses from a variety of universities around the world, from the US to China, that you can complete online. It gives you access to a huge catalogue of different subjects to learn from. Again, courses are ranked, allowing you to quickly select those that are rated by fellow learners as you search.

A glance at the highest-rated courses demonstrates how many choices you have, as well as the calibre of the institutions offering them. Among the top courses are Learning How to Learn from the University of California San Diego, Machine Learning from Stamford University, Understanding Dementia from the University of Tasmania, and English in Early Childhood from the British Council.

5. HubSpot

If you’re interested in learning more about marketing in the digital age, HubSpot is a great place to start. Even if you already work in the industry, the specialisms covered makes it a good platform for brushing up on your skills or expanding your knowledge to new areas. You can find the selection of free courses here.

Whether you’re interested in marketing on social media platforms to drive sales or how you could use Excel to boost your existing marketing processes, the courses could help give you an edge. The certification options are often recognised within the industry too. Some options are valuable for business owners as well, for example how to move from field sales to remote selling or how to attract prospects through content.

Many local authorities, organisations and charities are offering courses and other professional development options to those affected by the pandemic too. Be sure to check your local area for updates.