Free online courses can vary significantly in terms of quality. Some courses, while useful, only serve to capture the interest of the student long enough to pitch a paid product or service. Other classes contain an overwhelming amount of advertising or the learning platform is poorly designed.
In reviewing the free online courses, we narrowed our initial list to the 10 providers that appear to have the most robust offerings. Then, we developed an overall methodology to help the user choose which one is right for them. Although each course has its merits, we ranked them in numerical order. Number one is our top choice, while number 10 comes in at the tail end. The ranking is based on the following criteria:
While all of the listed courses can be accessed at no charge, some features, such as certification or graded exams may be hidden behind a paywall. Those that provide these extra features with no additional financial commitment rank higher on our list.
• Scope of the curriculum
Some courses contain only introductory information, while others are significantly more comprehensive. The more thorough the subject is covered, the higher the course ranks.
• User Experience
We look carefully at the design of the platform itself to see if the interface makes it easy for students to reach their learning goals. Straightforward programs that take people through a series of lessons with clarity rank higher than those that require a learning curve or that seem problematic or confusing.
• Quality of Instruction
The ability of an instructor to make lessons captivating and interesting makes an impression when it comes to rankings. If the individual is not clear and engaging, the quality of the program suffers. Some of the best courses on our list are taught by everyday entrepreneurs with a passion for what they are doing.
• Ratings of Former Students
Nobody can critique a product quite like someone who has utilized it already. That’s why we look at both positive and negative reviews from former students who have completed a given course. Ratings are found on the individual learning platforms themselves as well as through third-party review sites like Class Central and Consumer Affairs.