by Rich Hein

8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills

Nov 13, 20148 mins
CareersIT SkillsPersonal Software

The cost of learning just got cheaper. tracked down these eight free ways to grow your technology skill set.

More free online tech courses

Updated: 6/3/2015 This slideshow is part of’s ongoing commitment to help foster our reader’s focus on professional development. The courses highlighted here are all free and are good examples of how the digital revolution is bringing education to the masses around the globe.

At one time, universities and colleges were institutes of higher learning for those who were passionate about acquiring knowledge. Today, education discussions tend to to center around how much individuals can make with their degree. Thanks to the Internet there are still places that offer open learning initiatives designed to help a new generation of technologists succeed.

If money was the only thing holding you back from learning more about technology, we’ve got good news for you. There are many places offering free online tech training that while may not be degree/certificate driven can still give you a leg up on the competition.

While many of the courses listed here offer either a certificate or credit for a fee, they also all are free for those who just want to learn about technology or add a new skill to their “toolbox.”

Data visualization

Data visualization online course

Those who can take different types of data and visualize it in a way that helps provide clarity and insight are in demand. The big data machine is picking up steam. In fact, according to recent data from Dice, big data skills rank highly among those most in demand by employers.

This four-week free course offered by the University of Illinois through Coursera provides a foundation in elementary graphics programming, human perception and cognition, basic visualization, visualizing relationships and information. The course is offered from July 20th – August 15th, 2015 and requires roughly 4-6 hours per week of study time.

Programming for everybody (Python)

Programming for everybody (Python online course)

This beginner’s course is a gentle introduction into the world of Python programming. It’s meant to be a first programming course, and as a result the focus is more so on understanding the concepts. There are no prerequisites and no advanced math skills are required so if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to code or are just interested in the simple intuitive programming syntax that Python offers now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity to learn.

This 10-week free course is offered from June 1st to August 9th 2015. It requires 2-4 hours a week of study time. All textbooks and resources are free.

Begin programming: build your first mobile game

Begin programming: build your first mobile game

A crash course in programming, this offering from Future Learn aims to teach the beginnings of Java, taking students through the basics of programming by modifying a small Java game (code provided) that can run on your desktop or your Android devices.

Over the seven-week course starting June 1 , 2015 students will be introduced to the basic constructs of Java that are similar to many programming languages. The course consists of video introductions, on-screen examples, Java game code, downloadable guides, articles and group discussions. It requires roughly four hours of study per week.

Driving business results with big data

Driving business results with big data online course

If you work in an SAP environment and have an interest in big data, OpenSAP offers this free online course and the name says it all. The course, through use case examples, shows you how to find value in all the data being collected. The first week looks at how different companies found business success by acting on answers provided by big data. The remainder introduces the different SAP solutions and the parts they play in world of big data, enterprise deployment and SAP environments.

This five- week course runs from June 23 to August 4, 2015. It requires roughly four-five hours of study per week. Students should have basic SAP skills.

Diploma in multimedia development

Diploma in multimedia development

This popular offering from Alison teaches you how to create videos, visual effects, motion graphics and animations, while you learn to use multimedia tools like, Adobe Photoshop, Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Flash, Audacity, Director MX and Adobe After Effects. This is a study-at-your-own-pace course so you can take it any time. It requires overall roughly 10-15 hours of study and will teach you the basic techniques and tools used by graphic designers to create compelling content.

Introduction to Linux

linux intro

Have you always wanted to learn more about Linux but never had the extra cash to inveset. This course offered through edX might be just what you’re looking for. The Linux Foundation partnered with edX to offer this free Introduction to the Linux that covers familiarity with the graphical interface and command line as well as a look at all the major Linux distributions. The course gives an over view of the day to day working environment of a Linux administrator and covers pertinent tools and skills.

The designers of the course estimate that a total of 40- 60 hours of study are required to accurately cover the material. Students have the option of auditing the course, at no cost. You get access to course materials, tests, assignments and activities. Those who audit and complete the course will receive a certificate of achievement, but for those wanting to add it as a bullet point on their resume there is a verified certificate available for a fee.

Google Analytics Academy

google analytics academy

With the proliferation of the Web, online shopping and social media marketing, competition for organic search traffic has gone through the roof. Understanding your website’s analytics can help you make better data-based decisions while at the same time improving the customer experience. Google knows this and would love for you to use its product, Google Analytics. So much so that they’ve created this online learning center that offers courses to help you better use the hidden data located within your site.

Building Mobile Experiences

mit building mobile experiences

Another MIT offering through edX, Building Mobile Experiences, looks at the foundation for building mobile experiences. Mobile app traffic accounted for 55 percent of Web usage, surpassing desktop to become the dominant percentage of internet traffic, illustrating the need for today’s developer to become acquainted with the process, design and skills necessary to build the next “big thing.”

Based on a poplar MIT class that’s been taught since 2006, Building Mobile Experiences’ primary focus explores the analysis of mobile user behavior and the implementation of those findings in the design process. The course length is 12 weeks and requires roughly 10-12 hours of study per week. While there is some code writing required, the bulk of the course will be designing and evaluating what a “unique mobile experience” is.

Students can pay to receive a verified certificate of achievement or audit the course for free and receive and Honor Code Certificate.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

microsoft virtual academy

Microsoft Virtual Academy offers a host of courses on mainly — you guessed it — Microsoft products. They offer courses on everything from game to cloud to app development and many more. There is no cost to participate but you must use a Microsoft account and create an MVA profile. Once you’re logged in you can take courses or attend live events as well as build a learning plan and track progress towards your goals.



Udacity got its start when Stanford University starting offering free computer classes in 2011. In April 2014, it boasted more than 1.6 million users. Its free tech offerings include HTML , Python, Intro to Data Science and many more. In fact, Google recently partnered with Udacity to bring Android development to the masses. Individuals who access the courses for free get access to course materials, like instructor videos and project instructions.



Alison offers an array of free online technical courses covering everything from, building an online business, to C programming to several flavors of Adobe training. One of their more popular tech courses is, ABC IT – Computer Training Suite which teaches users the basics of computing.

Altogether the e-learning provider reports more than 3 million have used its solutions to get educated and they offer more than 600 courses. They have roughly 106 technology courses available in their Digital Literacy and Skills section.

Design and Development of Educational Technology

google analytics academy

Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a course entitled, Design and Development of Educational Technology via Edx, a service offering interactive online classes and MOOCs from some of the world’s most distinguished universities. The course runs six week and requires 4-6 hours of study each week. The course itself covers the evolution of educational technologies and how it’s being used en masse.

Enrollment for the most recent ended October 8th and the course will run for 6 weeks. It’s unclear at this time whether it will run again before 2015.

Harvard’s CS50 Computer Science


Harvard offers this introduction to computer science. Those who participate will get a foundation in basic coding and learn aspects of C programming, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and SQL. This is a great, free way for individuals who want to learn to code to get their wish. You can enroll for Harvard credit or earn a certificate of achievement for a fee. You can also audit the course for free. Those who audit the course and achieve a satisfactory level of work will receive an Honor Code certificate.