Massive open online courses (MOOCs) -- or online instruction for lifelong learners and those without access to higher education domestically or abroad -- are still relatively new to the continuing education landscape. And they're not going away anytime soon. Often free and always relatively cheap (when compared with the cost of typical higher education classes), MOOCs can be a valuable tool for pretty much anyone with Internet access to further their education, specialize within their career (whether you're a dietitian, say, or a data analyst) or simply pick up a new language or instrument. For the most curious among us, it's also an inexpensive way to step onto the campus of an Ivy League school, if only for an hour-long webinar.
But where do you these digital opportunities online? Well, it turns out that this university-level instruction (and sometimes certification) can be had in many corners of the web. And you don't have to live in one of America's most educated cities to find them.
Start with edX, an aggregator of courses from some of the country's top colleges. Depending on what classes you sign up for (and whether you audit them), you could earn signed credentials from your professors. If you prefer to only "attend" one school, consider that many schools also host their course content, sometimes exclusively, on their own websites. This group includes: Stanford Online, Harvard Extension, Open Yale Courses, UC Berkeley Class Central, MIT OpenCourseWare, Tufts Open Courseware, Utah State Open Courseware, Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative, Notre Dame's Digital Publishing Initiative, Open.Michigan, UCI Open, University of London Podcasts and University of Oxford Podcasts.
If you want to get off "campus," recognize that there are many platforms with an expansive list of course topics that go beyond the traditional curriculum: Coursera, Khan Academy, openSAP, Udacity, Open Learning, Canvas Network, Saylor and World Education University. Similarly, Future Learn is big in the United Kingdom, as is Open 2 Study in Australia.
Other online aggregators -- Mooc List, Coursade, Class Central, Academic Earth, Open Culture, Canvas Network and Coursmos -- will pull courses from all of those aforementioned sites if you prefer a one-stop shop (where everything is free or close to it!).
Online education started back in the day to train career transitioners into newer fields like web development. But you don't have to be near of America's best places for technology careers to become, say, a coder. Some of the best e-learning platforms for that include Codecademy, Code, Channel 9, One Month.
But we're not all burgeoning technologists, are we? Worry not, for there are platforms for your educational aspirations: for journalism (Poynter's News University); for coding (); for technology and design (Kadenze, General Assembly); for office skills (NovoEd); for kids (Fun Brain, Whyville, National Geographic Kids); for learning English (FluentU, MOOEC); for foreign languages (Memrise, Livemocha, Duolingo); for philanthropy (Foundation Center); for gaining certifications (ALISON, University of the People); for forming offline study groups in various subject areas (Peer 2 Peer University's Learning Circles); for Apple users looking to learn on a mobile device (iTunesU); for creating a course (Open Learning).
And that's the idea, right? Something for anyone, any time and at no (or very little) cost.