25 Free Online Courses for Seniors
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The decision to further your education is a big one. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to learning, and going back to school full- or part-time might be too much stress or commitment for you — especially in the middle of a pandemic.
Luckily, there are many senior discounts available for continuing education. Online courses are often low-cost or free for seniors, allowing you to learn new skills or ideas without having to commit to full-time learning. These courses also don’t force you to worry about grades or homework, as most are offered free of charge and allow you to work at your own pace.
We’ve rounded up a list of free online courses to help you get started with learning new things.
General Lifelong Learning Websites
These sites offer lectures and courses in a variety of subjects, including math, science, history, English and more.
With a library of over 20,000 lectures, VideoLectures is a great resource for anyone looking to start with online learning. Helpful or interesting topics for seniors may include nutrition, social networking or visual arts, but the site offers lectures in everything from climate change to astronomy. All the lectures are free and open access — however, the videos were recorded at conferences or workshops, so they might be harder for the general public to digest. Also note that not all lectures are presented in English, so it might take some digging to find a good one.
For those without a lot of time on their hands, Howcast offers a large selection of short videos explaining various concepts and ideas. Though these videos aren’t as thorough or educational as actual lectures, they are a good way to learn about a variety of skills for free. Howcast videos cover a ton of topics from anger management to aquarium care and scrapbooking. Starting on Howcast could help you find a subject you’re passionate about to pursue further.
TED, which stands for Technology, Education and Design, has created a series of online, educational lectures called TED Talks that involve scholars or experts giving 10–15-minute presentations on a subject of their choice. These talks are available for free online or via the TED Talks app, and are offered in a variety of subjects from ending ageism to living in life’s third act.
Those who joke that they’re getting a degree from “YouTube University” aren’t too far off, as YouTube now offers a learning channel that compiles videos about educational topics. The videos offered on YouTube vary in length, but are all typically under 20 minutes. Via curated playlists that offer lessons on a variety of subjects, you can find videos on the impacts of anxiety, the benefits of reading and more.
Via the Academic Earth universities portal, you can find a collection of courses and lectures online for free. The site hosts courses and lectures from universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Princeton University and Stanford University. The courses cover a diverse range of topics, from real estate finance through MIT to an observation of capitalism from Yale.
Computer Courses and Guides for Seniors
With new technology and social media websites being invented every year, it can be hard to stay connected. These courses help seniors get acquainted with the technology they need to connect with friends, family and the world.
The TechBoomers introduction to Facebook course includes a thorough overview of the website and how to use it, including how to navigate features like tagging and events. It also includes an overview of Facebook privacy settings to help keep you safe on the site.
For seniors who are new to computer use, the Skillful Senior website helps with basic concepts like using a mouse and typing. The Skillful Senior mission is to provide seniors with a quick and easy course that will set them up for success with computer use moving forward.
The Meganga team set out to help senior citizens and those just beginning with computers learn how to use the systems. With their online security course, Meganga teaches people how to identify and resolve viruses while also being able to safely shop online and store passwords.
Setting up a Wi-Fi connection is essential to using the internet, but can also be confusing. The TechBoomers guide to Wi-Fi teaches participants how to set up their connection, how a router works and how to change their password. The skills learned in this course will help you learn how to get and stay connected.
For those who want to learn a little bit of everything, the Computers 101 course offered by Teach an Old Dog New Tricks covers everything from how to turn your computer on to how to identify phishing emails. This is a helpful and thorough guide that can help you figure out how to do exactly what you need.
Courses for Learning a New Hobby Online
These courses can help you learn a new hobby that will keep you active, moving and having fun.
Introduction to Poetry
Poetry is a fun way to express yourself, and a cool hobby that anyone can learn. This course, offered for free through iTunes and taught by Lanette Cadle of Missouri State University, teaches a bit about the history of poetry and how to start writing it.
Free Drawing Lessons For Beginners
Learning to draw is fun and relaxing! Kline Creative offers a free series of online lessons that teach the basics of drawing. Each video is under 10 minutes long and is available for free through the Kline Creative website.
In addition to being a fun and relaxing hobby, knitting allows you to create sweaters, blankets or hats for loved ones that they will cherish forever. Knit Picks offers a series of free knitting guides that will teach you all about the craft, from color theory to the stitches themselves.
Gardening is a fun way to spend relaxing time outdoors, and create something beautiful for your yard. Whether you’re interested in growing flowers, vegetables or bushes, the free Garden Tutor course will get you set up with the information you need to succeed. Note: the course itself is free, with the option to buy the Garden Tutor Course Kit that provides a few gardening materials.
Unleash your inner Shakespeare with a fiction writing course. Whether you opt for short stories, long novels or even just a few paragraphs, writing fiction can help you get your imagination working. The free fiction writing course from Open University provides tips on how to get started with writing.
Online Health and Wellness Courses
As you get older, caring for your wellness becomes increasingly more important. These courses can help you learn more about how to take care of your body and monitor what you eat.
WebMD Videos A-Z
A long-standing resource for those looking for information about their health, WebMD offers a series of videos that cover a large array of health-related topics on its Videos A-Z page. Topics include everything from acne and allergies to pets and sexual health.
Weight Management: Beyond Balancing Calories
As you get older, it’s important to start thinking about your nutrition and the food you eat. This free weight management course takes about 18 hours to complete and will teach you the basics of what obesity is and the factors that might lead to it on a grand scale.
Sit Less, Get Active
This course offered by The University of Edinburgh explains the dangers of sitting for too long, or living a sedentary lifestyle. This course not only explains the dangers of being sedentary, but also provides solutions for ways you can get up and active. Learn to set physical goals and become more active in your daily life.
Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us
It’s important to understand the basic functions of your body, so you can also understand what it’s trying to tell you. This course provides an overview of the vital signs — blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and pain — so you can know how to spot potential issues and what is normal.
Yoga With Adriene
Practicing yoga can help you with both your physical and mental health. There are many free online yoga videos available, but a popular series is Yoga With Adriene. The Yoga With Adriene channel provides yoga videos for all body types, yoga experience levels and time needs.
Free Online University or School Classes
Online learning can bring you back to your school days without the need to actually step into a school.
The BBC website provides language training in a variety of languages, including French, Spanish, Greek and Italian. The video tutorials are free to access and include activities to help you learn a language. Though only intended for beginners, this is a great stepping stone to learning a new dialect.
History of the U.S. Since 1877
Part of the iTunes open university project, this course teaches about the history of the United States from 1877 onward. The 21 videos in the course are roughly an hour long, and cover everything from Progressivism to the Cold War. For those looking to learn more about the history of the U.S., this is a good place to start.
How Things Work: An Introduction to Physics
Physics teaches you how things work, including how objects exist and travel through the world. This course breaks down the subject of physics and presents it in the context of everyday objects, such as skateboards.
Greek and Roman Mythology
In addition to being the inspiration for many movies and stories told today, Greek and Roman mythology are also interesting subjects that are fun to learn. This course from the University of Pennsylvania reviews some of popular Greek and Roman myths, and explains their relevance today.
Introduction to Philosophy
Why do humans act or think how they do? Philosophy seeks to answer these questions, by introducing questions about why we think the way we do and what makes a good person. This introductory philosophy course from the University of Texas at Austin provides a first look at famous philosophers and their teachings.
Benefits of Online Courses for Seniors
Going back to school physically, or even full-time online, can be too much of a physical stressor or time commitment. Enrolling in classes online as you want to take them offers more flexibility and the ability to only learn what you want to learn.
Flexibility: Most online courses are self-paced and don’t have set deadlines, so you can work when you can without feeling pressure to get a good grade or get assignments completed on time. This takes the pressure off of going to class and allows you to only experience the benefits of continuing your learning.
Safety: At all times — but especially during a pandemic — there are risks involved with traveling to and from a campus. Taking courses online eliminates the need to leave your home office or computer set-up, so you can take classes without taking the risks.
Mental stimulation: Learning new things keeps the brain focused and sharp. Taking online classes can help you learn new hobbies or life skills, but it’s also a great way to keep your brain functioning and thinking. A study by Psychology Today found that when aging people take classes online, it helps improve their self image and emotional balance.
Cost savings: Classes can be expensive — especially if you decide to attend in person or to pursue a degree. However, attending classes or taking courses online is typically more cost-efficient than going in-person or enrolling in a degree program. Taking a few courses on the web can be a good way to explore what you want to do and learn before potentially taking the plunge into something more expensive.
Other Ways for Seniors to Learn for Free
For those who don’t mind venturing outside or committing to a class, there are a few other free options for continued learning.
Libraries: Many libraries offer free classes for the general public, and some specific to seniors, on a variety of topics. Common library classes include computer courses and book clubs. Check with your local library for classes in your area.
Discounted college courses: Many state colleges offer free classes or a discount for senior citizens. This guide from AARP can help you navigate college discounts in your state.
Free books for seniors: For those who want to learn without any guidance, free books are available online. Many sites provide these free reads; just download the book to a computer or reading tablet.
Free gym classes for seniors: For those who want to learn how to care for their bodies, Silver Sneakers classes are available for free to anyone with the Silver Sneakers plan included in their Medicare.
A benefit of pursuing new skills online is that you can learn at your own pace and for a low price tag. All you need is a computer and an internet connection, and you’re ready to get started with learning.
The only expense to cover is the cost of the computer, which can be eased with aids like these Dell coupons.
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