Yes, it is possible to study for free. If you find that you’re having difficulty getting employment, or haven’t managed to get into a tertiary institution next year, you could do some free online courses in the meantime to upskill yourself at no cost. There are many online courses available on the internet but many of them are expensive, especially for South Africans. There are, though, really good courses available online which won’t cost you anything and you can do them as a self-study.

A self-study means that you decide when you’re going to be able to commit time to studying. This is helpful if you are only able to study at night or on weekends but the pitfall is that, without committed hours, you might not get around to finishing the course. The best thing to do is to commit to definite hours of study per week, just as if you were going to lectures, and don’t let other things distract you. You’ll have assignments to hand in which are due on a certain date, just like any other course, so you’ll need to be organised and prepared to do these too.

Here are some sites that host various courses:

Coursera –

This site is an educational platform that partners with top universities and organisations worldwide and has some free courses available. Their selection of free courses and degrees are really worthwhile and cover a vast range of fields. The courses are provided by universities such as Yale, Michigan, Stanford and a host of others around the world including the University of Cape Town. Google and IBM are two of the organisations that partner with Coursera.

One course from UCT that is particularly interesting in the South African context is:
Becoming a Changemaker – Introduction to Social Innovation

Others from UCT are:
Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries
Understanding Clinical Research – Behind the statistics

There are many other choices from around the world such as:
Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web2.0 (University of Houston)
How Music can change your life (University of Melbourne)
English for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (University of Pennsylvania
Algorithms Part 1 (Princeton University)
These courses are all free courses and there are many more!

EdX –

EdX also offers some courses for free. This site describes itself as a ‘Massive open online course (MOOC) provider’. It hosts online university level courses and was started by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Again there are many courses for you to choose from but here is a small sample:

Storytelling for Social Change (University of Michigan)
Reinvent yourself: Unleash your Creativity (University of Texas)
Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies (Harvard University)
Some of these courses come with instructors / professors who guide you through the course material which can be very helpful if you have questions.

Udacity –

This site is USA based and it offers nanodegrees (courses that can be completed in less than 12 months). It is also really helpful because it has a Career Help section which includes information on job hunting.

The courses that Udacity offer fall into the following categories:

Artificial Intelligence
Data Science
Autonomous Systems

Here is a sprinkling of the courses they offer in these categories:
Mobile Web Design
Introduction to Programming
Digital marketing
Android basics
Google Adwords

Alison –

Alison offers some free online courses. You will have to check each course individually to see if it is free or not. Students have access to courses from institutions such as Columbia University (USA), Cambridge University (UK), Yale University (USA), Microsoft and Google.

Some of their free courses are:

Entrepreneurship – Creativity in Business
Diploma in Customer Services
Financial Literacy

Diploma in C Programming
Introduction to programming with Python

Working with Students with Special Educational Needs
How to plan your career path

These are some of the sites that host online courses but there are others to explore such as Khan Academy that offers some school –level and other basic courses. And don’t forget FunDza’s own language courses available for free too!

Do some exploring and see what you find interesting. Once you’ve chosen a course to complete, make sure that you are prepared to put the necessary effort in. It will need some hard work on your part. But by putting in this work you will have something extra to put on your CV and it will show potential employers that you are prepared to go the extra mile! And you will have more information and skills in your pocket!


Tell us: have you done any online courses? If so, what advice can you add?