In today’s fast paced world, the degrees you have will soon be outdated. This is especially true when it comes to IT skills, as newer technologies are adopted by the hour. And if you are a working professional, then staying abreast with emerging technologies can prove to be quite a task. What can come to your rescue are online education sites, which offer certificates and diplomas in various subjects at little or no cost. True to the open source and free spirit of the Internet, there are many educational sites that endeavour to provide free education to benefit millions around the world. And increasingly, many prestigious universities around the world have joined in the bandwagon, by offering either their course content or at times even offering courses. It’s also a good way to pick up a new skill that you always wanted to learn or add a certificate from a prestigious university abroad to your repertoire, which otherwise would be a difficult task. Listed below are few such online educational resources you can tap into.             

Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyMIT has several initiatives to enable online learning

MIT has several initiatives to enable online learning

The prestigious US based Massachusetts Institute of Technology is probably the first amongst the leading universities around the world to provide open source education online. MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) will provide you with virtually all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate course content for over two thousand courses. The courses include those on engineering, science, arts, architecture, technology, social sciences, amongst others. If you look at courses in technology, then you have courses on Artificial Intelligence, Programming, Java, Algorithms, Web Applications, Networking, Game Theory, Computer System Architecture, Operating System Engineering and more. Next to each course, you will see certain symbols denoting the availability of lecture notes, examples, image galleries, notes, multimedia content, assignments, online textbooks etc. Besides this, earlier this year MIT also launched MITx, its online learning initiative. It will offer MIT courses for free and any individual around the world can enroll for it. It began with a prototype course ‘6.002x: Circuits and Electronics’. The course material is designed in such a way that it will enable students to learn at their own pace. It includes online laboratories and interactivity feature that will allow students to communicate with each other. After successful completion of the course, students will get a certificate at a fee. MIT, alongwith Harvard University, has also launched edX, which will provide online courses offered by MIT, Harvard, as well as other universities like Berkeley University of California and The University of Texas Systems. edX plans to add in more courses form universities around the world. Upon completion of the course, students will get a certificate for a small fee.    

The Open University

It is one of the oldest and biggest universities in the world that nurtures distance learning

One of the oldest and biggest universities in the world that nurtures distance learning

Based in UK, The Open University is one of the oldest and biggest universities in the world that nurtures distance learning. Most importantly, it doesn’t take into account your previous educational credits into consideration for their undergraduate courses. It offers proper undergraduate and post-graduate paid courses. Apart from degree courses, it also offers several certificate and diploma courses. In terms of courses, you can choose from Arts & Humanities, Computing & IT, Engineering, Technology & Design, Languages, Law, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Psychology etc. Many of its courses are open for students from all around the world via their distance learning initiative. If you are not sure about joining the university, then you can take their introductory-level courses that will help you understand your subject area a little better. They also provide financial support and you also have the option to study a single module if you don’t wish to opt for the whole course. If you sign-up for one of their courses, then the distance learning will be enabled via textual content, videos, audio material, web classes and even online conferencing. The IT courses include courses on Networking, Linux, Designing Applications, Java Programming, Web Technologies, Software Development and more. You will receive a certificate after successful completion of the course.    

AlisonHere you will find courses that are oriented towards a particular job skill

Here you will find courses that are oriented towards a particular job skill

Advance Learning Interactive Systems Online (or Alison as it is known) is one of the largest education resources on the Internet. Brainchild of Irishman Mike Feerick, it recently completed five years. It focuses on imparting courses that will equip people with special skills that will help them get employment. It offers over 400 vocational courses, which are updated on regular basis. These courses cover a large ground and cover diverse topics like IT, English Skills, Languages, Business Law, Accounting, Health Safety, Human Resource etc. Under IT training, you can enroll for courses that range from Web Development, Adobe Photoshop, App Development, Fundamentals of HTML 5, Programming, Cloud Computing and more. These courses are also good for those who want to learn new skills, not necessarily as a job requirement. These are divided as diploma and certificate courses, with certificate courses usually requiring up to two hours of study and the diploma courses requiring of up to eleven hours of study. While these course are free of cost, if you wish to get a certificate too as a proof that you have taken a course from Alison, then you will have to shell out around Rs. 1,600 for a paper certificate. And i you opt for parchment, then it will cost you approximately Rs. 6,400. Alison has courses geared towards specific job requirement, something that will add to your existing degrees and give you an edge over others. For instance, if you are seeking employment with an import-export firm and if you have a certificate or degree in foreign exchange policies, then you will have an advantage. Alison also has a concept for flash test, where the employers can ascertain the knowledge of the candidate pertaining to the certificate or the diploma they have opted for.

University of the PeopleIt focuses on students from developing economies

It focuses on students from developing economies

Founded in 2009, the University of the People is a non-profit, free online university based in California. It especially focuses on students from developing economies, and its endeavour is to make higher education more accessible to students from underprivileged background. It’s affiliated to United Nation’s Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development, the Clinton Global Initiative, New York University and the Yale Law School Information Society Project, to name a few. It also benefits from its association with the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which is one of the largest free open source educational content resource online, and the World Computer Exchange that runs computer labs in several developing nations. In terms of courses offered, the University of the People offers four undergraduate degrees – Business Administration (Bachelor & Associate program) and Computer Science (Bachelor & Associate program). The courses are developed by respected professors from prestigious universities across the globe, like the New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business, Rutgers University, University of Michigan, University of Texas, Yale University and others. It follows a tuition-free model, and the online education is enabled via web based audio and video learning modules, as well as study material. However, it does charge nominal application processing fee and fees for examination, but this varies depending on the countries the students hail from. Currently, the university isn’t accredited and the process to get accreditation from the US education board is underway.       

CourseraIt has a tie-up with several universities around the world

It has a tie-up with several universities around the world

Another option to look at when it comes to online educational resources is Coursera. It has tie-ups with leading universities across the globe and provides access to courses made available by them. These include names like Stanford University, Princeton University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, University of London, University of Melbourne, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and more. Amongst Indian colleges, it has onboard the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi. You can browse the site according to the courses or according to the universities to know what subjects are being offered and the requirements of the same. On clicking on the course, you will find the commencement date, the details of the university offering the course, information about the course instructor, the topics covered, the duration, suggested reading and even workload. Those interested can enroll for the courses after paying a fee. They will be issued a certificate by the university that is providing the course, post assessment, after having successfully completed the course. The courses offered range from Humanities, Computer Science, Mathematics, Networks & Information, Business, Finance, and more. Under Computer Science, you will find courses on Software Programming and Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Networking amongst others. The courses include study material and video lectures with assignments that have to be submitted.    

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