We’re all familiar with education portals and online universities offering free short courses on anything — from learning basic Mandarin, Photoshop for social media managers to personal bookkeeping. These courses, referred to as massive open online courses (MOOCs), including those offered by universities, are typically not eligible for credit.

But if you’re interested, all you need to do is register with your email address, and wait for confirmation and further instructions. Once you’re in, you can work at your own pace and watch video lectures and lessons, as well as take tests and complete requirements.

In fact, this quarantine period (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) is the perfect time to learn something new and possibly gain new skills you may find useful when life goes back to normal. Read on to know all about the top five benefits of free online short courses.

1. Provide access to a wide variety of topics

For people whose interests are not covered or taught in schools, free online short courses or MOOCs might just cover those lessons. Some classes of interest include basic yoga, sign language, English composition, songwriting, how to become awesome, Excel for beginners, coding, food design and preparing for a job interview.

2. Offer opportunities to learn from various subject matter experts

Since MOOC classes are accessible from most countries and only require internet connectivity, it’s so easy to participate in short courses designed by subject matter experts. These include professors, CEOs, managers, business owners, accountants, programmers, photographers and the like from anywhere around the world.

3. Prepare you for college education

If you’re taking a gap year to focus on working and saving for your studies, traveling or doing volunteer work, you can still take free online courses on the side. Taking part in MOOCs gives you a taste of how college life will be like, especially in relation to fulfilling requirements and taking tests. So if you plan on studying to become a paralegal or lawyer in the future, registering for a free online course can help prepare you for the demands of college learning.

4. Enhance your current skill set

Participating in a free online course can also help enhance or complement your current skill set. For example, if you work as a receptionist but feel you lack basic written communication skills, you can register for a crash course on business English. If your writing is perfect but you have a hard time generating reports, you can take lessons in Excel as well. You can even expand your skill set by learning something totally new like blogging, jQuery or basic photography — that is, if you’re into those things.

5. Indicate initiative and intellectual curiosity

Whether you’re a high school graduate applying for a college scholarship or admission to a prestigious university, you can stand out by mentioning your free online studies to show how serious you are about learning. Also, taking MOOCs is one way of indicating your initiative and intellectual curiosity. Who knows, perhaps the university you want to enroll in also offers MOOCs, so try to find out and see if there’s anything of interest.

So, beyond being free and not having any prerequisites, there’s more to free online courses than meets the eye. Make sure you take advantage of these if you want to quickly expand your skills, learn something new or gain more insights into topics you find interesting.

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Oli Kang
Oli is a working mum who has a passion for teaching and all things educational. With a background in marketing, Oli manages the digital channels and content at Courses.com.au.

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