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A couple of days ago I was browsing questions to answer on Quora when someone asked me to answer, “Is it worth taking free online classes?” While it is quite a simple question, I felt that my answer didn’t really go into enough detail.

Personally, I find the constant questions about free online classes, and e-learning in general, rather bizarre. I keep wondering if all the people who are asking these questions think that there is some sort of ulterior motive.

They read, “Sign up for this FREE email marketing course”, but they see, “Sign up for this FREE email marketing course and then give us you first-born son”. It’s all a bit odd really.

Anyway, I’m here to try to answer whether it’s really worth taking free online classes. Spoiler Alert – It is! So, read on for the 7 reasons why I think it is worth taking free online classes.

1. They Are Free Online Courses

Without wishing to state the obvious, the courses are free. This means you’re not risking anything financially by doing the courses.

If the course you do turns out to be of great value, and you learn a lot from it, then you can consider that a win. If the course you do turns out to be crap, what have you really lost? Just some of your time.

I have done many free courses online, and I am yet to find one that had absolutely no value at all; I’m sure it will be the same for you. But a more important question may be why you want to take the course?

2. Great for What You Want to Achieve

If you want to learn how to make money in your free time, speak a foreign language, or play the guitar, it’s probably fair to say that these are not matter of life and death type courses. If they are not great, or don’t have a lot of real value, who cares? They were free and you future doesn’t depend on them.

However, if you are looking for a course that will earn you a real income, whether it be making money online full-time, becoming a translator, or playing in an orchestra, then I would not recommend free courses, online or in the real-world.

Although some free courses offer real value; for example, those that are free for a short time to get good student numbers and positive reviews, most are free because they are either not very good or are only tasters. If your future depends on your studies, my general rule of thumb is you should pay for it.

3. They Look Good to Your Employer

While the courses you’re doing are free, that doesn’t mean they have no value, either to you or your employer. True, they may not be accredited or recognised by any governmental organisation, or even any organisation related to your profession, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any value.

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Firstly, it shows that you’re interested in improving your knowledge, and that you think that the courses are important enough that you are willing to do them in your own time. This shows your employer that you value being up-to-date on all the most recent theories in your chosen profession.

This may well mean that when there is an opportunity of promotion, your employer will think about what you have done. He may well see you as a self-motivated person, and he may well decide that you are the type of person he wants to see in a more senior role.

Of course, this isn’t guaranteed but honestly, what is? However, I would have to use all my creative powers, such as they are, to imagine a scenario where completing e-learning courses would be seen as bad practise by any employer.

4. Online Courses Look Good to Future Employers

As you do these free courses, it’s worth remembering to update your CV to reflect what you have been studying. Then, whenever you apply for a new position, your CV will be full of all the courses you have done.

Remember, even though the courses you have studied were all free, there is absolutely no reason that you need to put that on your CV. And if you don’t put that on your CV, how will your future employer know that they were free?

And even if he or she does know that they were free, would that really matter? Like your old employer above, free or not, you are showing your future boss that you are a self-motivated individual, who is keen to try and keep your knowledge up-to-date, even if it means just doing free online courses.

5. They Make You Feel You Have Achieved Something

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There’s another important point that I think is worth considering. It doesn’t matter if you are doing a free online course that is relevant to your job, your university degree, or just for the sake of interest. When you have completed the course, you will have a great sense of achievement, and that’s difficult to put a value on.

And you don’t necessarily have to wait too long time to even feel that sense of achievement. Many of the free courses that you can do online are quite short. If you look at the free courses that I have done on the BitDegree platform, most took a couple of hours. I think the longest may have taken me only a day in total.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. If they only took a couple of hours or a day in total, what value do they have?  But that’s not the point. The point is that they are free and you are almost guaranteed to be learning something new. Plus, as I said above, they still look good on your CV, no matter what.

6. Online Courses May Be Your Only Option

They may be your only real option. You may have the misfortune to work for a company that doesn’t value training its employees. It may refuse to even help you pay for further qualifications. If this is the case, then free online classes may be your only choice.

I have a another feeling. If you work in a company that doesn’t value training its employees, you pay is probably terrible, as well. If that’s also the case, then you may not be able to afford any of the paid courses that are on offer on many of the available online.

Of course if you’re lucky, your employer might see that you are trying to improve your qualifications and experience. They may then decide that you are one of the employees worth spending some money on. The only way you’ll know for sure is if you try.

7. They Give You a Taste of a Possible Future

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Another great reason to take free online courses is that they give you a taste of the future. Many people don’t necessarily want to do a course. They want to take online courses to see what the course is like, and if the subject matter is interesting.

A few years ago, I foolishly paid for a course that I believed would be very interesting. In fact, it turned out that the subject area was incredibly boring, and not what I expected at all. Although I did manage to complete the course, it was a real grind.

Of course, as is always the way, after I had finished the course, I found half a dozen free online courses I could have done that would have shown me that the subject I wanted to study was not for me.

8. Bonus – Free Online Courses Are Fun

Studying free online classes is fun. There is almost no pressure to succeed. If you find that you don’t like a course, or you just don’t see any real value in it, then you can just stop studying it. This is great because it means that you don’t have to keep studying courses you hate just because you have paid a lot of money to do it in the first place.

I would like to stress before we finish that you don’t want to get into the habit of not completing courses. Firstly, giving up is not a good habit to get into and secondly, some courses have maximum student numbers. If you took the place of somebody who wanted to do the course, and you don’t complete it, it means that the person who didn’t get on the course lost out. So if you can, always try and finish a course you started.

Wrapping It All Up

And there you have it. I think you can see that there are many reasons why taking free online classes is worth it. It you want to check out one of the best places for free online courses, you could do a lot worse than head over to Coursera. Click the link below to find out more.

Explore 1600+ online courses from top universities. Join Coursera today to learn data science, programming, business strategy, and more.