Learning how to use a computer and the associated software can seem like a daunting task. Classes at online and brick-and-mortar colleges can cost hundreds of dollars. Individuals who want to learn the basics, and even some programming skills, can do so from a number of free and low-cost online sources. Each source differs in the types of courses offered, course format and the rewards earned for mastering a given class.

GCFLearnFree

Persons seeking to learn beginning computer skills in a variety of software applications can open an online account at GCFLearnFree.org. The site is created and maintained by Goodwill Industries to "create and provide education, employment, and life enrichment opportunities for people who desire to improve the quality of their lives." All the courses are free. There are more than 1,000,000 registered users. Tutorials and free courses include Internet 101, Computer Basics, Email Basics, Internet Safety, Mozilla Firefox, Facebook 101, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Office, OpenOffice.org, Outlook 2003 and Publisher 2003. Certificates (CEUs) are given to learners who pass the exam following each course. GCFLearnFree is authorized to issue certificates by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). GCFLearnFree offers free online tutorials in other categories, including Everyday Life, Math & Money, Online Classes and Work & Career.

Home & Learn

Home & Learn offers free tutorials and computer courses. The courses are designed for beginning computer users. Software courses include Microsoft Word Tutorials, Microsoft Excel Tutorials, Microsoft PowerPoint Tutorials and Beginners Computing Tutorials. Programming Courses include Visual Basic.Net for Beginners, C# for Beginners, Java for Complete Beginners, Beginners PHP Tutorials and Web Design Tutorials. Home & Learn offers free exams and certificates upon the successful completion of exams. Certificates are awarded in Microsoft MCSE and MCSA, Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), BTEC in Information Technology (UK), ECDL--Beginners Certificate and others.

Beginners UK

Beginners UK has more than 575 online courses in beginning computer and a number of other topic areas. Users pay an annual fee of $149 for unlimited access to all of the courses. Prospective students can log onto the site and try out a class before paying the fee. The student receives a certificate after passing an exam. There is a print option for students who prefer printed materials. Along with a number of programming classes, students can take courses in Microsoft software applications.

Profsr.com

Profsr.com offers free online beginners training courses in a variety of subject areas. The courses were developed by a professor with many years of teaching experience. Free tutorials include Beginning Visual Basic 6, Applications with Microsoft Access, Basic Project Management with Microsoft Project, Learn2Photoshop, Web Programming 101, Office Access 2007, Database Design and SQL with MySQL, Linux 4 Windows, UNIX and Telnet and Internet Marketing for Beginners, among many others.

Delphi Land

Delphi offers online beginners and intermediate tutorials and projects in Delphi programming. Tutorials include Crash Course Delphi: hands-on Delphi tutorial for beginners. In addition, the site offers free Delphi code snips, reference materials and a forum to interact with other beginning Delphi programmers.