Online education programs are abundant; however, expensive degree programs are not the only learning opportunities out there. Many programs exist for the sole purpose of educating the public at no charge. Some offer practical, career-oriented applications, while others are more scholarly in nature. From computer tutorials to literature courses, each of us has the opportunity to broaden our knowledge and enrich our lives with free online education programs.

Computer Classes

Most of us could stand to become a little more tech-savvy. The Goodwill Community Foundation offers courses in various versions of the products in the Microsoft Office Suite. Many companies use at least one MS Office application, and the self-employed will likely utilize it as well. Among GCF's other learning options are computer skills for beginners. These classes, which include Internet, software, and hardware primers, are a great resource for job seekers.

Online Certification

Those using the Texas A&M University System's AgriLife Extension site can obtain certification for completing online vocational coursework in fields such as child care, food safety, and nutrition. Many of the courses are free. After finishing self-directed online classes and passing a final exam, participants can elect to receive a certificate and print it at home. Employers can also verify employees' certification by presenting a code at the website.

Academics

The venerable University of Oxford makes podcasts of some courses available online and free of charge. Subjects include those found in the physical, life, and social sciences as well as mathematics and the humanities. Classes can be accessed via iTunes or RSS feeds as well as by phone over a web browser, in both audio and video formats. Oxford has also made classes available for non-commercial redistribution on Creative Commons.

Scholarly and Non-Academic

Links from the Online Education Database lead to 200 sites offering free learning opportunities. This website offers an amazing array of courses covering both scholarly and practical subjects. Top universities like MIT and Yale are represented in the academic realm. Numerous science, literature, linguistics, social science, theology, law, politics, and business courses are available. Other trade classes include spa management, teacher exams, dance skills, and an introduction to Blender 3-D software.