Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty’

This is a well-known quotation by Henry Ford and certainly one well worth pondering. It is true that many people look back on their school days and remember with horror how things were learned by rote or taught by teachers who seem to specialise in making lessons dull! Things have definitely changed over the years and today everyone can access a wide selection of courses online – with the added bonus that many of them are completely free of charge!

Future Learn (www.futurelearn.com) is run by the Open University and offers all kinds of interesting courses – and all you need is a computer! Some courses last just a few weeks with one/two-hour sessions per week, whilst others are longer – eight, ten weeks or more.

All of the courses are carefully designed and presented by top universities and specialist organisations. There is the option to be assessed along the way and to receive a certificate on completion of the course, but this does incur a charge. However, if you would simply like to join the course for the fun of learning, there is no charge for most of the courses and this would please Benjamin Franklin who declared ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’.

There are a wealth of courses available, from popular language and cultural topics, to history and literature.  There are informative courses on a variety of health issues including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and how CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) can successfully help ease stress and anxiety.

For those who are soon to be grandparents, there are interesting courses that discuss such relevant topics as child nutrition and the value of play- which means that you will only have to brush up on nappy changing skills to be ready for the new arrival!

When you sign up for a course, there is the chance to interact with other students and tutors do ask you for your comments along the way. This can often lead to lively debates! If you prefer to simply follow the course but not discuss the topics on the forum, that is totally acceptable too.

There are some wonderful courses that explore and debate the writings of Shakespeare and Jane Austen, whilst others reveal how retailers are changing their marketing skills. There is a marvellous course on Marine Biology presented by Portsmouth University which includes some marvellous photography of life under the waves and students don’t even get their toes wet!

If you find computers and social media slightly daunting, there are some good introductory courses to follow. The courses begin on certain dates, but it is not essential to join exactly on time as there is the chance for you to ‘catch up’ with each lesson remaining ‘live’ for some time afterwards. Once you have joined Future Learn, you will regularly be sent newsletters with details of new courses. If one does interest you, there is a synopsis to read about the course outline and whether it is suitable for beginners or it will be tackling the subject more in-depth.

Another popular home study website is Open 2 Study (www.open2study.com) which takes many interesting topics including climate change, education in a changing world and food nutrition & health. Again, each course that is advertised on the website can easily be accessed for information about the course duration, level and topics to be covered.

Edix (www.edx.org) also has an appealing range of courses and clearly states whether they are an introduction to the subject or are intermediate or advanced. Most of the subjects are presented in English, but there are a number in French, Spanish and Arabic. Some of the courses are credit eligible for students on OU courses.

Enjoying a course online can lead to a new hobby. The Open Culture website (www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses) offers a good selection of courses from some of the top universities including Harvard, Berkeley and Oxford and these courses can be downloaded onto your computer or Mp3 with courses including Italian Calligraphy, Photography and the Elements of Drawing. There are courses on the classics too looking at Ancient Philosophy, Ancient Greek History and there is the chance to listen to favourite novels by Virgina Woolf, Tolkein, WB Yates and TS Eliot.

With such a wealth of courses to enjoy at the touch of a button and without leaving the comfort of your home, why not take a few minutes today to browse through the selection. on offer? You’ll not be disappointed….


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