Learning skills online is a great way to broaden your horizons, open up new job opportunities, or pursue a hobby you haven’t had time to dive into before. While most online classes from universities or colleges come with hefty fees, there are many platforms you can use to learn new skills online for cheap or even for free! In this post, we’ll be discussing those options. So if you’re ready to learn a new skill, keep reading!

What Skills Can You Learn Online?

You can learn virtually any new skill online! Naturally, many people will opt to learn new creative skills, including painting, sculpting, graphic design, photography, and more. Others want to learn skills that will save them money. However, many colleges and universities also partner with websites to offer legitimate academic courses at a deep discount. 

For example, sites like Coursera or Udemy will offer courses on computer programming, digital marketing, technical support, data analytics, UX design, and more! You can even get entire discounted degrees on these sites. 

Some Platforms to Learn New Skills

In the following section, we will be discussing some of the most popular and affordable sites on the web where you can learn new skills. While there are thousands of sites that you can visit to take classes and learn new things, not all are legit. The sites we’ll delve into are trusted by thousands (if not millions) of students worldwide, and they have awarded countless certificates and degrees. The primary platforms we will be discussing are Skillshare, Udemy, FutureLearn, Coursera, and YouTube. 


Skillshare is an online subscription-based learning community. Users pay a monthly or yearly fee to access all of the courses available. These range from academic classes like computer programming and UX design to creative courses like painting or drawing. 

Courses on Skillshare are not accredited but are made and uploaded by passionate creators with some form of self-taught or formally-taught skills. The most popular Skillshare membership is a Premium plan, which either costs $168 for the entire year ($13.99 a month) or a monthly plan which costs $32 a month.


Udemy is one of the web’s most popular MOOC (massive open online course) providers aimed at professional adults and aspiring students. There are more than 185,000 courses on the Udemy site, many starting as low as $14.99, with even further discounts for new students. Additionally, Udemy allows users to subscribe with a monthly personal plan, which gives students access to more than 6,000 top-rated courses in subjects like business and tech. 


FutureLearn is designed to be a more modern take on a MOOC platform, created for students who want to learn differently and entirely on their own time. FutureLearn has some incredibly unique featured courses, including succeeding at interviews, aiding refugees, becoming a better LGBTQ+ ally, fashion management, end-of-life care, and more! 

FutureLearn has three main options for course access. First, you can purchase a monthly subscription for $27.99 and get unlimited access to all courses. You can also pay only for the course you are interested in. 

Additionally, you can audit a course for free. Auditing a course usually means you can access the materials and lectures, but you can’t participate in any projects or earn certification. Auditing it first is a frugal option for those who are unsure if they want to purcahse the whole class. 


Coursera is perhaps the most popular and well-known MOOC site. The platform partners with dozens of top universities and companies, including Harvard, Yale, IBM, Google, and more. 

For example, currently, you can get a Master of Computer and Information Technology from The University of Pennsylvania (an Ivy League institution) 100 percent online! While it will still cost you around $3,400 per course, it is significantly cheaper than if you were to attend Penn in person. And there are many such courses and programs available on the platform.

Coursera is free to join and will prompt you to pay for each course or degree certificate you want to work toward. However, they do also have some free courses available. And like FutureLearn, most courses have a free auditing option. 


YouTube is a vastly underestimated resource for finding free classes online and learning new skills. YouTube is the most popular video-sharing platform on the internet and has been around for over a decade. 

YouTube is free to join, and all videos (aside from premium films/television shows) are free to watch, add to playlists, save, and re-watch. Many YouTube influencers will upload free courses on YouTube to generate ad revenue, allowing them to make money. It’s a win-win situation, as you can watch anything you want on YouTube for free, and you will be allowing creators to earn money as you do so. 

How To Pay for Online Courses/Skills 

Learning from online courses provides a significantly cheaper alternative than attending an in-person university or class. However, when offered by certain prominent institutions, they may still be a little pricey. There are many different ways to pay for these courses, but we will discuss two primary options in the following section: setting money aside every week and taking up a side hustle.  

Put Some Money Aside Each Week

Decide on a percentage or dollar amount to take out of your current check that will go toward your prospective online course or degree. For example, if you want to subscribe to one of the platforms above, set aside some money each paycheck to fund your monthly payment. Or, if your goal is to earn a specific certificate or degree, save each week toward a one-time fee for that purpose. 

This method allows you to enroll in courses without taking on additional work. However, you will need to budget your paycheck more carefully and watch your spending habits. 

Take Up a Side Hustle 

Another way to help pay for online courses or certificates is to start a side hustle. A side hustle is a relatively new idea. But the concept is familiar. Essentially, you take on another part-time job that can help you earn additional cash. But instead of a traditional job, a side-hustle implies freelance work. 

The earnings can either be active or passive income, consisting of one or more side gigs. A few ideas include:

Branded Surveys

One popular option for a side hustle is taking online surveys for money. Branded Surveys is one of the most popular side hustle websites. They collaborate with many institutions, researchers, and companies to connect their users with data scientists who are compiling consumer information. Paid online surveys are a win-win situation, as researchers will greatly benefit from your reviews and opinions, and you get paid for surveys! Branded Surveys protects your data, and they offer anywhere from $.50 to $2 or more per survey. 

Many people dedicate the extra cash they earn through a side hustle to help them reach personal goals. In your case, you can use a side-hustle to fund your educational goals. 

Scholarships and Financial Assistance

Another way to fund online courses is through scholarships. Many of the sites we have listed above offer financial help. Usually, it is needs-based help, and you must show proof of income and explain why you need assistance. So if you really want to take some online courses but you can’t afford them, don’t let finances be an obstacle. Check each of the sites above for scholarships or financial aid. 

Learning Online Skills Can Open Up a New World

Taking free or cheap online courses can open up an entirely new world for you. Whether you want to learn a new creative skill or earn an entire degree, having a fresh set of skills under your belt can open up exciting career opportunities. Companies are always looking for people willing to learn and try new things, so learning a new skill makes you instantly more appealing as a job seeker, and can even help you eventually make big money online.