For creative people, learning should be a lifelong commitment. But it needn’t be a financial commitment, with these free online courses.
All of the following are delivered by reputable education providers: among them, Harvard, M.I.T and the mighty Calarts – the spiritual home of Toy Story/Pixar – and the Open University. There are all sorts of topics on offer, ranging from design/creativity to scaling a business, negotiating contracts and raising finance. And we’ve thrown in a few that are just for fun!
All of these courses provide hours of free online instruction, along with practical learning exercises, and they won’t cost you a penny.
Art, Design and Creativity
1. Creativity Innovation and Change
18 hours / PennState
In 2013, 130k people got together in this MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) to explore creativity and innovation. And now it's back with some fresh faces and fresher ideas. Sample lecture: “Achieve a free wild mind through mind warping”.
2. Ignite Your Everyday Creativity
18 hours / State University of New York
Improving your ability in creative thinking is something we should all look in to. This course will help you get more from your own innate powers, making you quicker and more ingenious at problem solving.
3. Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers
18 hours / Calarts (where alumni include Tim Burton and John Lasseter)
Explore art history from the artist's perspective. Learn how contemporary artists, animators and gamers work from the art of the past as part of their creative process, while building your own skills in visual analysis and creative and critical thinking.
4. Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society
40 hours / Penn State
Marrying theory and practice to make you a better designer: weekly design challenges test your ability to apply your ideas to solving real problems. The course is deliberately broad – spanning all domains of design, including architecture, graphics, services, apparel, engineered goods, and products. Working in mixed groups, students bring their own areas of expertise and inspire one another to new heights.
5. Art and Design Fundamentals
10 hours / Otis College of Art and Design
Basics of drawing and composition, both 2D and 3D, from Los Angeles’ most respected art and design college.
6. Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques
35 hours / University of Pennsylvania
Learn hands-on studio arts techniques as you explore your own creativity while studying and discussing various art movements, cultural influences, genres and artists.
7. Advertising and Society
20 hours / Duke
Learn to analyse and develop complex layers of meaning in both print advertisements and television commercials, using contemporary theories about visual communications.
24 hours / University of Pennsylvania
Gamification is on the rise, and its uses are manifold: productivity enhancement, engaging customers and staff, training, health, innovation. Learn all about it!
9. Design and Development of Games for Learning
53 hours / M.I.T
Project-based course on the process of designing and developing educational games, including issues associated with assessment, implementation and marketing.
10 hours / University of Edinburgh
Study the main themes and creative innovations of graphic designer-cum-art legend, Andy Warhol. Brace yourself for sex, money, celebrity and death.
11. The Art of Photography
8 hours / RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia)
Dig into the work and concepts of contemporary photographic artists, which may spark a new interest in what you choose to snap. Additionally, you’ll learn practical skills to further improve your photography in exciting and creative ways.
12. Digital Photography
10 hours / Harvard
This 13-module course gives you extensive knowledge on topics such as exposure settings, how to read and use the histogram, how light affects a photograph, how the camera sensor and lenses work, and how to process a photograph using computer software.
13. Microelectronic Solutions for Digital Photography
4 hours / OU
The human eye is a fascinating and complicated device, but ever wondered how digital cameras capture images? This 4 hour course will teach you!
14. Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship
20 Hours / University of Maryland
Explore how to identify and develop great ideas, then turn them into successful customer-centric companies.
15. Innovation for Entrepreneurs: From Idea to Marketplace
15-25 hours / University of Maryland
Examine frameworks to structure the innovation process and learn how to bring new products to market.
Go to course
16. Entrepreneurial Behaviour
20 hours / OU
Optimise your entrepreneurial leadership and management style, whilst discovering the must-haves when building a team around you.
17. Invention and Innovation
55 Hours OU
How to overcome technical, financial and organisational obstacles to bring an invention to market - and crucially, persuade people they need to buy it.
18. Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses, Part I
6 hours / University of Virginia
Get to grips with common growth challenges faced by existing private businesses when they attempt to scale up operations.
19. Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses, Part II
6 hours / University of Virginia
Focussing on the people and team building side of growing a business (doing Part 1 is not a prerequisite, but you might as well, if you’re scaling up).
20. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills
8.5 hours / University of Michigan
A practical, holistic introduction to vital skills and strategies when negotiating deals and contracts.
21. ContractsX: From Trust to Promise to Contract
14 hours / Harvard
Understanding contracts is not just a skill needed by lawyers: this course will help you avoid common pitfalls: one-sided promises, mistake, fraud, and frustration.
22. Introduction to Public Speaking
18 hours / University of Washington
The art of argumentation and arrangement laid bare…helping you critically examine speeches, to take your own to the next level.
23. Language of Comedy
30 mins / OU
How to manipulate language to generate humour: 6 five min vids to inject some funny in your bones. A must for public speakers!
24. Introduction to Marketing
20 hours / University of Pennsylvania
Learn all about customer-centric strategies for branding, selecting the right mix of marketing channels and making product launches a glorious, till-ringing success.
25. Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Practice
32 hours / University of Illinois
Demystifying the use of data in marketing and helping you utilise intelligent data-driven insights for business decision-making.
26. Retail Marketing
8 hours / OU
If you’re selling stuff, it’ll help to understand how the big boys promote products and communicate with customers. This course will enlighten you on the tools and techniques that hook customers best.
27. Marketing Communications as a Strategic Function
6 hours / OU
The way an organisation communicates defines its relationships with customers. This Masters-level course will help you embrace techniques that work well amid the autonomy and unpredictability of 21st century consumer behaviour.
28. Marketing in a Digital World
48 hours / University of Illinois
Tips and tactics for using digital tools to: develop innovative products, set competitive prices, manage distribution and all importantly, persuade people to buy.
29. Content Strategy for Professionals
24 hours / Northwestern University
How to create engaging, strategic, honest stories that’ll be trusted and treasured by your most important audiences.
30. Google Adwords
At your own pace / Google
Google provides free training and qualifications in their suite of tools. The Adwords classes give advice on optimising PPC campaigns, with specific sections on using Adwords to market to via mobile and driving conversion through retargeting strategies.
31. Google Analytics
At your own pace / Google
Google’s Analytics Academy will empower you to make good decisions about optimising your online presence, teaching you everything from the fundamentals of analytics to reporting techniques that pull out genuine useable insights to boost sales and engagement.
Leadership & Strategy
32. Better Leader, Richer Life
30 hours / University of Pennsylvania
Guidance from bestselling Harvard Business author Stewart Freidman on how to best articulate your core values and vision; build trust with your most important people, and achieve "four-way wins" that’ll make you a savvier leader and communicator, both at work and at home.
33. Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence
24 hours / Cape Western University
Tune up your EI and be a better leader, using superior EI to help resonate emotionally with your people and get teams working cohesively, full of hope, compassion and playfulness.
34. Introduction to Communication Science
28 hours / University of Amsterdam
Delving into the history, sociology and psychology of communicating; learn skills, theories and models from the complementary disciplines of mass, interpersonal and interpersonal communication.
35. Introducing a Framework for Strategy
10 hours / OU
For those involved in decision making, this will stimulate your imagination and inform your judgement. Understanding the frameworks of strategy and deploying them inventively will make you more effective, and leave your company/clients in better shape, long term.
36. Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management
15 hours / University of Virginia
In this course, you’ll beef up your PM skills and learn frameworks for scoping projects, sequencing activities, utilising resources, and minimising risks.
37. Managing Fashion and Luxury Companies
15 hours / Università Bocconi (Milan)
An overview of the global fashion and luxury business to give you an in-depth understanding of what drives the market, business models, and brand management strategies.
38. Finance for Non-Financial People
8 hours / University of California
A back-to-basics course that’ll help creatives work smarter on the business side. Topics include: financial analysis; planning, forecasting, and budgeting; cash flow, and strategic financing.
39. New Venture Finance: Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs
12 hours / University of Maryland
Learn the ‘language’ of fund raising and the processes to follow to successfully attract funding for your new venture.
40. Introduction to Bookkeeping and Accounting
8 hours / OU
Learn the time-honoured rules of bookkeeping, including how to prepare a trial balance and the two principal financial statements: the balance sheet and the profit and loss account (and save yourself a few quid into the bargain).
Creative Writing and Literature
41. Start Writing Fiction
12 hours / OU
How to create characters, invent and describe worlds, then make it all work together. If you want to write fiction and don’t know where to start, you do now…
42. Writing What You Know
8 hours / OU
Geared to developing the use of memory, observation and all five senses, with the aim of honing your perceptual abilities, empowering you to see fine detail in the world, and describe it with adroit artfulness.
43. Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction
10 hours / University of Virginia
An exciting introduction to the genre and craft of historical fiction, for curious students, aspiring authors – anyone with a passion for the past. Read classics of the genre, encounter bestselling writers of historical fiction, and discover your own historical archive while interacting with a global community of interested readers.
44. Introduction to Theory of Literature
100 hours / Yale
Study the main trends in 20th Century literature over a lengthy, self-paced video course laid on by F Scott Fitzgerald’s old Ivy League stomping ground, Yale.
And to .Edutain You
45. Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science
39 hours / Harvard
Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering, and vice versa.
46. Investigative Concepts: FBI Major Case #203 "Pizza Bomber"
12 hours / Cannon University (Pennsylvania, USA)
This 6 week course will teach you to be an FBI agent. Pretty cool, huh? Topics include investigative techniques, photography, note taking, and sketching; identifying, collecting, examining, and processing physical evidence; and obtaining information about suspects as well as identifying and locating suspects.
47. Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe
30 hours / Australian National University
This one will get your imagination going: each week, Nobel Prize winner Brian Schmidt will talk you through each of the 9 greatest unsolved problems of the known universe. An award-winning astrophysicist. For free. Amazing.
48. Roman Architecture
100 hours / Yale
An introduction to the great buildings and engineering marvels of Rome and its empire, with an emphasis on urban planning, individual monuments and their decoration, including mural painting.
49. Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World
26 Hours / University of Virginia
Use Buddhist methods in ‘contemporary secular applications’ such as entrepreneurship and creativity, while learning some of the history and tradition of Buddhism.
50. Science Fiction/Science Fact: Superheroes and Physics (Lite Edition)
Go at your own pace/ University of California (UCI)
Last but certainly not least, Professor of Physics and Astronomy Michael Dennin, will teach you all about the scientific and technological feasibility of various superheroes. KAPOW!!