7 Of The Best Online & Free Ways to Learn New Stuff AND Beat ‘Baby Brain’
"Sleep at this point is just a concept, something I’m looking forward to investigating in the future." Comedian Amy Poehler’s description of the first months of motherhood certainly strikes a chord, but the founder of the Smart Girls campaign (@smrtgrls), which encourages girls and young women to be their authentic selves, also knows the importance of nurturing your own talents and making an impact.
That early phase of nappies, nipple cream and night feeds doesn’t last forever and when you do start getting the odd hour to yourself – even if it is at 3am – there can be a niggling sense that it’s time to broaden your horizons, shake off the dreaded ‘baby brain’ and get match fit for the return to work after maternity leave.
Maybe, in those rare quiet moments, you yearn to get to grips with healthy eating for you and the new arrival, learn yoga, or even rekindle your love of linear algebra. The good news is there’s an online course – and probably an app – for all of that. What’s even better is that lots of these courses are completely free, run by world experts and available on-demand in bite-size chunks, on any device – all from the comfort of your own couch.
We’ve chased down seven of the best sources of free online classes:
This site provides a wide range of free training for things like web design, photojournalism, calligraphy, even culinary skills. You can tap into it whenever and wherever you want. There are lots of free courses, but premium membership has a small fee. You can also communicate and collaborate with other members who share the same creative interests. If you’re looking for some recipes your little ones will love, we highly recommend Kelly Leding’s tutorials on ‘Perfect Southern Fried Chicken and Fluffy Southern Buttermilk Biscuits’ #nom.
This site has more than 22,000 courses on all topics, from coding to fashion. All courses are self-paced and available on any device, so they fit into a hectic lifestyle. There are lots of free programmes, but some carry a fee. Our top pick is a free ‘Authentic Yoga Experience’ course from Perumal Koshy. There are also a choice of paid-for pre- and post-natal yoga courses, as well as yoga for kids.
This is an amazing way to hook up with some of the world’s top universities without ever having to budge from your living room. Good news if you’re still at the stage where going to the shop for milk feels like a military manoeuvre. Our recommendation is a self-paced Stanford University course on ‘Child Nutrition and Cooking’. One thing to bear in mind is that the many Coursera courses aren’t available on demand. Most are delivered in a more traditional way, in that they have set dates for tuition so they can involve a little more advance time management, but they’re well worth it.
This is run by the Open University and ideal if you want to join a community of like-minded learners. Courses are available online on set dates only, so do your research in advance. We like the look of Newcastle University’s forthcoming course called ‘The Enterprise Shed: Making ideas Happen’. That runs for four weeks with tuition time of three hours per week. Consider fitting it around nap-time, if you’re not catching 40 winks yourself. Courses are free, but there is a charge if you want to secure a Statement of Participation to impress your boss.
This one is loved by everyone from John Legend to Michelle Obama. Courses are free and fun with an emphasis on quizzes and games. If you’re considering working for yourself to create a more family-friendly lifestyle, we recommend Khan Academy’s free Entrepreneurship course. It’s available on-demand and comes with advice from the likes of Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry and Elon Musk of Tesla Motors.
This one offers courses from world-leading colleges and is governed by heavy hitters of the academic world, MIT and Harvard. Most courses are free, but there is a fee for verified certificates. Almost all tuition begins and ends on set dates and you will need to pre-register in advance. There are a smaller number of self-paced courses and our pick of these is ‘The Science of Happiness’, a course on positive psychology from Berkley University.
While this one isn’t actually free, its courses are so relevant to the real world, you could persuade your boss to cover the cost – especially if you’re in a sector like tech. Udacity has teamed up with the likes of Google and Facebook to offer training in areas like coding, app design and data analytics. There is a charge to take a ‘nanodegree’ and a significant time commitment, but all of these programmes are fully industry recognised and ideal for anyone looking to progress or break into the tech sector.