Free Online Courses to Improve your Technical Skills

Technical skills are becoming increasingly relevant across all industries, and employers value these skills across a range of careers where traditionally they have not been required. Thankfully, there are a plethora of online courses and tools that you can use to help you get ahead. As a fee-paying university student you probably begrudge paying-out any additional cash to improve your skill base. Wary of this, we had a hunt around for the best free online courses and tools to help you get ahead.

If you're serious about improving your technical know-how, there are a plethora of online course to help you either improve or build upon your skills that could be crucial to you landing your ideal graduate job.  What’s more, your proactive enthusiasm and determination to improve will create an excellent first impression.

Please note - although the courses listed below are free, they sometimes recommend you purchase the accompanying text book. However, before you part with your hard earned cash, don’t forget to check out your local library which may well already have copies of these.

1. Introduction to Linux

Not sure what Linux is? Linux powers 94% of the world’s supercomputers - that’s most of the servers powering the internet, the majority of financial trades globally and a billion Android devices. It pretty much covers everything and can be found pretty much everywhere.

The course is hugely popular and already has more than 250,000 students enrolled. This is a great course for absolute Linux novices and early stage experts alike as there are no prerequisites or prior knowledge required. The providers recommend you spend 40-60 hours (or 8 weeks) working through the materials and, should you wish, you can pay for a certificate at the end to recognise your hard work. All of the content is free to access, including the course materials, tests, assignments and activities. By the end of the course you will be fully up to speed with the basic level of all the tools and techniques you’ll need.

2. Google Analytics Academy

Google’s product ‘Google Analytics’ is a tool that allows you to better understand a website’s traffic by providing data relating to the activity and audience of that website. Providing this data allows a website owner to make informed decisions relating to the marketing, usability and customer experience of a website. Conveniently, Google have also created an online learning centre, the Google Analytics Academy, which allows you to better understand and use the hidden data usually locked within a website - a great asset to have under your belt. 

You can sign up for free today and get started. Once signed up, you can view lessons from Google's digital analytics experts at your own pace, apply what you learn by completing short quizzes and practice exercises and engage with other students and analytics experts in course forums and on Google+.

3. Microsoft Virtual Academy

Learn pretty much anything about Microsoft’s extensive product and platform suite, from games to apps to cloud development and much more. Microsoft’s technology never stops evolving so use this platform to continually learn and keep up to date. The Virtual Academy gives you the opportunity to choose from hundreds of Microsoft Training Courses all of which are designed to help curious students, budding developers and knowledgeable IT professionals alike in building their skills and advancing their careers.

Once you’ve signed up you have the option to take courses, attend live events, build a learning plan and track progress towards your goals.

4. Udacity

Udacity is pretty darn cool. They started offering free computer classes in 2011 and by 2014 they had 1.6 million users. They offer courses in HTML and Python as well as an Intro to Data Science, Web Development, Software Engineering, Android and iOS.

What’s different about Udacity? Firstly, the teachers know the skills that tech companies need because they work there themselves (the courses are brought to you straight from some of the best companies in Silicon Valley). Secondly, the courses are designed to allow you to put your skills into practice through hands on projects rather than just watching lectures. You will have the opportunity to learn skills that match the current industry demands, whilst gaining the credentials to prove it. Signing up provides access to course materials including instructor videos and project instructions; select courses ranging from ‘new-to-tech’ to ‘advanced’ in order to best suit your experience level.

A great fact about that Udacity: they were the organisation that partnered with Google to bring Android development to the masses…

5. Harvard University - CS50 Computer Science

Believe it or not, Harvard University offers their Introduction to Computer Science for free. Participants will get a foundation in basic coding, learning aspects of C programming, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and SQL. There’s never been a better reason to learn to code for free.

Signing up will give you access to the entire course for free. Once signed up you may enrol for Harvard credit or earn a certificate of achievement for a fee. Those who complete the course and achieve a satisfactory level of work will receive an Honour Code certificate.

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Don’t forget, online courses take time and commitment and are by no means a silly alternative to live, paid courses – so make sure you are prepared to put the effort in. Often the courses will be challenging and you will not receive an actual qualification at the end unless you choose to pay for one, so your motivation to complete the course really must be around developing your own skills and knowledge.

With so many fantastic options available, there should be nothing holding you back. You just need some determination, passion, commitment and free time.

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