Back to study without paying a penny or leaving home

Online learning graphic

The holidays are over and September is traditionally the time to get back to work and to get back to learning.

With the phenomenal growth in online learning in the last few years and with many courses being offered for free, it’s never been easier to take a course — many online courses have flexible start dates and you can dip in and out of study around your other commitments.

Age and level is no barrier — there is no upper age limit on courses and there are courses from introductory to university level.

What’s best for marketing professionals?

Google and Microsoft courses are a must, but there are plenty of other courses now available through MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses), which are offered by universities around the world.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) are the leading bodies for professional marketing qualifications in the UK. Their courses are not free, but both have a lot of free resources on their website:

If you’re in Suffolk, UK

In Suffolk there are some excellent marketing groups on such as SIMS (Suffolk Internet Marketing Specialists) and IMEX (Internet Marketing Experts) which meet at UCS on Ipswich Waterfront. Search on for other groups near you.

My top picks

This list below is not exhaustive, but here are my top picks:


Based in which country: UK

Who’s behind them: The Open University

Subjects include: Business & Management, Creative Arts & Media, Health & Psychology, History, Languages & Cultures, Law, Literature, Nature & Environment, Online & Digital, Politics & The Modern World, Science, Maths & Technology, Sport & Leisure, Teaching & Studying

Website: Futurelearn


Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: Co-founders: Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. Their Advisory Board includes representatives from universities around the world including: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Leiden University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Edinburgh, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, University of Melbourne, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Subjects include: Arts and humanities, business, computer science, data science, maths and logic, personal development, physical sciences, social sciences

Website: Coursera


And yes, it is CodeCademy, not CodeAcademy!

Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: A range of investors

Subjects include: AngularJS, HTML & CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails, Learn APIs, SQL, Website Projects

Website: Codecademy


Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: MIT and Harvard

Subjects include: Architecture, Art & Culture, Biology & Life Sciences, Business & Management, Chemistry, Communication, Computer Science, Data Analysis & Statistics, Design, Economics & Finance, Education, Electronics, Energy & Earth Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Studies, Ethics, Food & Nutrition, Health & Safety, History, Humanities, Language, Law, Literature, Math, Medicine, Music, Philanthropy, Philosophy & Ethics, Physics, Science, Social Sciences

Website: EdX


Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: Google, of course!

Subjects include: Using Google products and online subjects. Most are free but some of the higher level courses aren’t. Some content may not be available in all countries. There are a range of specialisms such as those below:

Google Digital Academy

Aimed at agency and client partners to help them build skills and capabilities for their own staff and when working with clients. Not free

Website: Google Digital Academy

Google Analytics Academy

Improve your Analytics skills. Free

Website: Google Analytics Academy

Google For Non-profits Learning

Website: Google for Non-Profits Learning

Google Online Marketing Challenge

Website: Google Online Marketing Challenge

Google Teacher Academy

Website: Google Teacher Academy


Based in which country: Germany

Who’s behind them: iVersity GMBH, Managing Directors: Hannes Klöpper, Sander Nijssen

Subjects include: Mainly business subjects from European Universities. Most courses are in English though some are in German

Website: iVersity

Khan Academy

Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: Salman Khan, founder and Executive Director

Subjects include: Maths, Science, Economics and finance, Arts and humanities, Computing

Website: Khan Academy


Based in which country: UK

Who’s behind them: NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations)

Subjects include: Management, marketing, fundraising and other topics aimed at the UK voluntary sector, though some materials are general enough to be of interest to other sectors. Some courses are free, others can be accessed for a very small subscription. Just watch that some course material is provided by companies/agencies who may wish to push their own products a little harder than perhaps ideal!

Website: KnowHowNonProfit

Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: Now part of the LinkedIn group

Subjects include: Technology, creative and business skills. There’s a free trial but courses are offered on monthly or longer subscriptions from £12.95 a month



Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: Microsoft, of course!

Microsoft Learning

The Microsoft Learning portal including information on courses, certifications and exams. As well as online courses for individuals this includes training for organisations. Many courses in this area have a fee

Website: Microsoft Learning

Microsoft Virtual Academy

Free online courses

Subjects include: Windows 10, Cloud Development, Game Development, Web Development, Database Development, C# / XAML, Visual Studio, HTML5 & CSS3, IT for beginners. There are also specific courses in Office products such as Excel and One Note. There are courses at different levels covering: Developers, IT Pros, Data Pros, Students, Beginners

Website: Microsoft Virtual Academy


Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: Privately owned, funded by the Stripes Group, Norwest Venture Partners, Insight Venture Partners, Lightbank, MHS Capital, Learn Capital, among others

Subjects include: Development, Business, IT & Software, Office Productivity, Personal Development, Design, Marketing, Lifestyle, Photography, Health & Fitness, Teacher Training, Music, Academics, Language. Many courses free but most charge

Website: Udemy

Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: The Worldwide Web Consortium, the official body which sets the standards for the worldwide web

Subjects: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, PHP,  Bootstrap



Based in which country: USA

Who’s behind them: WordPress (Automattic)

Subjects: Make sure you understand which version of WordPress you want to use, or as there are important differences between the two. If you’re not certain which one is for you see the blog I’ve written explaining the differences: Choosing between and


This is the official online learning resource:


This is the official learning resource: but is work in progress and you should also look at: New to WordPress — Where to start

Other learning resources

YouTube, Vimeo, Wikipedia, TED Talks, professional bodies such as CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and presentation sharing sites such as Slideshare and product specific sites such as Adobe Learn and Support can all be other good sources of free learning and inspiration.

Feel free to suggest your own top tips and please share!

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