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No fees, please

June 28, 2003 12:52 IST

Courses on Web design to writing to self-development - it's all available online. And at no cost!

Are you looking for a way to increase your knowledge without spending money? If your answer is yes, then 'free' online courses might be the right option for you. Unlike tutorials you find online, these courses are interactive.

So you can find a perfect career, improve your writing skills, learn to brainstorm better for ideas, choose a digital camera, learn techniques to memorise better or improve your selling skills - all with the help of free online courses.

While, there are several courses that you can undertake in virtual classrooms, most of them have a cost attached and might not be affordable for everyone. At the other end of the spectrum are courses that can be taken without any charge at all.

The Barnes&Noble University (BNU) and HPLearning Center are fitting examples. BNU offers free courses in the areas like business, arts, information technology, writing, graphics and Web design. There are 38 courses to choose from.

HPLearning Center offers 20 courses on business, information technology, personal skills and even real estate. Courses at both these centres are taught by experienced professionals. At the end of the course, there are tests to assess the level of knowledge you have acquired.

Students of these courses also interact with each other, just like in a real classroom. Susan Rabiner, freelance writer and editor, who co-wrote Thinking Like An Editor: How to Get Published says, "Honest revision amongst the students help each other. Some of them stick around registering repeatedly just to get feedback for their literary endeavours."

Says Pratap Mohan, "I participated in courses at both BNU as well as HPLearning Center. They both provide excellent notes. The message boards are a good source to network with people of similar interest. It's a boon and they don't limit the number of free courses one can register."

"I found extra information while doing my regular Web design course. It was extremely helpful," points out Tina, a former HP Learning Center student.

Some e-courses further simplify matters. By being delivered directly to your email account, it saves Internet costs of being online. The lessons start on enrollment at regular intervals, the frequency of the lessons depending from course to course.

For instance, Jinger Jarrett's of How to really start your business in 30 days sends out a lesson each day, for a month. The course is targeted to reach an amazing 2.6 million people by July 2003.

Shery Ma Belle Arrieta of The e-Writer's Place mails a lesson called Weekly Writes every Monday. To qualify for this free course, first take the advantage of another free course Daily Writes for 31 days. All that you need to do to register is give four referrals.

Most e-course providers clear doubts through chat conversations or via email. Jarrett says, "Course enquiries are my major priority. I make it a point to answer all emails personally and students are those who benefit the most. Students of the course get due attention so that their doubts cleared."

Pournima, an aspiring writer who completed Daily Writes, is now pursuing Weekly Writes. "Both courses helped me improve my writing skills and learn to brainstorm better. The lessons are very informative and helpful for an amateur like me. Constant practice has improved my pace and style of my writing. By the end of the Weekly Writes course, I hope to improve my writing skills considerably."

The other advantages of e-courses are that you won't be denied permission to enroll because the class is full and you don't have to wait for a new batch to begin.

Pooja Srinivas, who runs Coursesuseek offers several free courses that integrate self and guided learning on topics ranging from literature, writing to Web design. And if the course you are looking for is not available, you can also request them to include it.

Inspite of the opportunity to learn at no cost, some still cannot accept the virtual learning method. Many who enroll, procrastinate or are just lazy, since there is no pressure to get their money's worth. Susan Rabiner explains, "Even in regular face-to-face courses, there are number of students who do not attend. The trend is the same online."

"Although I registered for a course at BNU, I could not complete it. But, had I paid money, I surely would have made the time to do it," says Sandra Merz of Canada.

But if you are looking to gain knowledge in a particular topic or field, there's no better way than trying out some of these free courses. After all, you have nothing to lose!


Resmi Shaji