A number of organisations are disrupting the educational sphere, adapting existing technologies such as open source software, apps and social media and creating new pathways to help ensure that no one in our highly digital world is left behind.
And this is an industry on the rise. According to the Online Learning Consortium, 5.8 million students enrolled in online courses in 2016, a 263 per cent increase over the previous 12 years.
With so many free educational tools available online, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Here are our favourites.
edX: Started by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is a non-profit and massive open online course (MOOC) provider that provides free online courses from leading universities and institutions around the world.
Coursera: Coursera takes an age and knowledge-specific approach, offering tertiary-level courses free of charge. Coursera partners with top educational institutions to put together a high-calibre list of courses that broach topics such as nanotechnology, chemistry, computer science, humanities and much more.
MIT OpenCourseWare: Massachusetts Institute of Technology publishes almost all its course content online, for free, meaning anyone with an internet connection can pore over materials from more than 2,400 of its world-renowned courses.
Kiron Higher Education: This Berlin-based non-profit organisation partners with universities and companies like Coursera and edX to provide free access to digital higher education courses for refugees.
Khan Academy: Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation that offers in-depth educational tools for all ages. The content is comprised of challenges, assessments and videos, is paced at the learning ability of each student and allows people to track their progress via stats and graphs. Topics covered include maths, science, computer programming and humanities.
Udemy: Udemy offers online courses generally geared toward adults and taught by experts in a wide range of subjects from music to stock trading. Many courses require a fee, but there are some free options that can be found using search filters within a course category.
People use the world's largest video sharing site to view learning-related content over a billion times a day, according to its CEO, Susan Wojcicki. YouTube has committed to education through its YouTube Learning initiative, which offers grants and support for educational content creation.
Curious: Microlearning has been identified as an emerging trend in eLearning, and Curious provides concise learning modules on a broad array of subjects (including niche topics such as pipe soldering or organic gardening) with the goal of promoting lifelong learning.
E-Learning is big business for companies as well, and many use Learning Management Systems (LMS) to centralise and manage employee training. In addition, individuals can use other existing tools to bolster their professional skillsets and aid in career advancement.
Moodle: Moodle is a free, open-source and user-friendly LMS used by a variety of organisations all over the world. With multilingual capabilities and customizable features, educators and employers can create a personalised learning experience accessible via the web and mobile devices.
Skillshare: Skillshare connects teachers and learners, offering opportunities for individuals to learn new skills and enhance their professional profile through project-based classes. Thousands of free courses are available in subject areas such as design, business, and technology.
Learning Tools for Kids
Brainly: A knowledge sharing app that allows students to ask each other for help with class discussions, assignments, new subjects, etc. Much of the content is free, but there are subscription options for access to “verified answers.”
E-Learning for Kids: This online platform is targeted towards primary-aged children and offers courses designed to boost maths, reading and science comprehension that complement scholastic studies. The courses are free and are offered in five different languages.
Brainrush: Created by the founder of Atari, Inc, Brainrush offers a host of online games targeted at a broad age range and is free to use. The games are designed to encourage users to think fast and put their knowledge to the test in all manner of areas including math, science, social studies and geography.
STEM and Coding
The Concord Consortium: The Concord Consortium aims to improve the delivery of education through technology, primarily in STEM fields. They have published a suite of open software tools that teachers tailor to their curriculum allowing students of all ages to tackle subjects like leaf photosynthesis, chemical reactions, greenhouse gas and geometry.
Scratch: Scratch is an introductory programming language that helps young people learn how to program stories and games. Scratch is a project of the MIT Media Lab and available for free.
Code Academy: Code Academy is a freemium online platform that offers free coding classes along with interactive projects and quizzes. Content is free to learners all over the world in 12 different programming languages, but paid premium options are available.
Duolingo: Many language learning tools exist, but Duolingo is completely free. Users can learn dozens of languages, and the online platform and app seek to make learning fun by incorporating gamification features.
BBC Languages: A more traditional language learning hub, BBC Languages offers proficiency quizzes, video lessons, language learning for kids, grammar activities and more. Simply choose from the list of 30-plus languages and start exploring.
Author: Anna Rees
Updated: Laura Depta (July 2018)