Take Amazing Courses for Free with Leading Universities

What price do you put on your education? I’m not talking about the remnants of factoids you may – or may not – stumble across on this blog. I’m talking about real education, the kind handed out by meticulous professors with sagging beards and white coats.

Thanks to the Internet, learning new skills and advancing your expertise has never been easier. It’s as simple as point, Google, click and digest.

How I Became an Internet Scumbag

Before I evolved in to an affiliate marketer, I was a sloth-like web developer.

Admission: I say evolved, in reality it was more like a Big Bang. A collision between entrepreneurial dreams and the revelation that money truly did grow on trees. Google Money Trees, to be precise.

Before I was a web developer, I was a high school drop-out with too much time on my hands.

I wouldn’t exactly say that I’ve trailblazed my way in to self-employment. A better description would be that I’ve fumbled through the darkness, made a shit ton of mistakes, but ultimately managed to teach myself just enough to make a good living online.

One of the websites that made it all possible was VTC. Now, when you look at VTC today, it may seem a little outdated and slightly tattered around the edges. But back in 2005, VTC was my primary source of education for a career in web development.

As a drop out with a handful of GCSEs and no further education, I relied solely on VTC to teach me the basics of coding; from PHP to JavaScript and basic HTML. I used the site to get an understanding of tools like Photoshop. And it was through that limited binge of squirreled self-teaching that I managed to land a job as a web developer.

I watched video after video after video for a period of at least six months. It was the ‘almost-free’ alternative to a fortune spent attending physical classes.

Looking back, the site has probably shaped why I’m so dismissive of the academic route in to any career that involves a computer. You can find the information online for a lot cheaper than what it costs to attend University.

Sites like VTC and Lynda gave me the platform and the vital skill-set to move seamlessly in to affiliate marketing. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. The industry was booming, and I merely had to hold on to the gravy train to steal my first break.

The point I’m rather ambiguously trying to make here is that education is always on your doorstep, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. While I used sites like VTC and Lynda to inadvertently guide my career towards Internet Marketing, there are now even greater courses available. And those courses are the reason for this post. They are too fucking awesome to miss out on, so you need to hear about them.

The Rise of Open Courses

A few weeks ago on StackThatMoney, my attention was drawn to a selection of online modules that mark the next great advance in distance learning. These are high quality courses, taught by world-class professors with full integration of the modern digital web.

Take Coursera for example. Coursera offers free courses from some of America’s most renowned Universities. You could learn computer science from Stanford, or model thinking from the University of Michigan, or how about an introduction to genome science from Penn? That’s genome science for Christ’s sake! You’re not supposed to try that shit at home. But now you can.

It’s clear that high quality distance learning now extends far beyond the grainy PHP tutorials I used to watch. You can get an introduction to just about anything if you shop around.

Even Harvard is getting in on the act. The closest I ever thought I’d get to a Harvard brainfart was in those two hours I spent living vicariously through Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

Another site that offers a great interactive learning experience is Udacity. While Coursera takes the traditional route of heavy lecturing, Udacity places the priority on getting you to build workable solutions.

One course walks you through the building of a search engine from scratch, while another covers the complete development of a web browser. Udacity is rightly praised for turning the learning experience in to a practical examination of your skills. It forces you to build and develop. So if you can’t handle endless theory and lecture, it may be worth a look.

Apple Smells the Opportunity

If you needed any further evidence that distance learning is about to evolve spectacularly, look no further than Apple’s showcasing of iTunes U.

Having such a wealth of information on a phone or tablet in your pocket should be great reason for excitement. It certainly is for me, and I don’t even have an iPhone (although this is the sort of technology that could make me sell out).

The age old excuse of “I don’t have the skills to move my career forward” is finally being tarred as the bullshit it always was. There’s truly no excuse for accepting defeat and spending a lifetime in a career that you’re unhappy with.

Admittedly, there are some career choices that are always going to require the traditional road through Academia. A surgeon should never qualify to tamper with somebody’s guts by virtue of watching a few video streams. Even if they’re in HD.

But for most people reading this blog, all the information you could ever need to increase your expertise and broaden your prospects is sitting in the cloud, waiting to be tapped. What are you waiting for?

Recommended This Week

  • Make sure you grab your copy of the newly released Premium Posts Volume 5. It’s the perfect tonic for anybody wanting to crack Internet Marketing on a shoestring budget.

  • Also be sure to check out Adsimilis, the official sponsor of Premium Posts Volume 5. Adsimilis is one of the most effective networks in the world for a CPA marketer to sink his teeth in to. They are particularly dominant in the dating vertical, with industry leading payouts. If you are a dating affiliate you need to be on Adsimilis. Simples.

About the author


A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.


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  • I have a friend who dubs his past time “coursecrashing” whereby he gets some free education by taking advantage of the fact that most UK campuses are pretty open, public places and he drops in on lectures. Partially to learn and partially for the thrill of seeing if he can get away with it. I’d go so far as to say he is a little addicted to it.

    He says he even managed to get himself on a register for one class because he turned up so often that the lecturer thought there must be a mistake that he wasn’t included. 🙂

    Anyway, that was a vaguely related comment but I liked this post, interesting stuff, and it just kind of reminded me about my coursecrashing friend.

  • This is great Finch. I actually never knew you could study online to such a standard.

    How is this available? It’s truly incredible. Tuition fee’s in the UK are now around £3,000 a year and with resources like this available will people begin to take this step?

    Yet again you bring the quality with your content. A truly brilliant post.



  • James – I’d never heard of coursecrashing before. I admire his dedication to the craft though! He just needs to find a way to get the full accreditation at the end of it and he’s sorted.

    Ryan – I’m not sure of their exact motives for making it all available, but it’s definitely a good thing. And I’m sure the publicity is excellent for them.

    I’m not sure why anybody would choose to put themselves so badly out of pocket when, like you say, the prices are extortionate to study in person these days. Unless you’re studying a course where the full degree is truly necessary for the career, I don’t see the point. It’s more of a exercise in drinking a lot and having a great time socially otherwise…

  • Great post Finch, matches to some extent the way I think about education as well but somehow I am still going to study Software Engineering next year in the UK o.O (by the way, tuition fees are £9000 a year now, not £3000).
    I believe that getting formal education is still important, mainly because it teaches you good practices and foundations, not like some courses on the internet. At the same time, I have to say that Coursera is amazing and all the courses are structured coherently and in a way that everyone can understand and keep up.
    But don’t dismiss the importance of formal education only because there are courses available on the internet because then you could say that children don’t need to go to primary school either because it’s all on Wikipedia.
    Anyway, I will join the university this September and see how it goes, maybe it is indeed a waste of money.

    P.S. ed.ted.com is a pretty good resource as well 😉

  • Yeah, I’ve heard that MIT also gives a lot of courses online. Some people are freaking out it will further monopolize the excellent education to just Harvard, ect… Realistically I think that’s not really the case. Regardless, It’s kinda cool you can get top tier quality educational courses for free.

  • ‘A surgeon should never qualify to tamper with somebody’s guts by virtue of watching a few video streams. Even if they’re in HD.’

    To be fair a lot of keyhole surgery these days is done via a monitor and is probably not a great deal different from being skilled at gaming. Sometimes the surgeon doesn’t even have to be in the same country let alone the same room.

    That said I’m not volunteering to be the first person to have surgery done by an internet trained doctor.

  • “To be fair a lot of keyhole surgery these days is done via a monitor and is probably not a great deal different from being skilled at gaming.”
    To be fair, that’s the dumbest comment I’ve read in a long time, by someone who obviously has no experience in medicine.

    “That said I’m not volunteering to be the first person to have surgery done by an internet trained doctor.”
    That’s Ok, we’ll just get one of the top gamers to perform lobotomy on you. 😉

  • I like this notion of open courses. I have dubbed myself ‘a student of life’ and I wish to learn anything that the mind can soak up. I just wish there is a nearby university which will allow me to do just that.

  • IT courses (especially degrees) are a total waste of time.

    Having said that, I did love doing my PhD. It wasn’t in IT though, it was in biochemistry!

    I’ve worked with 100’s of guys. None of the best geeks have had IT degrees. The best one studied English!

    Since graduating in 1997 I’ve worked in IT. I’m completely self-taught at programming, having started out with basic/assembler on a Sinclair Spectrum.

    The making of my IT career was getting a job in a London IT consultancy during the dotcom boom, being given a 3000 ASP page/1000 stored procedure behemoth of a project and told to fix some bugs.

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