The internet has made significant changes to our lives in the past few decades. It has made countless tasks much easier for us to the point where doing a lot of them online has become second nature to us. Whether it is something as simple as getting in touch with a loved one in seconds or something more complicated like planning a whole vacation, everything is done on the internet because it’s simply easier. Other than helping get work done quickly, the internet has also allowed us to do a lot from the comfort of our own homes without the need to take out a significant amount of time for it.

One such activity that’s on the rise these days is gaining new skills and knowledge through online courses that are available to everyone with an internet connection. These courses are a great way to take your career further and even for personal growth. Multiple websites such as edX and Coursera offer such programs, sometimes from notable universities like Harvard and MIT. These courses not only help you learn new skills that can help improve your CV but can also lead to official certificates from well-reputed universities to give you an even stronger edge in your professional life. And the ability to do all this from your living room couch is just a massive bonus in and of itself.

So, if you’re interested in the idea of pursuing a few online short courses, we have compiled a list of some of the best free ones you can enroll in. Yes, you read that right. All of the following courses are completely free! There’s really nothing stopping you from trying some of these out to improve your career prospects and impress employers.


Best Free Online Short Courses

1. Introduction to Computer Science – Harvard

If you’re into learning about computer science, what better place to do that than Harvard? This online short course comes directly from one of the very top universities in the world and you can complete it without paying a penny. In this course, you will learn efficient problem-solving and many languages such as PHP, CSS, and HTML. The course’s duration is 180 hours which is spread over 9 lessons. The best thing about this course is that it’s suitable for you even if you are a beginner. Also, at the end of it all, if you wish to receive an official certificate from Harvard to add to your wall of fame, you can pay $90 and get it as well. Pretty good deal overall, don’t you think?


2. Introduction to C and C++ – MIT

For yet another computer science-related course from a top global institute, check this free short online course out. As the name suggests, it focuses on the C and C++ programming languages in a fast-paced style. It’s an introductory course, so it’s suitable for you even if you don’t have prior knowledge of these languages. You’ll be taught about the background knowledge of these languages including pointers, memory management, and object-oriented programming. You’ll also learn how to find bugs when you start using these languages later on. The course’s duration is 16 hours spread across 8 lectures and 8 labs.


3. Introduction to Programming in Java – MIT

If you get done with the course above and wish to take your computer science knowledge further, then this free short online course is great for you. You’ll learn how to create working software to solve actual, real-world issues. While this particular course is more suited to those with some prior knowledge of computer science, you don’t necessarily need to be familiar with it if you’re a hard worker willing to learn. The course lasts for 16 hours while you’ll complete 7 lectures and 7 labs.


4. Programming for Everybody (Python) – University of Michigan

Learning Python is sure to give your career in computer sciences a boost, and the University of Michigan is offering a free short course focusing on it. This is a beginner-level course so you don’t have to have any previous experience in programming. As long as you have some experience of using computers in general, you’ll be able to complete this course with ease. The course has a duration of 20-40 hours spread across a total of 10 lessons.


5. This is How You Make iPhone Apps – The App Dojo

Not all online courses have to come from top schools for them to be any good. This crash course on making iPhone apps and submitting them to the App Store is a great way to get started with app development. If you’ve ever had an idea for a cool app but you haven’t been able to actually get the app made, you will be able to do it yourself after finishing this course. It’s a very short course, with 23 short lessons taking just 5 hours to complete.


6. The Architectural Imagination – Harvard

One of the most famous architecture courses that you can complete for free comes from Harvard. The Architectural Imagination focuses on reading, analyzing, and understanding various types of representation in architecture. In this free short online course, you will also understand the historic and social contexts surrounding some important architectural projects. The course is a very good blend of both an academic and a professional outlook on architecture. The duration is 30-50 hours and there are 10 modules in total. You can complete the course in 10 weeks.


7. Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies – Harvard

Another one from Harvard, this course is perfect for you if you want to be an entrepreneur in an emerging economy. You will not only develop awareness regarding the different opportunities in emerging markets as far as entrepreneurship is concerned but also learn how to evaluate these opportunities. You will also focus on identifying complex social problems and how to solve them. The complete course has a length of 6 weeks. A certificate can be added upon completion for $125.


8. Adobe Photoshop CS6 Essential Tools –  Alison

For people looking to get into photo editing and graphic design, Adobe Photoshop is a program that is almost essential to start using. This free course from Alison is a great way to get started with the basic tools in Photoshop. The course will teach you how to manipulate images and retouch photos via video tutorials. You will need just 2 hours to complete this course, and can also request for certification at the end of it.


9. Marketing in a Digital World – University of Illinois

If you’re a student of business studies or are just interested in marketing trends, then this free short online course from the University of Illinois is a good one to check out. It’s part of the University’s iMBA degree and focuses on how digital tools are changing the way marketing is tackled in today’s world. You will learn how you can use devices such as smartphones and the internet to take products to the consumers and persuade them to buy the products. The course has a duration of 32 hours and is a great way to learn the basics of marketing to make yourself stand out in your field.


10. Email Marketing Crash Course – HubSpot

This is truly a short course that aims to teach you all there is to realize your goals as far as email marketing is concerned. The course consists of five videos that you can watch if you want to grow email lists that are organic to achieve a higher open rate. You will also learn how to avoid spam filters and maximize the deliverability of your emails, and also how you can use A/B testing to make your conversion rates better. This short course may not come from an educational institute, but the value it offers as far as email marketing goes is priceless.


11. Introduction to Public Speaking – University of Washington

A lot of advanced jobs will require you to speak in public, whether it’s for a conference or a presentation. This free short online course is great for those who want to improve their public speaking skills as it helps them critically analyze themselves and others through an interactive learning style. You will learn how to make compelling arguments and how to deliver them in a room full of people. In just 10 weeks, you’ll be a much better public speaker than you are right now.


12. Successful Negotiation – University of Michigan

Negotiation is sometimes the key to success, and this course by the University of Michigan realizes that. In a study plan comprising of just over 8 hours, you’ll learn how you can successfully negotiate in multiple situations through helpful video lectures as well as a free app to help you complete the course efficiently. For a completely free course, this is one that is suitable for pretty much any professional.


13. English for the Workplace – British Council

And finally, if you’re looking to work at a multi-national company, chances are you’ll need to have excellent English-speaking skills to be efficient not only within the office but also at international conferences and workshops. This free short online course from the British Council is perfect for improving your English skills whether you want to improve your employability or just be better at using the language. You can get a $54 certificate after completion to make your profile look even better.


14. How to Start a Startup – Stanford University

This course is developed by Sam Altman and was introduced at Stanford in 2014. It focuses on the essentials of developing a startup business like fundraising, user growth, and operations and management. You will learn about very notable entrepreneurs such as Peter Thiel from PayPal, Brian Chesky from Airbnb, and Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn. Learning from the examples of real-world leaders will give you a very good idea of what you need to keep in mind when thinking of starting your own business. The course is suitable for all levels and takes about 20 hours to complete.


15. New Venture Finance: Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs – University of Maryland

This is another free short online course that focuses on startups. This one is great for those of you who want to figure out when you need to secure funding for the company you’re developing. This is a four-week-long course that answers some crucial questions regarding when you need outside capital, what options you have for fundraising, how you can pitch your ideas to investors, and more.


16. Product Design – Validation and UX Through Design Sprints – Google

This course comes from tech giant Google and aims to teach you how you can take your big new ideas and actually turn them into products that you can then develop a profitable business around. The course is a strong combination of theoretical and practical knowledge. You will learn about product validation, the process of tracking metrics, UI/UX practices, and much more. It’s a short course that’ll take you 48 hours to complete but you’ll come out of it very focused on the other side.


17. Writing on Contemporary Issues: Culture Shock! Writing, Editing, and Publishing in Cyberspace – MIT

For the lovers of writing out there, this free course from MIT will teach you how you can write for an online audience in a way that is engaging, critical, and one that puts your ideas and perspectives at the forefront. You will learn how you can give a personality to your voice and your ideas, specifically on American popular culture so that it engages online readers. The course has a duration of 32 hours and everyone interested in writing can easily complete it.


18. Tsinghua Chinese: Start Talking with 1.3 Billion People – Tsinghua University

One of the most famous international universities in Asia, Tsinghua University in China offers a free Chinese language course that you can complete in 6 weeks. You will learn all the basic language skills necessary to communicate with people in countries where Mandarin is spoken in this free short online course. Anyone who is planning to work or study in such countries should take this course. If you are required to show proof of language skills, you can also get an official certificate for just $49.


19. Machine Learning for Musicians and Artists – Goldsmiths, University of London

A free online course that focuses on machine learning techniques in order to take music and art to a whole new level? That’s precisely what this one is. If you’ve ever wanted to create an instrument from scratch that responds to human gestures and makes sounds, or an art installation that responds to a crowd’s actions, or anything similar, then taking this course will give you all the basic knowledge you need to develop real-time systems in the field of art and music.


20. The Science of the Solar System – California Institute of Technology

You don’t have to be a physicist to be interested in learning about the solar system, which is why this free short online course can be recommended to just about anyone who wants to learn a little more about the universe. In this course, you will learn about how the solar system is being currently explored. You will use various principles for physics, biology, chemistry, and geology to understand the solar system. This course is not very easy but it definitely is a rewarding one to complete.


And with that, we conclude our list of some of the best free online courses you can take to take your career further. Whether you want to start your own business, apply for a job overseas, or just learn a new skill, there is so much to choose from these days that there really isn’t anything holding you back. And since there are a plethora of such courses available for completely free, you can jump right in!


I hope that this article on the best free short online courses was helpful! Make sure to also check out the Available Programs for International Students!