The 10 Best Academic English Courses You Can Take Online

Are you planning to go to college soon?

Are you already a student, and having some trouble with your college-level English?

It might be time to improve your academic English skills.

Academic English is a bit different from everyday English.

It’s more formal and often uses more advanced vocabulary.

You need to know academic English to write college essays, create a lab report or literature analysis, read and understand college texts, and in many other areas of college life.

Luckily, you don’t have to go anywhere to improve your college English.

You can just take an online academic English course.

You can learn without leaving your home, and there are many options available.

Let’s find the best online course for you!


Should You Take an Academic English Course?

College English involves reading, speaking and—most of all—writing. Online courses may seem like a great and easy way to learn, and a lot of times they are. But you’ll need to make sure this method of learning is right for you before you begin.

Take an online English course if…

  • You’re an intermediate to advanced English learner. Most courses assume you know basic English grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary.
  • You have the time for it. Online courses require you to dedicate your own free time to studying. Do you have the time for extra lessons in your schedule?
  • You’re planning to go to college soon (or are already in college). Academic English is not something you’ll need to know for writing a Facebook post, for example. It’s rarely used outside an academic environment like a college, institute, some jobs and a few other places. If you’re not planning to go to any of those places, you might want to study a different kind of English.
  • You learn well on your own. Some online courses have instructors, but students don’t usually receive one-on-one help. Some other courses let you take the course at your own pace, completely on your own. If you have a tutor, or if you study well on your own, then an online course is a good idea.

If all (or most) of these points describe you, then you’ll do well with an online course. If you’re not sure, then give it a try anyway! Many of the courses are free, so you have nothing to lose.

Before You Begin: Tips on Learning Academic English

Whether you take a course on your own, or study along with the instructors and other students, here are some tips that will help you make the most of your online course:

  • Create a schedule. Some courses require two hours a week; some require much more. See how much time you’ll need for your course, and create a schedule around your daily life to make sure you actually have time to complete the course.
  • Decide on a pace. Will you follow along with the course schedule, or work on your own?
  • Choose a course based on your style of learning. If you learn best from watching videos, choose a course that uses videos to teach. If you learn best through writing, reading or anything else, find a course that fits your needs.
  • Choose a course based on your English skill level. Not all courses are for the same level of English. You won’t get as much out of a course if you’re struggling to understand the materials. Find a course that challenges you, but doesn’t frustrate you.
  • Choose a focus. Do you want to learn more about how to read, write or speak in an academic English environment? Keep in mind that some courses only cover writing.

Once you understand what you want from an online academic English course, and you know how you plan to study, you’re ready to begin looking for the right course for you.

The 10 Best Academic English Courses You Can Take Online

1. Academic English Online at MacMillan English

Restrictions: None.

Price: About $22-$27 per course.

You might recognize the name MacMillan for their textbooks, and their online course stays true to the textbook format: This “course” is actually a collection of textbook-style material that you can access from any mobile device. The textbooks are designed to be used by teachers and students, but they can also be used for independent study.

2. Academic English at Open Learning

Restrictions: Anyone can join a course, but if you’re having problems seeing the website, try changing your browser’s location to “Unspecified” or “US” (here’s how).

Price: Free.

This free course focuses on academic English writing, but also speaking, reading, and even how to organize and plan your studies. It’s perfect for English learners planning to enter college soon, or for those already taking courses but struggling with them. Make use of the community as well—with over 1,000 students taking the course, it’s a good place to meet other English learners.

3. Academic English: Writing at Coursera

Restrictions: Courses repeat every month. Students from Crimea, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria face restrictions and may not be able to register.

Price: $310 for full 5-course bundle, $69 per course (financial aid is available).

Coursera has gathered five courses that, together, will teach you how to write a fantastic research paper for a college course. Do the full 5-course program, or select any individual courses you’re interested in.

4. English for Academic Purposes Online at The Open University

Restrictions: Courses take place at various times of year. Current registration is closed, but keep an eye out!

Price: About 1,852 USD. The high price reflects the fact that participants can get credits to use towards their own university completion. (Check with your university to make sure they accept the credits before beginning.)

This course is a combination of independent study and tutor-led study. Each student will have a tutor to help them through the course. Expect lots of reading and writing, and some speaking and listening. The course covers different aspects of an academic English environment, from writing papers to communicating with others in the university.

5. How to Write an Essay at UC Berkeley

Restrictions: Enrollment takes place during specific periods, but you can use certain course materials at any time if you choose.

Price: Free.

Learn what it’s like to study at a US university by taking this online course, brought to you by the University of Berkeley in California. This course (and the second half, found here) teaches how to compose a great essay for an academic purpose and how to edit it (with a chance to get your work reviewed by your fellow students). Take the course at the designated time to get the full features, including teacher assistance and a student community. You can also take it at any time and learn at your own pace using the course materials.

6. Academic English Online at the Queen Mary University of London

Restrictions: None.

Price: Free.

Not everyone can attend a university in England. Luckily, the people at the Queen Mary University have made one of their academic English courses available online for anyone to browse. The course does not have a teacher or other students, but it does have interactive exercises to get you thinking and practicing. Learn writing, critical reading, speaking and grammar skills for use in an academic environment. This course is best when you’re working with a tutor who can assess your work.

7. Introduction to Writing Academic Prose at Utah State University

Restrictions: None.

Price: Free.

This course is another actual college course that the Utah State University made available online for free. Follow along with the course and try your hand at the homework assignments. This course is best completed with a tutor to help you along, since there is much reading and writing to be done, and not that much instruction. By the end of the course, you should be able to analyze and write about a topic or a work of literature.

8. Academic Writing at the University of Edinburgh (Advanced)

Restrictions: None.

Price: Free.

In this course, you’ll find material about writing a first year report (an analysis of your first year at university), or an advanced research paper. The course is intended for students with a higher level of English, so it’s a good resource if you’re applying for a higher education position where you’ll need to write a thesis in English.

9. Research Writing at English Online

Restrictions: None.

Price: $139.

This course teaches students how to write a good research paper. The lessons show how to put together a well-organized paper, how to create good paragraphs full of relevant information, and how to edit and revise your paper. At the time of this writing, the course descriptions seem broken, so keep an eye on the site for an update.

10. College Readiness at Broward College (Beginner)

Restrictions: Enrollment periods are limited, so keep an eye out!

Price: Free.

If all the courses above are just above your comfortable English level, take a look at this course instead. The course material covers English reading, English writing and math for students preparing to enter college. Since this is a self-paced course (you choose how you learn), you can ignore the math section, and concentrate instead on the two English sections. The lessons will teach you how to read and analyze a work of literature, how to form good sentences and how to put those sentences together into an essay that expresses your ideas.

You don’t have to go anywhere to prepare for college-level English.

Just take one of the courses above from the comfort of your own home, and you’ll be ready to use your college-level English writing and reading!

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