online english courses

The 20 Best Sites for Taking Free English Courses Online

Wake up! Turn on your computer.

Now you’re ready to take a college-level English course, completely online.

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas. You don’t even need to get out of bed.

Better yet, it may not cost you anything.

All you need is an internet connection, a little time and the desire to learn.

There’s much to explore in the world of online English courses, so let’s get to it!

Types of Online English Courses

When you’re learning in a classroom, you usually learn in a very specific way. You sit, listen to a teacher at the front and take notes or ask questions.

However, your online English learning can be carried out quite differently.

Let’s go over some of the most common styles of online courses.

Asynchronous online courses

“Asynchronous” is a fancy word that means “not happening at the same time.” So, an asynchronous course is one that is available to you whenever. You don’t have to get lessons at a certain time or date.

The English learning material is made available either all at once or on set dates. You can view the content whenever you want and complete any given assignments. They may or may not be reviewed by whoever is providing the material.

Asynchronous courses are popular because it works with the one of the greatest advantages of online education: the ability to get your learning done on your own time. These courses often use pre-recorded videos or prepared lecture notes for their lessons.

While you’re allowed to study at your own time, you personally have to remember deadlines for any assignments. That’s why it’s important to be organized when taking asynchronous courses.

Synchronous online courses

Synchronous online English courses are the opposite of asynchronous ones. You can think of them as the classic classroom experience—just virtual.

Synchronous online English courses require real-time interaction with your instructor and sometimes, fellow classmates. The English lessons would be taught live, so you have to be around at a specific time or date for them.

Most synchronous courses would be held with video conferences or live streams. If you enjoy having a schedule for your online English lessons and you like live interaction, then synchronous online courses might be for you!

Keep in mind also that some online courses can combine synchronous and asynchronous qualities. An English course like this may have scheduled live lessons, but also let you study the material whenever you want.

MOOCs

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. What that means is that it’s a course given on the internet, usually at the college level, that’s open for anyone to enroll (become a student). Many times, these courses are taught by real university professors, and they’re usually free.

MOOCs are a great choice to help you improve your English language skills. These courses are a fantastic way to take a real class taught by a real teacher but without having to actually go to a university.

Millions of people are using MOOCs now because it offers a lot of advantages.

Here are some of the benefits of taking an open online course!

  • It’s free!
  • It’s online, so you can learn from anywhere.
  • Many times, you can earn a certificate that shows you completed a course.
  • The course is often taught by real professors from actual universities. You can even take a course from a Harvard professor for free!
  • You can drop out anytime. Unlike with an actual university, it doesn’t matter if you suddenly don’t have enough time to finish your class. You can start and stop anytime and you won’t lose anything.
  • Did we mention it’s free?

MOOCs are a pretty new idea, but already there are a lot of places you can find them online. Some websites have paid courses as well, and some even give college credit.

Website-hosted courses

Many English courses online can also take the form of their own websites. You can search for and access them instantly.

Most of the time, English learning material is published for free on websites and can be viewed anytime, making them like asynchronous courses. They may be organized into units and lessons, forming a sort of simple curriculum for learners.

You should honestly find and use as many English-teaching websites as you can. Because the content is almost always free and available, you have nothing to lose when learning with websites!

Websites can also have their own learner forums, where learners can talk and ask questions with each other. You may even find native speakers who are willing to help you out!

As you can see, online English courses can take many forms.

You should explore and find the right kind of online English course for you. That way, you can learn comfortably and confidently.

fluentu logoAnother online option for English learning is FluentU. FluentU is designed to get you comfortable with everyday English, by combining all the benefits of complete immersion and native-level conversations with easy-to-read subtitles.

 

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.

FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:

-learn-english-with-videos

FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.

learn-english-with-captioned-television-show-clips

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:

learn-english-with-interactive-subtitled-dialogue

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

practice-english-with-adaptive-quizzes

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.

You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.

This makes the program an excellent way to learn English as it’s actually used by real native English speakers. 

Now let’s talk online courses!

Below is a list of some of the best websites to find free online English courses you can start taking today.

The 20 Best Sites for Taking Free English Courses Online

Alison

online english courses

Opened in 2007, Alison is considered by most to be the first MOOC.

And it’s still a great place to learn! The website has over 1,000 courses. Its focus is on improving work skills to help you get a new job or to get a promotion in your current job. Because of this, Alison has an entire section of English language courses with lots of great lessons for all different levels.

Courses you should be taking:

MOOEC

online english courses

This website is just for English learners. As you may have guessed, MOOEC stands for Massive Open Online English Course. This site has classes for learners at all levels, from beginner to advanced.

The courses offered here are shorter than most MOOCs. Instead of taking weeks to complete, MOOEC gives its courses as single lessons. If you’re not sure if online study is right for you, MOOEC is a good place to start, since it will take less of your time.

MOOEC was created in Australia, and some of the lessons make that very clear. There are some classes about places in Australia. Some of the spelling might be different from American English, so keep that in mind.

Courses you should be taking:

  • Elementary English Course: Here’s a perfect course if you’re just starting out.
  • Common Mistakes: This course covers some of the most common English mistakes people make.
  • Coffee Culture: For anyone interested in Australian English and culture, this class teaches everyday listening and speaking skills.

FutureLearn

online english courses

Many online courses can be done on your own, but FutureLearn encourages students to be social and talk with other people taking the same courses. With over a million enrolled in the classes here, there will be lots of people to talk to!

The courses offered come from 40 places all across the world, including some top British institutions like the British Council and British Museum. FutureLearn has no partners in the U.S., so if you’re looking for American English, you might want to try a different website.

FutureLearn works like many MOOCs—lessons are given every week for a certain number of weeks. You can learn along with the class, which is highly encouraged (so you can talk to other students). But if the class doesn’t fit into your schedule, you can take it at your own pace.

Courses you should be taking:

edX

online english courses

EdX is one of the biggest MOOC websites out there. It was created by Harvard and MIT, two very famous and expensive universities in America. You can find a lot of college-level courses here, created and taught by actual professors from top universities.

You can actually earn college credits on edX, through Arizona State University. It’s not free, but it’s cheaper than being in an actual college. Some of the courses have certificates you can get for completing them. Most of these cost some money, so make sure you check the details before you sign up!

Like most other MOOCs, classes here are similar to college courses and some take a few weeks to complete. A certain number of hours is needed each week to learn all the material. You can learn along with the class, or read through a course after it’s complete (though you won’t get to talk to others about it if you choose to do that!).

Courses you should be taking:

Udemy

online english courses

Udemy wants to teach everything! There are tens of thousands of courses, and even though not all of them are from well-known universities, they have some great ones to choose from.

Not all the courses on Udemy are free, but there’s a good number of free ones. Even the courses that aren’t free can be pretty affordable.

Udemy uses video lectures, written materials and quizzes to help you learn. You can watch a video or read a lesson, then test yourself to make sure you understood. You can go as fast or as slow as you want!

Courses you should be taking:

Open Learning

online english courses

You’ll find a very friendly environment at Open Learning. Here, anyone can take or create a course. You might not find as many college professors, but you’ll find experts who want to share their skills.

Open Learning does work with a number of universities, so you can find a good mix of both professional and more casual courses here. Not all the courses on Open Learning are free, but there are some that are free and open to anyone.

Courses you should be taking:

My MOOC

online english courses

My MOOC is the perfect solution for learners of English who don’t have a lot of free time and want to improve their resume/CV fast. The courses here take from six to 21 hours, so they’re short and to the point.

My MOOC focuses on speaking and writing, but everyone can find a course that adapts to their needs. The best part? Most of the courses include subtitles!

Courses you should be taking:

  • Unlock your English: Learn the basics of business English, from small talk to business meetings, in just 15 hours! A great MOOC if you like being in contact with other students.
  • English pronunciation in a global world: In this course, you’ll learn everything about English pronunciation and the differences between the different English accents. You’ll also improve your own pronunciation thanks to the exercises.

American English

online english courses

American English is managed by the Bureau Of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States, and it was created for teachers and students of American English as a second language around the world.

They only offer a few MOOCs at the moment, but they’re very well done and include a lot of materials, modules and even quizzes.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced English learner and you want to learn a lot of vocabulary and facts about the United States, join American English now.

Courses you should be taking:

  • English for journalism: This course includes everything you need to know about journalism in English, from its history to its vocabulary in newspapers or the news on TV.
  • English for career development: Learn how to write amazing resumes, impressive cover letters and professional emails. The boost your career needs is in this course.
  • English for STEM fields: If you need to improve your English in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, this is the perfect course for you.

ESOL Courses

online english courses

ESOL means English for Speakers of Other Languages, so this site is perfect for you.

ESOL Courses offer a lot of free online English courses for learners at any level (beginner, elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate and advanced).

You can choose from a lot of resources to practice the skill you want, from listening to English for work to reading and writing.

I love the sections called “Life in the UK” and “Life in the USA.” They offer information about culture, travel, living, history and food in the UK and the USA, among other cool stuff. As a bonus, all this information is presented through hundreds of exercises where you can practice your English.

Courses you should be taking:

  • Beginners course: If you’re just starting your adventure with the English language, this course will teach you all the basics in just 16 lessons.
  • Elementary course: When you finish the course for beginners, continue with this course for elementary students and keep on learning in a fun way.
  • Easy readers: Read these easy and short texts and improve your vocabulary. They include pictures and videos, and they tell you which words you need to remember.

Canvas Network

online english courses

The Canvas Network is a website for “lifelong learners,” or people who want to continue learning even when they’re finished with school. They have courses from a lot of universities, and many of the classes are very professional.

This website encourages students to learn along with the class and have conversations about the lessons. If you prefer to learn on your own, you can do that, too. All the material is available for you to see once a course is over.

Courses you should be taking:

Learn English Online

online english courses

Learn English Online is the perfect place to find everything about the English language, including grammar, vocabulary, forums, learning tips and even a wheel that will tell you what you can practice if you don’t have any idea!

The site offers 11 units divided into 54 lessons, and each lesson covers one grammar topic. The lessons include explanations, examples, tests and songs or videos related to the topic of the lesson.

If you don’t want to follow the order of the lessons, or you want to practice a specific skill, you can click on the “Improve” tab and choose the skill you want to practice. You also have a lot of great information related to learning English in the “Learning Skills” tab, but you need to be at least an intermediate learner to understand everything there.

Courses you should be taking:

  • Improve your spoken English: This isn’t really a course, but it includes a lot of information and tips on how to improve your speaking skills.
  • Improve your writing: Learn how to improve your English writing skills with all the tips included in this section. Read the guides to spelling (the correct way to write a word), capitalization (when to write in uppercase letters) and punctuation (the use of symbols to separate words and sentences) to become a master of English writing.

Coursera

online english courses

Recommended for advanced learners, Coursera is another MOOC that lets you learn at your own pace (as fast or slow as you want). You can complete courses as they take place, or just look over the material when they’re over.

Each course has instructional videos, followed by quizzes and exercises you can take to make sure you understood the materials. There are a few peer-rated (graded by your fellow students) assignments, so it’s a good place to exchange information with other students who are learning just like you.

Coursera has a huge number of partners, institutions and universities offering courses. More are constantly being added, so it’s worth checking back regularly to see if anything interesting has popped up.

Courses you should be taking:

Udacity

online english courses

If you’re an upper-intermediate or advanced learner of English and want to practice the language while learning something else in English, you’re going to love Udacity.

Feel like a real native speaker of English while you take courses on business, computer science or personal development completely in English and for free!

Udacity offers 286 courses in English. I’m sure there’s at least one you’ll be interested in.

Courses you should be taking:

  • Refresh Your Resume: Now you can have the best English resume in town thanks to this Grow with Google course.
  • Introduction to Artificial Intelligence: Artificial Intelligence is around us everywhere we go. From machine learning to robotics, after you finish this course you’ll be one step closer to calling yourself The King/Queen of AI.
  • College Algebra: Are you a math person? If you love numbers, equations and logarithms, this course will boost your Math English vocabulary to the ultimate level.

Saylor

online english courses

Our final advanced-level option, Saylor offers many courses for free. This website is a non-profit, meaning it doesn’t make any money from teaching online courses.

There are no start dates here—all courses can be taken at any time. Some courses even offer college credit if you can pass a final exam for a small fee!

Courses you should be taking:

USA Learns

online english courses

USA Learns is a website that hosts free English lessons, all of which you can access after you register an account.

There are three main courses and their difficulties range from beginner to intermediate levels. Lessons are taught with videos and activities that improve different English skills, from vocabulary to speaking.

USA Learns also has content that teaches you what daily life is like in the United States! This adds a nice flavor to the English you learn.

Courses you should be taking:

  • 1st English Course: A 20-unit course that teaches you the basics of the language, using a variety of lesson topics and all kinds of fun activities.
  • Practice English and Reading: An intermediate-level course that focuses on improving written English skills with stories

Perfectly Spoken

online english courses

Perfectly Spoken features over 500 video lessons, all taught by experienced English teachers. Each course is separated by learner level, and you can find out which course is best for you with a free English test. But even if you start one course, you can switch to another one whenever you’d like!

There are three learner plans: Free, Student and Pro. You need to pay for the Student and Pro plans, but even the Free Plan gives you access to 300 video lessons and lets you watch 10 hours of content every month.

As a bonus for learners, Perfectly Spoken also provides extra learning materials and practice tests. Once you complete a course, you can even get a fancy certificate of completion!

Oxford Online English

online english courses

Oxford Online English has many free lessons that teach different English skills. They cover many different topics and are surprisingly quite detailed. There are even lessons that focus on Business English and IELTS preparation.

Free lessons are uploaded weekly, so you can keep looking forward to new content!

Besides free lessons, Oxford Online English also lets you get personal paid lessons with teachers over programs like Skype, Google Hangouts or others. Besides teaching you, your teacher can also give you feedback and tell you what you can improve on.

Courses you should be taking:

  • Spoken English: It’s very important to practice your English speaking skills whenever you can. Oxford Online English’s many video lessons on spoken English will help you build your confidence

ABA English

online english courses

ABA English has its own special method of teaching the language. The method is based on the belief that a learner learns best when he or she is interested and motivated by the content.

The online course is made up of 144 units organized into six levels (from beginner to advanced). Each unit starts with a short film that shows native speakers using the language in different everyday situations.

You then move on to the unit material, which you learn with videos featuring ABA’s teachers. Subtitles can be provided in your native language to make sure you understand the content. For practice, ABA offers tons of little exercises and review quizzes to test your skills.

ABA does have paid versions for its course, but its free version gives you access to the whole six-level course!

BBC’s Learning English

online english courses

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has its own online resources for English learners. They include detailed courses that teach different levels of English, plus specific topics about the language.

The lessons teach English concepts while discussing certain topics (such as money or the news). Lessons can include videos, audio clips and text descriptions. This makes your studies all the more fun and interesting, since you’ll have different contexts to learn from.

There are plenty of activities and quizzes to test your understanding. Each lesson also has its own vocabulary and grammar reference sheets that you can view anytime.

Courses you should be taking:

  • English My Way: This is a basic course that shows the kind of English used in different everyday situations. This will be a good starting point if you’re learning with BBC’s Learning English.
  • English You Need: This goes over more specific cases when using the English language. It even includes a “Learners’ Questions” unit that answers questions asked by English learners from around the world!

USAHello’s Learnship English Courses

online english courses

Every year, Learnship offers free English classes for 1000 students on the USAHello platform.

You can focus on either business English or general English. Learnship has classes for every level, and you can find out your own with a graded test. Each lesson, taught by real teachers, includes videos, tests and practice activities.

To get signed up, all you have to do is send an email and you’ll get a one-year membership for your course. There’s no time limit to when you can apply, but it’s better to do it sooner than later.

Bonus Course: UpEnglish

Any of the courses could be a superb addition to your resume, but there’s one topic missing.

It’s one that’s an absolute necessity in the modern business world. English for business video calls.

Just imagine: What if you could speak fluent English in calls, and connect comfortably with our customers, colleagues, and managers?

What if you could have an incredible interview and earn a new job or a big promotion over a video call?

You could actually look forward to these calls instead of worrying about them.

What could this newfound confidence do for your career?

Now there’s an online course that can help you with that. It’s called UpEnglish. It’s not free, but your subscription here will cost less than many of the paid courses from edX, Alison and Coursera mentioned above.

Don’t miss this opportunity to improve your English and your career—get started with UpEnglish today.

 

So what are you waiting for?

Get comfortable, pick a course on this list that interests you and start learning!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.

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