Never Too Old to Learn: 10 Best Free Online Courses for Retirees


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Accredited schools from all over the world, including Ivy League schools, offer curricula and certificates for completing relatively short online courses, lasting about four weeks. These massive open online courses, or MOOCs, appeal to a variety of age groups. Retirees, though, are in an ideal situation to take full advantage. Offered for free on an endless number of topics, these classes provide an opportunity to learn and grow without sacrificing the comforts of home. Here are some of the most popular courses with appeal for retirees.

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More than 91,000 people have enrolled in "Food, Nutrition, and Your Health" on the platform Open2Study and more than 4,600 student reviewers have given it a 91 percent rating overall. Reviews praise the clear instructor, well-organized course, and variety of useful topics. The four-week course covers basic nutrition, dietary intake, eating disorders, and healthful nutrition, all of which retirees can apply to their daily lives.

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Among the MOOCs that have generated the most interest from users on the aggregator Class Central, four of the top five were developed by Coursera. They are headed by Rice University's "Introduction to Interactive Programming" in the Python computer language, a practical choice that leaped ahead of Coursera's most popular MOOC of 2016, "Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects."

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Udacity offers the free course "Web Development: How to Build a Blog" for users who have some basic knowledge of computer science and would consider themselves intermediate. In six modules, the course teaches students how to create a blog from the ground up. Even though the prerequisites suggest some web development experience, even users who didn't have extensive experience say this course was informative and well-executed. During retirement, a blog could keep family and friends informed of new experiences and travels or serve as an educational or informative domain on a topic of interest. This course is on demand, so it can be completed at any time.

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This look into entrepreneurship from the University of Maryland via Coursera is tops with student reviewers, who like the way the course is structured and presented and recommend it for anyone interested in starting a business. "Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship" covers topics including the mindset needed to be an entrepreneur and building innovative business models. Anyone can audit this course, which allows access to all the lectures and course materials but doesn't award a certificate at the completion of the course.

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More than 2,700 students have reviewed "Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal & Professional Productivity," a University of California course offered through Coursera, giving it a 4-star rating. The business school news site Poets and Quants lists this course as an "essential MOOC in business," with topics including delegation, expectations of superiors, and managing existing resources. For those considering a new career during retirement, these topics may be especially applicable. Reviewers call the course "practical" and "interesting," and many also say they learned valuable tools for managing time more effectively. This course can be audited for free.

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Perhaps poetry is one of the classes you skipped in college and always wanted to revisit. "Modern & Contemporary American Poetry" is one of "the 50 most popular MOOCs of all time," according to Online Course Report, so this is the one to take. The 5-star course gets glowing student reviews and gives free access to all the material. Billed as fast-paced, this 10-week course focuses on modern and contemporary U.S. poetry with weekly interactive discussions to reiterate the material.

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Since 2014, around 162,000 students have taken "Financial Markets," a Yale University course taught by Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller. Knowledge of financial markets is especially important for people looking for ways to maximize a fixed income after retirement. Risk management, debt versus equity, and real estate are among the topics in this seven-module course. More than 2,000 student reviewers give the course an average rating of 4.9 and remark on the wide range of material and the effectiveness of the instruction.

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"Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests" focuses on preparation for the International English Language Testing System exam, the most popular English-language test for higher education and global migration. Hundreds of thousands of students have taken this six-week course -- more than 440,000 learners in a single session,  according to the British Council, which offers the course on the FutureLearn platform.

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Because the world is changing constantly, especially when it comes to technology, this course is relevant to keeping up with today's world. "Intro to Artificial Intelligence" teaches the basics of AI as well as applications that could be essential to the future. This Stanford University course on Udacity has attracted nearly 160,000 students, proving its allure to a multitude of people.

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For some, retirement can be dangerously sedentary, especially as aches and pains intensify with age. The University of Edinburgh course "Sit Less, Get Active" emphasizes the risks of inactivity. Students focus on how to increase physical activity in various settings for six months after the initial three-week course. participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.