The Internet has revolutionized our ability to receive free education in a wide variety of subjects. While the “free online degree” programs may be more scam than not, there are websites where you can take classes for little or no money. Just keep in mind that there truly is “no such thing as a free lunch,” and you need to always be aware of potential hidden costs. The hidden costs associated with free online classes do not necessarily relate to money. In fact, it is a simple matter to prevent yourself from being charged for something by simply never providing anyone with your credit card information
! But these websites may also be looking for your personal information as well – particularly, your email address, home address, etc. There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself in this arena should you decide that you want to take some free online classes.
1. Get a post office box. Post Office boxes can be a valuable tool if you do a lot of buying or selling online, or, in some circumstances, even if you are considering taking some free online classes. A P.O. box may not be a necessity when taking free online classes unless you are interested in taking a class that requires you to buy a book or other material that must be mailed to your home.
Whether you are buying new furniture for your home, or just trading paperback books online, a P.O. box will go a long way toward protecting your privacy. The smallest of the boxes are very reasonably priced – about $25 per year. It is usually not necessary to have a large box, even if the items you may be purchasing online are large. If you receive an item that does not fit in your P.O. box, most post offices will place a key in your P.O. box that opens a locker containing your purchase.
2. Get a free email address. This step will save you from receiving a lot of unsolicited or unwanted email in your primary email account. Generally speaking, whenever you give someone your email address on the Internet, you can be fairly confident that it will result in some “junk mail.” This isn’t such a big deal if you have a free email address established especially for this purpose. You can delete the junk mail when you receive it, and you can close the account when it becomes too filled with junk mail, or when you no longer need it. It is a simple matter to open a free email account whenever you need one. These free email addresses can be obtained through such websites as Yahoo, MSN (Hotmail), etc.
Once you have taken these simple steps to protect your privacy, here are a few sites you may want to check out for their free online classes.
1. Barnes and Noble University. The Barnes and Noble website has an area called Barnes and Noble University which contains a variety of free online classes. Of course, the “catch” here is that they want you to buy your textbook for the class from them. But it is not a requirement, and you can generally find the textbooks cheap at a website such as ebay, half.com, etc. In many cases, you can even check the book out of the library! The Barnes and Noble University free online classes include topics in Liberal Arts, (such as “Writing Children’s Books with Writer’s Digest Books”), Life Improvement, (such as “Caring for your PC”), and Online Reading Groups, where you may discuss one or a series of books.
The Barnes and Noble University free online classes are generally about six weeks in length, and the assignments and discussions are completed via a discussion board “chat room” format.
2. Free-Ed.Net. This website offers a wide variety of free online classes on subjects ranging from foreign languages to computer programming to GED and college-prep classes. All textbooks are also provided online at no charge. This is a great site if you are looking to review material you have previously learned in a school setting, preparing for a job or placement exam, increasing your vocational skills or simply learning a new topic related to a hobby or special interest. Be aware that, if you venture too far from the main site by exploring other websites advertised here, you could find yourself being asked to provide additional personal information in order to continue a free online class or be asked to buy a book, etc., for a class. However, most of the information provided here is, indeed, free.
3. Third Age.com This website offers a plethora of valuable information aimed primarily at the “third age” of life – baby boomers in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Information on health, relationships, money, etc., as well as a blog section. The “Third Semester” section of their website offers free online classes and workshops, as well as reduced cost classes, in a variety of subjects including beauty, computers, travel and money.
There is a wealth of free education, in the form of free online classes, available on the Internet. Just remember to guard your personal information and take a few simple steps to assure that your free online class experience will be a valuable one.