<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://analytics.twitter.com/i/adsct?txn_id=nuqgh&amp;p_id=Twitter&amp;tw_sale_amount=0&amp;tw_order_quantity=0"> <img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="//t.co/i/adsct?txn_id=nuqgh&amp;p_id=Twitter&amp;tw_sale_amount=0&amp;tw_order_quantity=0">

Published: August 19, 2020

woman viewing iPad For many of us, learning is lifelong, and today that means mostly virtual and unending.

Pick a topic, let’s say birding. Well, you’ll have to be more specific. Do you want Birding 101, or do you want to learn about hawks or songbirds, or bird colors and songs? The Cornell Lab Bird Academy offers free and fee courses on a whole range of birding topics for both novices and veterans.

 Or music. Do you want to hone your skills as a guitar player (blues or acoustic?) or become a better vocalist (jazz, pop or R&B?). Berklee Online, the child of Berklee College of Music, offers 12-week non-credit courses taught by Berklee faculty and industry experts.

Many of us have been taking online courses for years, but in the current coronavirus climate we have even more choices, especially from colleges.

“Online courses are offered by hundreds of colleges worldwide — for credit, not for credit, or just for fun. There are more than 5,000 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that are always free, but in response to the COVID-19 crisis, some online providers are offering additional free courses.

Now could be the perfect time to enroll in a free online course. You can take your career in a new direction by learning to code, improve your communication skills at work, or even enrich evening hours with a cooking course. MOOCs are great for learning specific skills, but some of the most popular online courses aim to be more mind-opening,” writes Anne Dennon for BestColleges!

As children, teens and young adults prepare to return to school (brick and/or virtual), older adults should think about becoming a student again – and from the safety of home.

Free College Courses

One of the many perks associated with growing old is the ability to audit classes for free at many U.S. colleges and universities. While that isn’t much of a perk in pandemic times, it does mean that more content has moved online and most of it is free – for young and old.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, “Children and college students aren’t the only ones turning to online education during the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of adults have signed up for online classes in the last two months, too — a jolt that could signal a renaissance for big online learning networks that had struggled for years.”

Five of the best free online courses, according to BestColleges! are:

  1. Marketing in a Digital World, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
  2. Data Science, John Hopkins University;
  3. Photography Basics and Beyond: From Smartphones to DSLR, Michigan State Unversity;
  4. Modern & Contemporary Poetry (ModPo), University of Pennsylvania;
  5. What is a Mind? University of Cape Town

(Sorry, Yale’s “The Science of Well-Being” already started, with 2.8 million enrolled.)

Coursera has added content to its free course offerings. For instance, free mental health and wellness courses includes “Psychological First Aid” from John Hopkins University and “Healing with the Arts” from University of Florida. And there’s a new category – Public health and safety in the age of COVID-19.

Coursera is also a good source for online courses offered by more than 200 universities and companies across the world, including Stanford University, Yale University, Case Western Reserve University and the American Museum of Natural History. (Most courses are free to audit.)

Other sites for college and industry-taught courses are Udacity and edX.

Lifelong Learning Programs

For years lifelong learning programs have been offering low-cost courses for older adults at colleges, continuing care retirement communities like Kendal at Oberlin and other sites. Now, though, courses are virtual, which means you can check out centers near and far.

Lorain County Community College’s Center for LifeLong Learning is offering about 20 virtual classes this fall. To find out what other U.S. lifelong learning centers are offering virtually, visit this directory provided by Road Scholar.

With travel on mostly hiatus, RoadScholar has put together lists of virtual travel tours, online lectures, classes and museum tours. (By the way, the educational non-profit is offering risk-free travel enrollment through Oct. 31, 2020.)  

The Kendal Corporation is also compiling lists of educational, cultural and other virtual programs on its Life Enrichment and Engagement page.

ABCs of Lifelong Learning Opportunities

Discover the benefits and some of the options for lifelong learning opportunities available for older adults in our free resource.

Download Now >>



In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.