Given that so many online education resources have popped up in the last decade, it really seems like – as long as you want to learn – you can learn just about any skill on the internet. I’ll give you a rundown of the best English learning sites I’ve evaluated (most of them are free!), plus a few recommendations on courses to start out with for each.
Founded in 2007, Alison is the original MOOC (massive open online course). The site has 750+ courses, but it focuses primarily on improving workplace skills. For example, they have courses dedicated to helping you get a new job or enhance your value if you’re looking to be promoted internally. With its diverse range of courses though, they really do have materials appropriate for any experience level of English learners. Here are the courses I’d recommend checking out first:
- Social English Language Skills: This course will help you improve your everyday English conversation.
- Introduction to English Grammar: As the title suggests, this course will help you improve your English grammar.
MOOEC is short for Massive Open Online English Course, so you know it’s designed expressly for English learners. The courses range from beginner level to advanced English and are generally shorter than other MOOC websites. With other sites, it might take you several weeks to complete a class. Comparatively, many of MOOEC’s classes are single-study classes. If you’re not sure if online learning is right for you, I’d suggest starting off nice and easy with MOOEC. One note: MOOEC is an Australian-based company, so many of the courses discuss locations in Australia. Plus, pronunciation of some words may differ from American English. If you go ahead with MOOEC, here are the courses I’d recommend checking out first:
- Elementary English Course: If you have just started your English studies, this course is perfect for you.
- Common Mistakes: This course teaches you how to avoid English mistakes that happen all the time.
- Coffee Culture: If you are interested in Australian English or Australian culture specifically, you won’t want to miss this class!
Most online courses can be completed independently, but FutureLearn actually encourages students of the same course to interact and communicate with their peers. With more than 1 million current users, you’d have plenty of opportunity to interact with other students! FutureLearn’s classes come from more than 40 countries and regions around the world, including some British institutions such as the British Council and the British Museum. Right now, there aren’t any partners from the United States contributing lessons. If your aim is to learn American English, you’d be better off with a different site. But Anglophiles (folks who really admire England) will probably fall in love with this website, starting with these courses:
- A Beginner’s Guide to Writing in English for University Study: A massive boon for anyone who is seeking to study abroad!
- Understanding IELTS – Techniques for English Language Tests: This course is very helpful for any type of English exam you might be preparing for, especially IELTS!
- Exploring English – Language and Culture: Great for learning more about British culture and improving your English!
edX is one of the largest MOOC sites, a collaboration between two of the top US universities: Harvard and MIT. Here, you can find a number of university-level courses produced and taught by professors at top universities. In fact, edX even has opportunities for students to earn college credits with their courses. Although these courses are not free, they are much cheaper than the actual cost of attending an in-person college course. Like most MOOC sites, these courses are designed to mirror college courses, so they take a few weeks to complete. You can expect to spend at least a few hours a week if you enroll. One downside is that edX doesn’t offer opportunities to communicate with the other students in your classes. Here’s where I’d recommend starting out:
- “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde — BerkeleyX Book Club: This ‘book-club’ type course focuses primarily on the practice of discussion. Even if the book itself isn’t your cup of tea, just listening and participating in discussion with other students is extremely valuable experience too.
- English Grammar and Style: Ideal for intermediate to advanced English learners, this course can take your English writing to a whole new level.
- Conversational English Skills: This course is relatively simple. Its main goal is to help you get comfortable with daily spoken communication.
Udemy is a pretty ambitious platform and seems geared towards teaching every thing out there. Among their nearly 25,000 available courses, you’ll find a lot of excellent English courses and eve some from well-known and respected institutions. While it’s true that not all courses are free, Udemy still offers plenty of free resources to help bolster your knowledge. Here, you’ll find a variety of tools to help you learn, including video lectures, written materials, and small tests to check your understanding. Another advantage of Udemy is that you can set your own pace. Learn as quickly or as slowly as you want. Here are some courses I’d suggest looking into first:
- English as a Foreign Language: Learn English grammar via examples of actual spoken conversations.
- English Grammar for Beginners: Beginners can learn this course to learn the most basic English grammar knowledge.
OpenLearning has created a super friendly atmosphere that invites users to participate in existing courses or create their own. While you might not find a lot of university professors preparing courses here, many of the people who do make courses are professionals who are willing to share their skills. That said, OpenLearning does work with some universities, so you can see more professional courses amidst a lot of relatively casual courses:
- Using Sentence Connectors: This is a great starter to work on high school-level English grammar.
CanvasNetwork is an amazing resource for all lifelong learners. This site encourages you to communicate with other students while you’re studying, but you can also choose to move along at your own speed:
- College Readiness — Reading, Writing, and Math: This course is designed to give you an idea of what you want to study in the future, but there is a lot of information about grammar and reading too.
I’d recommend Coursera more for advanced English learners. Coursera is also a MOOC website and also allows students to learn at the pace that feels most comfortable to them. Each class starts out with an introduction video, as well as a quiz and some exercises to get you in the “learning zone.” You might even participate in group projects that allow you to work with other students. Coursera has a large number of partners from educational institutions and universities. There are tons of classes to choose from, but here are my top picks:
- Essentials for English Speeches and Presentations: Ideal for teaching you how to make public presentations in English.
- English Composition I: Offered by Duke University, this course focuses on English writing.
This is another resource that’s best for intermediate and advanced English learners. Every one of these university-level courses are offered completely for free. You can learn at your own pace but, if you take a break for more than 45 days, you’ll be asked to take a short test to ensure you haven’t forgotten what you learned before. Since all of WEU’s courses are self-produced, they are currently working towards becoming an officially certified university. Maybe someday soon you’ll be able to complete their courses and earn a real degree!
- English Composition: This class also focuses primarily on teaching students how to write.
Saylor Academy, a non-profit website, is another platform I’d say is ideally suited for advanced English students. While the courses all begin at specific times, you can choose to start your individual classes whenever you’d like. For just $25 USD, you can earn a college credit in certain course (once you pass the final exam, obviously).
- Pre-college English: Are you headed to college? I’d suggest starting off here to make sure you’ve got all the right skills you need to write your college essays in English!
Cambly is a platform that allows English learners to communicate with native English speakers from Europe, Australia, the United States, etc. Right now, students in more than 130 countries and regions practice speaking on Cambly. So many students take online courses to hone their reading and writing skills, but few have opportunities like this to actually communicate. If you want to apply what you’ve been learning, you can put yourself to the test by getting out there and speaking! Getting real-world experience is priceless. If you can’t travel abroad, this platform is the next best thing! So go find a tutor on Cambly who shares your interests and start a real dialogue. It’s an incredible way to solidify everything you’ve learned and help you build confidence in your skills.