2020's most popular (and free) e-learning courses
Thanks to e-learning platforms, learning new skills no longer comes with a hefty price tag. Source: Yann Schreiber / AFP

E-learning courses have become popular across the globe, even more so now during a pandemic. The closure of most businesses and educational institutions has fast-tracked its steady pace of growth to become explosive, with more and more organisations utilising e-learning courses to upskill and reskill their employees. 

According to a new study by Global Market Insights, the market of e-learning courses is set to reach US$375 billion by 2026. This is due to the fact that it’s not just businesses that reap the benefits of accessible knowledge. Millions of students are studying remotely and a large number of individuals are confined to their homes with ample time to kill. If you’re someone who craves to acquire new knowledge, or strives to understand certain subjects a little better, or if you are simply looking to prepare for a career change, online learning platforms are at your service. 

Coursera’s list of the most popular e-learning courses of 2020 proves this. This year, millions of online learners were trying to understand and better their mental health, gain knowledge on the COVID-19 pandemic, develop new job-relevant skills, and pursue their personal passions. According to the globally popular e-learning platform, these free e-learning courses caught the most eyes in the US this year: 

“The Science of Well-Being” by Yale University 

In this course, learners engage in a series of challenges designed to increase their own happiness and build more productive habits. To prepare for these tasks, Professor Laurie Santos reveals misconceptions about happiness and annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do. She then sheds light on the research that can help us change. Participants will be prepared to successfully incorporate a specific wellness activity into their lives upon completion. 

“COVID-19 Contact Tracing” by Johns Hopkins University 

In this introductory course, participants will learn about the science of SARS-CoV-2. Topics include: the infectious period, the clinical presentation of COVID-19, the evidence for how SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from person-to-person and why contact tracing can be such an effective public health intervention.

Students will learn about how contact tracing is done, how to build rapport with cases, identify their contacts, and support both cases and their contacts to stop transmission in their communities. It will also cover several important ethical considerations around contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, and identify some of the most common barriers to contact tracing efforts — along with strategies to overcome them.

“Technical Support Fundamentals” by Google

This course is the first of a series, designed to prepare learners for roles as entry-level IT support specialists. It introduces the world of IT, sharing different facets such as computer hardware, the internet, computer software, troubleshooting and customer service. Upon completion, participants will be able to understand how the binary system works, assemble a computer from scratch, choose and install an operating system on a computer, understand what the internet is and how it works, learn how apps are created and more. 

“Machine Learning” by Stanford University 

This course provides a broad introduction to machine learning, data mining and statistical pattern recognition. In this class, participants will learn about the most effective machine learning techniques and gain practice implementing and getting them to work. The programme also draws from numerous case studies and applications, ensuring learners will be able to apply learning algorithms to building smart robots (perception, control), text understanding (web search, anti-spam), computer vision, medical informatics, audio, database mining, and other areas.

“Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” by McMaster University UC San Diego 

Experts in art, music, literature, math, science, sports, and many other disciplines have harnessed invaluable learning techniques — this course explores them and how we can use our brains for two very different learning modes and how it encapsulates (“chunks”) information.  The course also covers illusions of learning, memory techniques, dealing with procrastination, and best practices shown by research to be most effective in helping individuals master tough subjects.

“Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)” by University of Michigan

This course covers Python 3 and aims to teach everyone the basics of programming computers using Python. Offered for free, it covers the basics of how one constructs a programme from a series of simple instructions in Python. Upon completion, participants will be ready to take more advanced programming courses. 

“Financial Markets” by Yale University 

This course serves as an overview of ideas, methods and institutions that permit human society to manage risks and foster enterprise. It includes emphasis on financially-savvy leadership skills, description of practices today and analysis of prospects for the future. Learners will also be introduced to risk management and behavioural finance principles to understand the real-world functioning of securities, insurance and banking industries. 

“Measuring and Maximising Impact of COVID-19 Contact Tracing” by Johns Hopkins University 

This course aims to provide managers and developers of contact tracing programmes guidance on the most important indicators of performance of a contact tracing programme. It provides a tool that can be used to project the likely impact of improvements in specific indicators. Finishers will be proficient in using the Contact Tracing Evaluation and Strategic Support Application (ConTESSA) to estimate the impact of their contact tracing programme on transmission and strategising how to increase their programme’s impact. 

“Introduction to Psychology” by Yale University 

This course provides a comprehensive overview of the scientific study of thought and behaviour. It explores topics such as perception, communication, learning, memory, decision-making, persuasion, emotions, and social behaviour. Participants will look at how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wired-up in the brain and how they break down due to illness and injury.

“Fighting COVID-19 with Epidemiology: A Johns Hopkins Teach-Out” by John Hopkins University 

This Teach-Out is for those who have been curious about how outbreaks such as the COVID-19 epidemic are identified and measured. It is also an ideal choice for those looking to understand of the epidemiology of these infections.