Free Online Training and Learning


Image by Helloquencem, Unsplash

Image by Helloquencem, Unsplash

At this time of budget restraint and uncertainty for the VCSE sector we need to be creative in identifying training and development opportunities for staff. Even without a large training and development budget organisations’ can identify opportunities to develop their staff through a wide variety of on-line training and learning websites that offer free courses at the point of delivery.


In some cases, free courses can be upgraded to offer additional benefits, though there is a cost associated with this. Below we have identified four training and learning websites that offer a wide range of free courses to support staff to improve their knowledge and skills for both professional and personal purposes.



Alison has over 1,000 courses available across 9 distinct categories, all absolutely free to complete. All courses are self-paced and have been designed by subject matter experts, to give an interactive and enriched learning experience.


Depending on your learning goal, you can choose from:

  • Certificate courses (average time: 2-3 hours), which help you focus your learning to provide you with specific expertise in your field or industry.
  • Diploma courses (average time: 8-10 hours), which are designed to give you a more extensive understanding of a subject area, by helping you master multiple concepts within a subject.
  • Learning Paths (average time: 18-20 hours), which are a combination of niche courses that have been specially designed by experts, to help you: Broaden your skillset; Progress your knowledge; or Master a subject.



FutureLearn have courses in a diverse range of subjects and are always adding more. Courses vary in length. Most are six to ten weeks long but they also have some shorter two and three week courses.


FutureLearn courses are divided into weeks. The courses contain various activities that you should aim to complete within the week, each one built from a sequence of straightforward steps, to help you learn. Each week is given a descriptive name, so you always know what is expected, and you can navigate between them, to see what is coming up, or catch up from the beginning if you’re late starting. There is free access to each course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join.


Open Learn

Open Learn provides free learning through the Open University and has 100s of free on-line courses. Their vision is to break down barriers to education by reaching millions of learners each year, through free educational resources.


Courses are divided into one of eight categories which includes:

  • Money and business.
  • Education and development.
  • Health, sports and psychology.
  • History and the arts.
  • Languages.
  • Nature and environment.
  • Science, maths and technology.
  • Society, politics and law.


The website can be used to:

  • Browse the subject categories to discover articles, watch videos and interact with features and games created by academic experts and guest contributors.
  • Explore new topics to build your personal knowledge or look for reference material for a course you are already studying.
  • Join the debates.
  • Earn a digital badge or statement of participation as evidence of your learning.


By creating an Open Learn account you can set up a personal learning profile which tracks your course progress and gives you access to Statements of Participation and digital badges you earn along the way.



Vision2learn is funded by the Skills Funding Agency. Vision2Learn offer a broad range of qualifications on-line. Each course is nationally accredited and delivered in partnership with a further education college in England. They are all funded by the UK government so if you meet the criteria you can study for free. However, course places are limited so you need to sign up quickly once you identify a suitable course.


The criteria for free places include:

  • Aged 19 or older.
  • Live in England.
  • Have lived in the EU for at least three years.


As a vision2learn student you have:

  • The support of a dedicated tutor throughout your studies.
  • Online forum for support and discussion with other students.
  • In-depth online support (including live chat) whenever you need it.


Denise Blackwell, Risk and Quality Manager, 3SC