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High-quality Lifelong Learning: Free and Open 24/7

A woman busy reading on the laptop.

Do you thrive on learning? Many of us do—we can’t wait for our next good book, or a group discussion, or a class on something that fascinates us. If neither time nor money were a problem, would you consider going back to school? Did you know that there are a lot of opportunities for lifelong learning—including college-quality courses—available for free online?

According to its website, “Coursera provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses online.” You’ll see that Coursera partners are located throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Online classes in the humanities, natural sciences, math, medicine, business, computer science, marketing, robotics, economics, world languages, and much more can be yours. Most classes are free; some offer certificates of completion and some are part of longer learning tracks for professionals, which may require a fee. But an amazing amount of knowledge could be yours at no cost to you. You need a computer, a webcam, and the commitment to complete assignments on time. Learn more at is an online learning platform that helps people learn business, software, technology and creative skills. The site offers more than 1,600 courses and 90,000 videos that can help you learn computer animation, audio-visual presentation techniques, business skills, graphic design, photography, computer programming, and more.

library cards

Your free library card can open a wide world of learning opportunities.

At first glance, it may appear that courses have a cost associated with them, but you can get them for free. Here’s how: use your library card! Log onto the Seattle Public Library or King County Library System using your library card, and then go to the site. Your public library’s membership—which is free—covers your coursework. What, no library card? Walk into any branch library and sign up, or sign up online (Seattle | King County) for unlimited lifelong learning.

GFCLearnFree is an online resource that has provided self-paced technology, job training, reading, and math skills courses for more than 10 years. GFC stands for Goodwill Community Foundation, which is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to global learning. According to the foundation website, more than 35 million learners were served worldwide by the end of 2015.

GFCLearnFree is especially popular among older adults who are building or updating their computer skills. Self-paced tutorials are available for programs commonly used in the workplace and also social media and digital photography. If you want to build your skills to stay digitally connected with family and friends, GFCLearnFree is a good place to start. Learn more at

For other lifelong learning opportunities, visit the September 2015 issue of AgeWise King County. As Albert Einstein said, …

albert einstein quote

Contributor Irene Stewart is a planner at Aging and Disability Services who serves as editor of AgeWise King County. You can e-mail comments on this or other articles to