5 Free Online Educational Platforms

The internet is an amazing resource for bioscientists. If you know where to look, there is a plethora of useful educational content provided by some of the leading institutions in the world, such as Harvard University.

Most of these platforms are classed as massive open online course (MOOC) providers, while others are considered tutoring platforms. Best of all, the majority of them are free to use!

Here are some of the biggest and best free educational platforms around which will benefit any bioscientist:

Founded in 2012, Coursera is one of the first MOOC platforms to start-up. They currently have over 1,500 courses available from >145 university partners, making them the largest MOOC provider out there. Their Top Rated Courses include Programming Languages, Machine Learning and Programming for Everybody. So, their main attraction revolves around learning to code and data science. Each course includes short lecture-style videos, peer-reviewed assignments and community discussion forums. Once completed, you can also purchase a certificate to add to your personal development framework.

FutureLearn are a private company owned by The Open University. Since their launch in 2013, over 5 million people have joined FutureLearn to take advantage of their MOOCs. Their partners are mainly British institutions but they also work with a range of internationally renowned organisations. They have a diverse selection of courses available that explore specific bioscience categories in great detail. Like Coursera, each course includes a mini video series, multiple choice assignments and a community discussion sidebar. Their website is clean and distraction-free and is responsive to adapt to any device.

edX is another large MOOC provider. Founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), edX supplies over 950 courses from some of the world’s best universities. Their main learning attraction is data science and programming, with their most popular course in 2016 being Introduction to Computer Science provided by Harvard University. They also have an app available for download on the AppStore and Google Play to learn on the go.

Khan Academy is not really considered a MOOC provider, rather, a personalised learning dashboard to allow users to study at their own pace. It is mainly targeted at the younger generation (school through to college) to aid in the understanding of subjects, such as biology. It shouldn’t be discouraged for those who are in higher educational training, or postgraduate level even, as there is always a requirement to brush up on your fundamental biology. Their content is available to access without the need for a membership account, so you can get started straight away. Course content usually includes detailed videos through an effective whiteboard screencast to complement the author narration. It’s basically like a lecturer writing on a board during explanations – perfect for those visual learners.

The MIT is regarded as one of the best universities in the world. These guys have kindly set up their own portal to allow anyone access to over 2340 course materials. The MIT OpenCourseWare has a ridiculous selection of course material, such as Cellular Neurobiology, Cognitive Neuroscience and Genetics, for undergraduate and graduate levels. Each course includes a syllabus recommended reading list, assignments and study material, all of which can be downloaded for free without the need to sign-up to anything.


These are just some of the best free online educational platforms available for bioscientists. With the surge in MOOCs, expect to see more courses and providers in the near future. So, next time you are on your lunch, check them out, you may even learn something new.


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