Free Courses for Writers That Are Actually Free
Writers: Brush up or learn something new with these free online courses
It started off innocently enough: you put your email address on one or two mailing lists so you could access some paywalled content. An eBook here, a template there, who knows what promises tempted you to handover your email address – what matters is you did it.
Then one day, you woke up and realized just how many emails you receive offering to teach you the secrets to writing success for one low, never-before-offered price. After succumbing to the urgency of the message (only two spots left! Enroll now!), you clicked a link, read a 3000-word advertisement, and found that the low, low price did not neatly fit your definition of “low,” at all.
Or, maybe that’s never happened to you at all. We don’t know your life. We do know how many people preying on writers are out there and trying to sell them a bill of goods, though. Ballpark figure: it’s a lot, and their “secret formula” sure appears to be writing and selling courses about how to write and sell courses.
We’re sorry. It’s a nightmare out there sometimes, a thoroughly modern nightmare that comes with manipulative 4000-word sales pages. There are some excellent free and paid courses available for writers. Here are four that we pre-vetted that won’t cost you anything to access and complete.
Creative Writing and Critical Reading, Open University
The Open University is a UK public research university and the largest university in the UK for undergraduate education. Through its free online learning platform Open Learn, you can access 900+ free courses that take anywhere from 1-100 hours to complete.
Creative Writing and Critical Reading is adapted from OU’s MA in Creative Writing and is aimed at postgraduate students. However, all writers can find value in developing the critical reading and analysis skills explored in the extract.
Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot, Wesleyan University
The Craft of Plot is targeted to aspiring writers, though writers at any stage who struggle with plot, pacing, sequencing, or scene-building might find the refresher valuable.
Online learning platform Coursera hosts a mix of free and paid courses as well as certificate and degree programs. To enroll in a class, you’ll need to set up a free Coursera account. While you’ll run into more than a handful of courses that are part of a paid specialization or certificate program, many of the individual courses can be audited for free. This is the case with The Craft of Plot, offered by Wesleyan University and instructor Brando Skyhorse, Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing.
Auditing a course on Coursera is similar to auditing a class on campus, so you will have access to the same lectures and materials but won’t be required to complete graded assignments, nor will you receive feedback on anything you write.
Take Your Pick from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) is an archive of “virtually all MIT course content.” You can access and download the syllabus, course readings, assignments, and related resources for any listed course and learn at your own pace.
Writers will find courses that can keep them learning for years in the Literature and Comparative Media Studies/Writing archives, but there’s plenty more hiding out for us here, too. We’ve all been in that spot: your AI-centric story idea is brilliant, but you don’t know quite enough (or anything, really) about AI to make it work yet. Writers who need to take a deep dive into a new subject (like the ethical quandaries of developing artificial intelligence, and how AI even works, while you’re at it) can check out MIT’s archive of textbooks, courses, and MIT Open Learning LIbrary, too.
Odds that you’ll lose an entire month to learning about love, sex, and marriage in Medieval literature? 100%. Odds that it’ll be worth it? Same.
The Science of Well-Being, Yale University
Another from Coursera, and this has nothing to do with writing, but writers should still take a look. Dedicating a few hours each week to our overall happiness and well-being is a solid plan for all of us. The world is just…hoo-boy. I mean. It’s really something out there, isn’t it?
In this course, Yale Professor of Psychology Laurie Santos leads you through 20 hours of lectures and assignments, “designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits.” After you spent a month developing a thesis contrasting the courtly love in Shrek with that in The Canterbury Tales, would “more productive habits,” be the worst thing to develop? Exactly.