An older woman sitting in front of a laptop at a counter.

Top 10 Free Online College Courses for Senior Citizens

Continuing Your Education as an Older Adult

I have always been obsessed with learning new things. I’m constantly signing up for and taking courses to further my knowledge because there is so much information at our disposal today. A lot of that knowledge can be found online for free if you know where to look. As a senior, it is even more important to continue learning because it is one of the best ways to prevent brain diseases like dementia. So, we will outline a variety of free online college courses for senior citizens.

There has been a recent movement in the realms of education towards Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) where courses with certification are being offered. Dozens of highly-reputable universities and colleges have started offering courses like this that are inexpensive or even free for senior citizens.

Below you will find a list of free online college courses for senior citizens that can help you keep your brain active. We will also let you know how you can continue to use those skills you have learned.

1. Cybersecurity for Everyone — University of Maryland (Offered Through Coursera)

It is becoming more and more important to know about keeping yourself secure online today. Did you know that according to the FBI, senior citizens lost over $1 billion combined in 2020 to online scams? This course goes over what cybersecurity is, how the internet has evolved, the motivations of hackers and how to identify people who are trying to scam or hack your electronic devices. At the end of the course, you have the option to purchase a certificate that can be used towards a computer science degree. When you complete the course, you will be able to use your newfound knowledge to help prevent you and your family and friends from falling victim to online scams and cyberattacks.

2. Introduction to Computer Science and Programming — Tokyo Institute of Technology (Offered Through edX)

Have you wanted to learn more about computers, how they work and even how to write a basic computer program? If so, this is the course for you. This course has five units covering computer science, each concluding with a quiz. It says, “By the end of this course you will be able to write your own programs for encryption and decryption of English texts.” This course is free unless you want a certificate, which costs $49 plus applicable tax.

3. Introduction to Food and Health — Stanford University (Offered Through Coursera)

In this course from Stanford University, you will learn all about the way there has been a shift in how people eat their food. It will discuss the difference between highly-processed foods and whole, nutritional foods, as well as the importance of healthy eating. It will also discuss the current epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes and how a change in diet can prevent these diseases. This course has five units that use videos and short quizzes to test your knowledge. You also get 10 different healthy meal recipes that you can share with your friends and family. You can receive a shareable certificate if you pay the $49-fee.

4. Child Nutrition and Cooking — Stanford University (Offered Through Coursera)

Do you love spending time with your grandkids and want to make sure that you are providing them with the best meals? If this is you, then the Child Nutrition and Cooking course offered by Stanford is right up your alley. This course goes over healthy at-home cooking for kids that makes meals enjoyable. It consists of five units that use videos, printed material and quizzes to test your knowledge.

5. International Women’s Health and Human Rights — Stanford University (Offered Through Coursera)

This course takes a deeper look at some of the human rights issues that women still face today, right from infancy to old age. It not only examines issues in the U.S., but issues all over the world. This course is 10 units using videos, printed material, quizzes and online discussions with other people taking the course. After completing the course, you have the option to purchase a course certificate.

6. Italian Language and Culture: Beginner — Wellesley College (Offered Through edX)

Have you always wanted to learn how to speak another language? You can do that easily now with this free online course offered by Wellesley College. This course is for anyone at the beginner level of learning Italian, and once completed you can move on to the Intermediate and then Advanced courses. The course has four units and covers vocabulary and grammar in a variety of formats, like videos and writing prompts. You have the option to buy the certificate at the end that shows you have completed the course.

7. Finance for Everyone: Smart Tools for Decision-Making — University of Michigan (Offered Through edX)

This course is designed to help you to better understand finance when it comes to making financial decisions. While the course is targeted a bit more towards a younger crowd, it is great for a senior to learn because it will give you the tools to help your grandkids make better financial decisions, and it will help you to change how you think about money. This course has six weeks of units with a commitment of about five to six hours a week.

8. Masterpieces of World Literature — Harvard University (Offered Through edX)

Do you love reading and want to explore the themes of some of the most famous works of literature in the world? This Masterpieces of World Literature course will take you on that journey. From Goethe to Voltaire, you will learn how to critically analyze different works of literature. There are 12 sections in this course, each going over different literary works.

9. Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life — The University of Chicago (Offered Through Coursera)

In this course, you will learn all about how the human brain functions in everyday life. The 10 units will go over subjects like the anatomy of the brain, how we perceive things, how the brain controls movement and even how it affects emotions. The material is in video and written format with quizzes to test your knowledge. At the end you have the option to purchase a certificate for your learning.

10. Introduction to Animal Behavior — Wageningen University & Research (Offered Through edX)

This final course that I recommend has actually won an award for being one of the best courses of all time offered through edX. If you are someone who loves watching nature documentaries and wants to learn more about why animals behave the way they do, then you want to take this course. Over six weeks it examines how animals learn, communicate, find food and avoid being eaten by predators.

What Will You Learn?

These are my top recommendations for courses, however there are thousands of free college courses offered online for seniors through these websites and many more. You can find more courses by following any of the links provided above.