According to TechJury, 52% of American graduates and 39% of undergraduates consider e-learning better than learning in the classroom. 81% of US college students stated that digital learning methods helped them improve their grades. 42% of US organizations used e-learning and experienced an expansion in income.
All of these statistics show how important online learning has already become. So, why wouldn’t it work for aspiring writers? In fact, free online writing courses can be a great alternative for those who can’t afford expensive writing courses for an official BA or MA degree. After all, writing is a priority. Hence, here are the five most popular free online courses to become a better writer.
1. Creative Writing Series from Wesleyan University on Coursera
The Creative Writing series consists of three different courses from Wesleyan University that are available on Coursera:
- Creative Writing: The Craft of Style: This course lasts four weeks. The course helps students find their unique style of writing – their distinctive voice. The course is divided into such sections as Meaning, Sense, and Clarity; Writing with Nouns and Verbs; Economy; and “No Ideas But in Things”.
- Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot: This course also lasts four weeks. It helps students understand how to transform their stories into the comprehensible plot. The course consists of four sections: Plotting a Course; The Power of Structure; A Scene in Motion; and Cut It Out.
- Creative Writing: The Craft of Setting and Description: This course also lasts four weeks and teaches students about the various techniques used by writers to ground their world in a certain setting. The course consists of Persuasive Settings: Why Description Matters; If You Built It, They Will Come; Credibility and Research; and Realities.
2. English for Journalism from the University of Pennsylvania on Coursera
English for Journalism from the University of Pennsylvania is a course available on Coursera that lasts five weeks. This course is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about journalism and how to write journalistic pieces. It was primarily designed for non-native English speakers who want to a career in journalism, but it can also be useful to English speakers who need to improve their language skills. The course consists of five units:
- Unit 1: Introduction and Principles of Journalism: This section introduces the students to the course and explores the history of journalism including the ideas and principles that are the foundation of good journalism.
- Unit 2: How to Research, Pitch, and Interview: This section dives deeper into how journalists choose topics, research the stories, and organize and take interviews.
- Unit 3: Words in Print: This section teaches students how to write briefly and find their emphasis. It also teaches them how to find a lead to hook the readers and work with the article from the first draft to the final draft including proofreading and editing.
- Unit 4: Broadcasting the News: This section focuses on speaking skills and writing a script for a news report.
- Unit 5: Journalism in the Digital Age: This section discusses the rapid changes in journalism and its effect on the modern world.
3. Start Writing Fiction from The Open University on FutureLearn
Start Writing Fiction from The Open University is an 8-week course on FutureLearn that requires around three hours of your time per week. The course is recommended for anyone over 16 years old which is perfect both for teenage or young authors and older authors. The course is very interactive and requires you to review the works posted by fellow students which is why you can expect to get a lot of feedback on your writing too.
The course is pretty much a collection of various established writers talking about their writing rituals and approaches to successful fiction writing. Some prominent writers featured on the course include Alex Garland (“The Beach”), Louis de Bernieres (“Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”), Tim Pears (“In the Place of Fallen Leaves”), Patricia Duncker (“Hallucinating Foucault”), Monique Roffey (“Sun Dog”), Abdulrazak Gurnah (“Paradise”), and Michele Roberts (“A Piece of the Night”).
The course explores some of the most important habits every writer should develop and skills they should learn. These include keeping a journal, developing ideas, reflecting on your writing, editing, researching, and storytelling. Luckily, you don’t need any previous experience in writing to participate in this course! But you do need to be ready to receive feedback, even if you feel like it is very harsh.
4. Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop from the California Institute of the Arts on Coursera
Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop is a course from the California Institute of the Arts available on Coursera. It is six weeks long making it the perfect choice for those who don’t want a short 4-week course or a long 8-week course. Writing is not just about fiction and non-fiction – it’s also about poetry. If you are an aspiring poet, this is the course for you. Here’s the breakdown of the syllabus:
- Introduction and the Poetic Line: The topic of the first week is the line break. The students will explore how stanzas and lines are used to organize poems and what line breaks are used for (i.e. sound, sense, shape, visual effect, or a mix of some of them).
- Abstraction and Image: The topic of the second week is the use of abstractions and images. Students will learn how to find new, unique symbols to use instead of the cliched abstractions as well as create images that serve a purpose.
- Metaphors and Other Formulas of Difference: The topic of the third week is the use of metaphors, personifications, and similes. The discussion will center around the difference between these literary devices and how to use them creatively.
- Rhyme: The topic of the fourth week is rhyme. The class will explore how to use rhyme by leveraging patterns it can create and discuss the different types of rhyme (i.e. sonic, visual, and conceptual).
- Rhythm: The topic of the fifth week is rhythm. Students will learn how to create rhythm by using traditional western concepts of the meter.
- Sharpened Poetry: Revision Strategies: The topic of the sixth and final week is the process of revision and editing. The class will explore the difference between revision and editing, the skill of reading your own work critically, and the handling of drafts.
5. Grammar and Punctuation from the University of California, Irvine on Coursera / English Grammar and Style from the University of Queensland on edX
Grammar and Punctuation from the University of California, Irvine (4 weeks, available on Coursera) and English Grammar and Style from the University of Queensland (8 weeks, available on edX) are both great courses to try when you want to improve your English skills including grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sense of style.
Both courses dive deeper into what makes a sentence work and how to craft comprehensive fiction and non-fiction. Such elements as verb tenses and conjunctions, compound and complex sentences, parallel structure, and more is discussed in Grammar and Punctuation while English Grammar and Style explores every part of speech separately.
All in all, if you are looking for writing free online courses, one of these will definitely be of use to you. Not every free writer's course is as good as the paid courses, but these five popular online courses are among the best and will provide you with the knowledge you will need.
Frank Hamilton has been working as an editor at the essay review service Online Writers Rating and an author at Best Writers Online. He is a professional writing expert in such topics as blogging, digital marketing, and self-education. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German, and English.