I am a judgment broker who writes often. Formal education usually matters a lot, and degrees usually make the difference when applying for a job. However, long term success depends much more on what is learned after the degree is earned. People that earn degrees and/or certifications once, will find over time, that alone is often not enough; one must keep doing, training, and learning, to make real progress.
Now, there are many great choices for learning things for free on the web. No longer is money and your location a reason not to learn most any subject. There is almost always value in learning, although there could be a very long time delay before there are any financial payoffs from (only) learning things.
Even if there were no other benefits, the consistent action of learning has value. Writing this article has more value than not doing anything. Real results come from practice and focused actions over time. Learning improves the mind, and you are better off knowing more than knowing less.
Will free online learning do you any good in today’s economy? Free online courses are usually excellent, and many include lectures and tests, however there are no paper sheepskins (no diplomas to show anyone or hang on your wall). Again, most employers make hiring decisions based on degrees and certifications. However, keeping a job depends mostly on knowledge (this is where free online learning helps), experience, and attitude.
Even if learning a lot does not lead to a job, sufficient learning can increase your chances of inventing a new job for yourself. While you are waiting and looking for jobs and/or opportunities, you can learn things to increase the chances of finding either type of income someday.
Going into business for yourself online, or any other way; is 50% what you do and 50% what the world does. However, the only part you have any control over is what you do, so why not improve what you have control over?
Free education rocks, not only because it is free, also because you can multitask, and can even learn in your pajamas. To get started, do a web search for “Free Online Training” or “Free College Courses”. Some of the best sites include alison.com, coursera.org, gcflearnfree.org, khanacademy.org, openculture.com, professormesser.com, ted.com, and udacity.com. One can also find many free books online as PDFs.
Online education is really big, and corsera.com has had more than three million students. Without official diplomas or certificates, why is online learning so popular? Because it is free and so much more convenient. You cannot pause a college class, or watch TV or listen to music while in a conventional classroom. Online courses wait for you to visit the restroom, until you are off the phone, etc. When there is nothing better to do, why not learn things?