Upgrade Yourself for Free !

By Radhika Nair

Once you stop learning, you start dying

–Albert Einstein

Complacency is the worst enemy of personal development of any sort. Once fallen under the false impression of being perfected ourselves, we will never be able to reach the height where we are celebrated. This is universally applicable to all realms of professional as well personal growth. In contrast, if you are one of those who is constantly in look out to pursue knowledge and to upgrade yourself to the latest version, you will never be obsolete in the fast-paced industry. To help you advance your skillsets and meet those emerging demands at workplace, there are numerous online resources available for free. Here is a list of free online courses and materials that are beneficial to Technical Communicators. This is not an exhaustive list, but a starting point to help you explore further.

MIT Open Courseware

MIT course materials are taken from the subjects taught at MIT. The best program for Technical Communicator are the MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. The courses cover several kinds of writing, including science writing, scientific and technical communication, and digital media. You can download course material, except audio/video types, for free.

My top picks for Technical Communicators are the following:

Introduction to Technical Communication

The course material serves as a starting point for new bees in Technical Communication to understand the practice of technical writing.

Introduction to Technical Communication: Explorations in Scientific and Technical Writing

The course is designed to give an emphasis on the various principles of good writing, which scientific and technical writing shares with other forms of writing. Aside from writing, oral communication of scientific and technical information will form an important component of the course.

Communicating in Technical Organizations

This course discusses professional communication among engineers, with special focus on communication in written formats.

Science Writing and New Media: Elements of Science Writing for the Public

This class explores the craft of writing about science, including nature, medicine, and technology, for general readers.

Science and Engineering Writing for Phase II

The course is designed to explore the characteristics of technical writing, the structure of documents, and design strategies.


The OpenLearn website gives you free access to the Open University course materials. The classes that cater to Technical Communicators’ interest are the following:

Communication, management and your own context

The course is adapted to meet the needs of both managers and individual contributors in a collaborative writing environment.

Essay and report writing skills

This is a basic writing course to help plan, structure, and write your report.


Coursera is an online education platform that works with top universities and organizations across the globe to offer courses online for free. All courses offered by Coursera are accessible for free, and you can also earn verified certificates for nominal fees. These courses provide quizzes, weekly exercises, web forum to discuss subjects taught in the class with the fellow students, and sometimes a final project or exam.

My top picks for Technical Communicators are the following:

Writing II: Rhetorical Composing by Ohio State University

You will be engaged in a series of interactive sessions of reading, research, and compositing. The course introduces you to a variety of rhetorical concepts, ideas and techniques to inform and persuade audiences that will help you become a more effective consumer and producer of written, visual, and multimodal texts.

Nest session: 15 September 2015 – 23 November 2014

Writing in the Sciences by Stanford University

The course is designed to help you learn the principles of good writing, tricks for writing faster and with less anxiety, the format of a scientific manuscript, and issues in publication and peer review. To earn the certificate of completion, you will need to complete editing exercises, write two short papers, and edit each other’s’ work.

Nest session: 24 September 2015 – 19 November 2014

Human-Computer Interaction by University of California, San Diego

This course explores the concepts of interactive design principles. You’ll learn principles of visual design to effectively organize and present information with computer interfaces. You get to play around with several techniques for prototyping and evaluating interface alternatives. You’ll learn how to conduct fieldwork with people to help you get design ideas, how to make paper prototypes and low-fidelity mock-ups that are interactive and how to use these designs to get feedback from stakeholders.

Next session: Not given

Competitive Strategy by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)

Designed mainly for entrepreneurs. In this six-modules course you will learn how firms behave in situations in which strategic decisions are interdependent— where my actions affect my competitors’ profits and vice versa. Using the basic tools of game theory, we will analyze how firms choose strategies to attain competitive advantage.

Next session: Not given

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects by University of California, San Diego

This course covers illusions of learning, memory techniques, dealing with procrastination, and best practices shown by research to be most effective in helping you master tough subjects.  This course should aid Technical Communicators in planning the day-to-day tasks, extracting the right information from SMEs, and learn complex products.

Next session: Not given

Introduction to Computational Arts: Visual Arts

In this 5-week course you are introduced to the fundamentals of computational arts–covering basic programming, simple image processing and elementary sound recording—perfect for new age multimedia documentation design requirements.

Next session: Not given

Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship

Perfect introductory session for aspiring entrepreneurs. This course discusses various techniques to identify and develop great ideas into great companies.

Next session: 18 August 2014 – 6 October 2014

Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence by Case Western Reserve University

Without mindfulness, hope, compassion, and playfulness no team can sustain. Unfortunately, most people in leadership and helping positions lack emotional intelligence, which may lead to high attrition rate. From my own personal experience, establishing and nurturing a deep emotional connection with the people you interact with helps build resonant relationships that is capable of creating positive changes. This program explores theory, research, and experience of the Positive Emotional Attractor that is an essential beginning to sustained, desired change for individuals, teams, organizations and communities.

Next session: 18 August 2014 – 7 November 2014

Natural Language Processing by Stanford University

Designed around mathematical concepts, this course covers a broad range of topics in natural language processing, including word and sentence tokenization, text classification and sentiment analysis, spelling correction, information extraction, parsing, meaning extraction, and question answering.

Next session: Not given

On Strategy : What Managers Can Learn from Philosophy

This session is exclusively designed for managers and aspiring managers. You can rediscover the art of thinking, by understanding the role of mental models, realizing the importance of cognitive bias, agreeing on clear definitions and efficient criteria.

Next session: 28 October 2014 – 9 December 2014

Computer Networks by University of Washington

This course helps you build domain expertise in computer networks.

Next session: Not given

Introduction to Databases by Stanford University

This course covers database design and the use of database management systems for applications.

Next session: Not given

Introduction to Public Speaking

The course focuses on the process of writing, practicing, and performing a clear and engaging speech. The topics helps you improve the quality of your speeches and confidence with which you present them.

Next session: Not given

Metadata: Organizing and Discovering Information by The University of North Carolina

This course describes how Metadata is used as an information tool for the Web, for databases, and for the software and computing applications around us.

Next session: Not given

An Introduction to Operations Management

This course will teach you how to analyze and improve business processes in service sector. You will learn how to improve productivity, how to provide more choice to customers, how to reduce response times, and how to improve quality.

Next session: 29 September 2014 – 24 November 2014

Learn to Program: The Fundamentals

This course introduces the fundamental building blocks of programming and teaches you how to write fun and useful programs using the Python language.

Next session: 19 August 2014 – 28 October 2014

Writing and Speaking Guidelines for Engineering and Science by Pennsylvania State University

There are set of writing guidelines designed to help you effectively communicate at work. The guidelines contain advice for writing and speaking in engineering and science.


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