Free Online Professional Development Courses for Teachers 2015

Do you have to go out of your way to get continuing professional development? Traveling across town, having a substitute teacher take over so that you could leave class, or paying a workshop fee are a few things teachers do in order to attend PD workshops.

In my state of Texas, classroom teachers have 5 years to accumulate at least 150 PD hours, and specialists such as administrators must have at least 200 hours to renew their teaching licenses. Those are a lot of hours, especially if you have that "special" year where your hands are as full as ever, and you're thinking it'll be better to catch up on PD over the summer. When I was on the JET Program and teaching in Japan, PD was a confusing once-a-year seminar crammed into 2-3 days. If you're teaching abroad, PD can be very rare or far away.

There are many ways to seek PD. In this post I will list some options for teachers who want to get professional development that is less intrusive to their time, schedule, and wallets. FREE online professional development courses have been popping up lately in the form of massive open online courses or MOOCs, self-paced distance courses, online modules, etc. These are for self-directed learners who don't mind learning through an online platform and interacting in online communities. Some courses are available as self-paced courses and some, such as MOOCs, are available in a certain time frame only. Let's take a look at what's out there!


Coursera has the largest collection of free online teacher professional development courses that I've seen. I am also blown away by the selection. There are Teaching 101 and foundation courses for beginning teachers, courses on advance learning research, technology courses, literacy education, and many more. About half of these courses were developed by research universities stretching from North America to Australia. The other half of the creators are also established in the Education world. Many of these courses also offer some sort of verification that you've taken them in the form of certificates.

I recommend some courses offered by the University of Houston. I've taken other courses taught by Dr. Sara McNeil and Dr. Bernard Robin in the past, and I know a few of the grad students who are passionate and worked hard on developing these MOOCs:

Click here to view the MOOCs offered by University of Houston or select the course links below

Credit: Most of the courses that are currently open award Verified Certificates. The ones that are not in session are varied.

Note that MOOCs tend to last several weeks. If you're only looking for a few hours, or if Coursera doesn't have what you're looking for then keep exploring the rest of this list.

(Refine search by clicking on Education under Subjects)

edX doesn't have an extensive list of free online courses like Coursera, but there are a few that might interest you.

Credit: About a third of the courses come with Verified Certificates.


The Open University is an online university that offers low-cost and sometimes free education. A part of their website, called OpenLearn and under the Education menu tab, offers an extensive list of free online PD courses.

You may notice that this site actually offers degrees and diplomas. Yes, you can get a teaching degree from OU! However, this is available for registered students outside of the United States for a fee.

CreditDigital badges are awarded for completing their free OpenLearn courses.


MOOC-Ed, or Massive Open Online Courses for Educators, is a website run by North Carolina State University's College of Education. This site is still in the works with about 6 courses.

Credit: Certificate of Completion

European Schoolnet Academy

European Schoolnet Academy is a website organized by 30 European Ministries of Education. As of now, there are 9 online courses that focus on technology themes and STEM education.

Credit: Digital badges

Intel Teach Elements

Similar to European Schoolnet Academy, Intel Teach Elements offers several courses that focus on 21st century skills, technology in the classroom, and STEM education. These are highly organized courses that are available in several different languages. You can check out their brochure here.

Credit: I can't seem to find the details on this. If you know, please leave a comment!

United States Library of Congress

The Library of Congress offers 6 online modules that relate to Social Studies and research skills. Each module is approximately 1 hour long. There are also downloadable PD modules for school leaders to use for PD with their own teachers.

Credit: Certificate of Completion


Developed by The Source for Learning, TeachersFirst is a website that offers a variety of live evening PD "snack sessions" that last approximately 1.5 hours. They cover broad topics that are helpful in K-8 education, with a few topics such as technology and differentiation that expand to high school grades.

Credit: PD certificates issued upon request

Other Free PD Online:

Teachers Without Borders

Open Education Consortium

This page on OEC lists materials that universities, predominantly Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have made available online from their Education courses. I don't think you can earn and document credit hours, but you can check out the course materials. See OpenCourseWare for more information on this type of learning material.

Do you know of any other resources for teacher professional development that is online and free? If so, please leave a comment with your recommendation!

As mentioned earlier, free online courses are one way to fulfill PD. I will be working on more lists of free and low-cost teacher PD, so follow me and stay tuned!