Have you ever wanted to make a career change, gain a skill, or just learn something new? On March 1, a group of community members gathered at the Harvard Ed Portal to find out how online learning could help them accomplish these and other goals at “Learn Anything: Exploring the World of Free Online Courses from Top Universities.” Casey Roehrig and Shilpa Idnani of the HarvardX Instructional Development team talked about the free online learning opportunities available.

At the event, local residents registered for an edX account and learned how to sign up for and take an online course. Attendees browsed through the more than 100 HarvardX courses available for free, while others expanded their search to the almost 2,000 online courses available on the edX platform. One community member was interested in learning about investments and found an edX course that would help him gain foundational knowledge. Another community member found courses related to programming and computer science.

While this HarvardX 101 event has been offered on a semester-basis at the Ed Portal as part of the HarvardX for Allston initiative, this session had a special community guest, Melanie Goshgarian of Burlington, Massachusetts. She spoke about how online courses are changing her life. A frequent attendee of events at the Ed Portal, she is in the process of making a career change.

“The edX courses are helping me do that,” Goshgarian said. “I can take the courses anytime, anywhere — everything is right there for me. This makes all the difference in the world.”

Goshgarian took a Clinical Trials course from HarvardX that helped prepare her to present at a medical conference, where she was invited to speak to the attending doctors. “Everyone was asking me questions. I sounded like a superstar explaining the different clinical trials. People were like, ‘How do you know all of this?’ It’s because of the Clinical Trials course that I took.”

Community members took time to think about their learning goals and to make a learning plan. People take online courses for a variety of reasons, including making a career change, becoming knowledgeable on a subject to discuss with clients, gain a professional certificate to put on their resume and LinkedIn profile, join a community of lifelong learners, or continue a pattern of lifelong learning.

HarvardX courses are free to sign up. For a fee, you can also receive a certification upon completion of the course. Members of the Harvard Ed Portal or Allston-Brighton residents can receive a “scholarship” which waives the certificate fee by filling out an application. The next round of applications are due March 30, 2018.