What, you mean like Wikipedia? The entire internet is a free distance education experience. It’s the information age, man. It’s like information porn. People of today’s generation are starved for information and want it right NOW. There are plenty of things you can learn for free online!
In all seriousness, a quick search on the web will reveal a few sites advertising free distance education. Unfortunately, while the information and courses are free, these sorts of classes do not in any way give you any kind of credential, certification, or piece of paper letting employers know you can do the job you studied for. Free distance education isn’t going to further your career, and it isn’t going to help you get noticed by employers.
Does that mean free distance education should be scoffed at? No; not if it’s really free, anyway. Some free distance education advertisements will get you later with fraudulent claims asking for money to pay for your school supplies or other services. This is, indeed, a waste of your time and money. If they’re asking for personal information, you risk having that information sold. If you’re going to pay, you may as well do it with an accredited school and get recognition for it.
But if you decided to learn Chinese on your own, did it entirely through the internet and on your own terms, but could speak, read, and write it correctly, then you wouldn’t have a lot of trouble passing an interview for a Chinese translator related job. But if you want to learn Chinese online, you’re better off looking for Chinese related blogs and information networks that aren’t disguising themselves as schools. Some subjects, especially languages, graphics software, or HTML/programming information, have a wealth of free information and communities available for the dedicated to get started. There’s no certification involved, but it will teach you how to do something and it won’t cost anything. Not a bad plan if you want to learn something more for personal use than your career; unless it is a language.
At the end of the day, free distance education simply isn’t. You can learn for free for fun or as a supplement to your own education to see things from new perspectives, but if you need something to boost your career options, you’re going to need a degree from an accredited school, online or off, rather than the claim you read about something on the internet. Employers don’t smile on that very much.