10 Colleges and Universities with Free Online Liberal Studies Courses
See our list of the top free online liberal studies courses. Learn about what courses are available, what topics they cover and whether you can use them to get college credit.
Online Liberal Studies Courses for Credit
Students can find a number of free courses in liberal studies topics available online, but these free options likely won't result in college credit. Students who would rather take classes that offer a path to college credit might want to look for online options that charge a small fee in exchange for access to online lessons. Fee-based courses help students earn alternative forms of college credit.
Education Portal features this style of distance learning with short, engaging video lessons and self-assessment quizzes. In addition, students can find free transcripts for the video lessons. Both the transcripts and the video lessons can prepare students to earn college credit. Students can find a number of liberal studies courses through Education Portal's extensive online resources. Some of the courses available include:
- Math 101: College Algebra - Examine matrices, absolute value, FOIL, complex numbers, rational expressions, probability mechanics and much more in this course.
- English 101: English Literature - Study literary terms, old English literature, the Renaissance, romantic poetry, Victorian literature and modernism.
- Humanities 101: Intro to the Humanities - Topics in this course include British Romanticism, literary modernism, American novelists, visual art, architecture and music.
- History 101: Western Civilization I - This course covers such subjects as Ancient Near East history, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Reformation and colonialism.
Free Online Non-Credited Liberal Studies Courses
Many colleges and universities offer free online liberal studies courses covering subjects including math, literature, the sciences, history and philosophy. Students don't have to register for these free classes, but they also don't receive college credit from the school. Special software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader and mp3 players may be needed to access course materials.
Carnegie Mellon University
The Logic and Proofs course introduces students to the symbolism used to represent parts of a logical argument, such as conditionals, conjunctions and disjunctions. Students also learn to make well-formed deductive proofs. Available materials include practice problems, homework assignments and surveys. Students can also access a tutorial for creating derivations in the course's ProofLab.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Much of the required reading for both these courses can be obtained online, but some must be purchased or borrowed from a library. Through course lecture notes and essay questions, students can discover what makes a revolution successful in How to Stage a Revolution. Topics include Athenian history, the French and Russian Revolutions, types of government and the Communist Party. Reading Fiction introduces students to the short stories, novels and poetry of writers including Flannery O'Connor, James Joyce, Mary Shelley and Elizabeth Bishop. Students can write four critical essays to test their knowledge of the course's literary texts.
The Open University
Courses offered by The Open University examine various topics through online lesson transcripts supplemented by illustrations and activities. The course on Aberdulais Falls is a two-hour look at how heritage can be preserved and who should make these decisions, using Aberdulais Falls, in South Wales, as an example. In Introducing Philosophy, students use online texts and summary exercises to learn about reading, writing and discussing philosophy.
Aimed at students who don't intend a career in the sciences, Physics for Humanists explores the basics of relativity and quantum mechanics, including the science behind nuclear weapons. Students can access slides for 24 lectures and download PDF handouts relating to some lecture topics. Exams and solutions are available, along with some homework assignments. Several textbooks are recommended, and links are provided to some supplemental materials.
University of California - Irvine
Minority Politics looks at the political experiences of Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans. Materials largely consist of PowerPoint slides of lecture notes covering such topics as citizenship and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Students can also access PDF files of immigration statistics and census documents. Essay assignments are included as well. Required reading materials are not provided.
University of Michigan
The Review of Elementary Spanish course teaches basic grammar and vocabulary skills through learning exercises rather than lectures. Students can download podcasts of intensive grammar lessons. Vocabulary and Spanish culture are taught through a Spanish 103 website.
University of Notre Dame
Students examine African American history and community from the American Civil War through the latter half of the 20th century. African American History II also aims to improve students' academic writing and research skills. Some reading materials are available online, such as journal articles and excerpts from The Chicago Defender. Students can also access lecture notes and exercises from all 19 course sessions.
Utah State University
Students in Intermediate Writing: Research Writing in a Persuasive Mode can hone their basic writing skills and develop their reading, critical thinking and research abilities. Online readings and writing assignments focus on such topics as metaphors and similes, essay organization and writing persuasive arguments. Students can learn to incorporate their audience into their writing and use multimedia resources for research and argumentation.
Yale's free online courses consist of video lectures, many with additional materials and reading lists. Students taking Financial Theory can view lecture slides and download quizzes, exams, problem sets and solutions. Free online learners in Foundations of Modern Social Theory can access 25 video lectures covering the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Karl Marx and Max Weber. Students learn how these thinkers influenced modern ideas about such topics as authority, justice, sexuality and class structure.