10 Universities Offering Free Writing Courses Online
See our list of universities that offer free online writing courses. Learn about what courses are available and what topics they cover to find the course that's right for you.
Online Writing Courses for Credit
Many schools offer free online courses and materials through OpenCourseWare (OCW) projects. While formal admission isn't necessary to access lectures and other materials, these courses don't usually award college credit. Students looking for the same ease of access and the opportunity to apply their study time towards a degree or certificate program might want to consider courses that can lead to an alternative form of credit.
For far less than the cost of enrolling in a traditional class, Education Portal offers hundreds of online courses that allow students to start working their way towards real college credit. The English 104: College Composition course is just one such example. Through a combination of video lessons and self-assessment quizzes, registered members can learn how to craft a well-organized essay, cite their sources and edit their own writing. Each lesson also includes written transcripts that are available to everyone for no charge. Chapters in this course include:
- Conventions in Writing: Usage - Instructors discuss tips for developing clear sentence structures, good diction and a strong writing style.
- Parts of an Essay - This chapter covers prewriting strategies and methods for organizing an essay. The importance of a strong thesis, smooth transition sentences and an engaging introduction are also discussed.
- Essay Writing - The differences between persuasive and personal essays are covered alongside strategies for addressing the audience and anticipating opposing views.
- How to Revise an Essay - Instructors demonstrate strategies for using sources in an essay and evaluating an argument's logic or evidence.
- Using Source Materials - Tips for writing a bibliography or works cited page and avoiding plagiarism are covered in this chapter.
Free Online Non-Credited Writing Courses
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Through MIT's OCW program, students can download a variety of undergraduate and graduate-level course materials that cover topics in, among others, essay, expository and technical writing. Course activities and formats include assignments, exams, lecture notes and video presentations.
Writing and Reading the Essay focuses on the essay as a popular literary genre. The syllabus indicates two essay anthologies as course texts, which can be purchased online. Course activities include a reader's journal and a series of personal writing assignments.
The course in Writing and Reading Short Stories offers students the opportunity to study character development, plotting and point of view. Featured authors include, among others, Flannery O'Connor, Alice Walker, William Faulkner and John Updike.
New Jersey Institute of Technology
The New Jersey Institute of Technology is a scientific and technological university that offers OCW courses and materials. The Technical Writing course is geared toward the advanced writer. In this course, which consists of about 40 video-taped lectures, students apply theory to analyze and solve complex communication problems. Course topics include audience awareness, document design, ethics, gender equity and rhetorical theory.
The Open University is the largest educational establishment in the United Kingdom, as well as the country's only distance-learning school. The university's free online classes may not provide access to the same resources used by formally enrolled students, but course formats might include Web- and print-based content as well as the ability to interact with other students through a comments feature.
Start Writing Fiction is a 12-hour, introductory course that can provide students with the inspiration and tools they need to put their words on paper. The course emphasis is on developing character and settings within a variety of fiction genres. Writing What You Know is designed to help students improve their descriptive writing skills. This 8-hour, introductory class encourages students to view their everyday lives from a new perspective, demonstrating how an author's personal life can serve as a source of inspiration.
Through Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL), students and teachers around the world can enjoy 24-hour access to a variety of Web-based resources, including handouts, podcasts and PowerPoint presentations. These include topics in grammar and mechanics, professional and technical writing, English as a Second Language (ESL), research and writing style.
Professional and Technical Writing provides a list of varied Web-based resources that can show students and professionals how to research and write business letters, memos and other office-related documents. Topics include audience analysis, parallel structures and writing tone. Additional technical writing resources include information on how to write scientific abstracts and white papers. The Writing Process includes a list of mostly text-based resources and exercises that cover everything from overcoming writer's block to proofreading strategies. Additional topics include pre-writing, thesis statements, outlining and audience analysis, which can be applied to a wide variety of writing tasks.
University of College Falmouth
The University College Falmouth is a specialized art institution based in the United Kingdom. The non-credit classes offered through the school's 'openSpace' project allow students to work at their own level and pace but don't provide all the materials from the original course. Although registration isn't required to access assignments, lectures and other materials, registered students may be able to participate in online chats and peer reviews.
Introduction to Novel Writing was designed to provide graduate-level students with the structural skills to organize and develop extended pieces of creative writing. In addition to writing assignments and suggested readings, open course materials include YouTube videos by Joyce Carol Oates, Salmon Rushdie and Amy Tan. Writing for Children introduces students to the genres and styles integral to the market and helps them find the right age group for their story. Open course materials include assignments, background reading, examples of children's books and an online lecture.
University of Iowa
The Writing University is a Web-based resource for the school's literary and writing community, providing direct access to a number of free audio presentations. Recent podcasts have included presentations on the sentence, creative nonfiction and experiential writing. Flash Fiction introduces students to the concept of the super-short story and its emergence as a mainstream literary trend. Listeners can learn how brief experiences or even a life story can be condensed to a paragraph or a couple of written lines.
How to Find the Short Story Within Your Novel helps listeners identify the dissimilarities between these two literary forms. Students learn how to extract a quality excerpt from a longer piece of prose and how first-time authors can prepare their work for publication.
University of Massachusetts at Boston
Critical Reading and Writing, with some course materials available through the school's OCW project, is designed to help students achieve college-level reading and writing skills through a critical exploration of U.S. foreign policy. Students have access to the course syllabus, an assignment list and website. Through the course site, students can open and download text documents and PowerPoint presentations on topics like critical analysis strategies, brainstorming and building concepts, as well documents and links to online resources on foreign policy issues.
University of Michigan
This university participates as a member of the OpenCourseWare Consortium by providing free access to educational materials and course content through its Open.Michigan website. Principles of Research and Problem Solving is a course directed toward graduate students in pharmacy school. In this class, students develop scientific writing skills as they develop research proposals. OCW materials include ten PowerPoint lecture presentations, handouts and examples of student projects, as well as a syllabus and reading list.
Utah State University (USU)
Utah State offers OCW materials in several academic departments. Students may be able to apply the knowledge gained from use of these open materials to pass exams to earn credit. USU may give credit to students who pass subject tests offered by individual departments, the International Baccalaureate Organization or CLEP exams, among other options.
Intermediate Writing provides access to 16 weekly lessons, with links to readings and related writing assignments. Students learn how to engage in various components of the writing process while developing critical reading and thinking skills. Topics include writing about controversial topics, argumentation styles, source documentation and how to use multimedia resources.
Introduction to Writing: Academic Prose is an online complement to a graduate-level course. The course materials are presented in a similar 16-week format, with links to several online readings and assignment descriptions. The syllabus begins with assignments related to debate and dialogue, cultural myths and visual literacy. Additional writing activities include a family narrative, a school board project and a media analysis.