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List of Free Online American History Courses and Classes

See our list of the top free online American history courses. Learn about what courses are available and what topics they cover to find the course that's right for you.

Online American History Courses for Credit

Free online courses don't generally lead to credit, so degree-seekers might want to look for online courses that include an option for credit. These courses usually have a nominal fee, which is far less than what students would pay for the course through a traditional college program.

Education Portal offers three American history courses, History 103: US History I, History 104: US History II and History 106: The Civil War and Reconstruction, which all offer an affordable, efficient route to college credit. Without a membership, students can read the lesson transcripts for free, or they can become a member and watch all the history video lessons in these courses. A couple of the chapters found in the History 103: US History I course include:

  • Settling North America (1497-1732) - Topics cover Jamestown Colony, North American settlements, the Puritans and life in early America.
  • The Making of a New Nation (1776-1800) - Subjects in this chapter include state constitutions, Articles of Confederation, the ratification of the Constitution, articles and amendments, the Bill of Rights and the French Revolution.

History 104: US History II chapters include:

History 106: The Civil War and Reconstruction chapters include:

Free Online Non-Credited American History Courses

Free online courses in American History are available at a number of universities. These courses let students learn at their own pace and don't require registration. Most of these courses don't result in college credit.

African American History II at the University of Notre Dame

This non-credit free online course offered by the OpenCourseWare (OCW) site at the University of Notre Dame looks at African American life from 1865 to the 1980s. Students can read through lecture notes and access the course syllabus and calendar of lessons. Students can purchase four texts, and the site provides links to additional reading assignments.

African American Studies at the University of California - Irvine

Students can earn college credit for this course through Access UCI, or concurrent enrollment, which allows them to enroll if there's available space once matriculated students register. Spanning across the 17th century to the middle of the 20th century, this OCW course offers an interdisciplinary overview of how African Americans experienced such events as emigration and slavery. Each lesson is presented in PowerPoint form. A textbook is available to buy separately, and links to required reading are provided.

America in Depression and War at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The U.S. during the 1930s and '40s is the topic of this OCW course, which explores the effects of the Great Depression and World War II on American society. Students can purchase seven texts to follow along with reading assignments, and questions for such assignments are included. An online image gallery supplements the reading, as does a timeline of important happenings. Previous semesters' syllabi are available. This non-credit course is also available in Chinese.

American History to 1865 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Available through OCW, this course focuses on social, political and economic changes as the U.S. evolved from the original 13 colonies to a nation divided by the Civil War. Several years of past syllabi are available for download. Numerous books are recommended for this undergraduate course, and access to additional reading assignments is provided. Original essay assignments are also available to online learners.

The American Revolution at Yale University

Students can learn about the causes, occurrences and effects of the American Revolution through 25 high-quality video lessons that they can download from the Open Yale website. Audio-only lectures are also available, and eleven texts are listed for reading assignments. No college credit is awarded for this course.

The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877 at Yale University

This non-credit course offered by the Open Yale program examines the U.S. Civil War and its causes and impact on the country and society. Students can view 27 videos of classroom lectures recorded at Yale in 2008 and download the study guide for the final examination. More than ten books are recommended as texts, and students are asked to view several films. The course is also available in an audio format.

Crime, Heredity and Insanity in American History at the University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame's OCW site offers this free online non-credit course that examines the evolution of thought on crime and mental illness from faith- to science-based models. In addition to the syllabus and calendar of lessons, student can access links to assigned articles, short-answer and essay-writing assignments and weekly discussion questions. Students can obtain their own copies of the six books that are listed for reading.

History of the American West at the University of Michigan

Students can download images from lectures, syllabi and supplemental reading for this non-credit course that explores the concept of Manifest Destiny and covers the settlement of the West, including the Mexican War, Chinese immigration and the California gold rush. An interactive syllabus contains links to reading assignments. Study questions allow students to assess their learning.

History of Utah at Utah State University

Students who wish to take this writing-intensive course can choose to secure their own textbooks. Additional readings are available on the course site as PDF or Microsoft Word documents. In addition to learning about Utah and its people, students also learn how to critically assess historical documents. Original assignments included writing a book review and essays; mapping historic trails, boundaries and locations; and completing a research paper. Recommended activities include obtaining and viewing a film on Utah state history. This course is offered on Utah State University's OCW site, and students may be able to earn university credit through different examinations.

The United States from the Late 19th Century to the Eve of World War II at the University of California - Berkeley

Offering a look at America's transformation from an agrarian society to an industrialized urban country, this non-credit course offers videos of lectures. Audio-only lectures are available free through iTunes. Eight videos from this course are offered on the Berkeley webcast site.

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