List of Free Online Education and Professional Development Options
See our list of the top free online educational and professional development options. Learn about what programs are available and what topics they cover to find the course that is right for you.
Online Education and Professional Development Courses for Credit
A number of educational and professional development options are available for free through online study. These courses don't require students to register or pay tuition, but they also don't provide a pathway to college credit. Students who want to earn credit might consider courses that charge a nominal fee in exchange for access to online resources.
Education Portal offers this fee-based type of distance learning through short, engaging video lessons and self-assessment quizzes in a variety of subjects, including biology, marketing, college algebra, American literature and sociology. There are also free transcripts for the videos. Both the video lessons and the transcripts can prepare students to earn real college credit. Interested students can find the following courses available through Education Portal:
- Business 100: Intro to Business - Chapters in this course cover business ownership, leadership styles, business operations, human resources, marketing, information technology and finance, among others.
- English 104: College Composition - Take this course to learn about grammar and usage conventions, the parts of an essay, methods for using source materials and techniques for revising essays.
- Math 104: Calculus - Topics in this course include continuity, trigonometry, limits, rate of change, integration application and differential equations.
- Chemistry 101: General Chemistry - The video lessons for this course focus on matter, the periodic table, chemical bonding, liquids and solids, equilibrium and kinetics, to name a few.
- Psychology 104: Social Psychology - This course examines social cognition, attitudes, group decisions, stereotypes and discrimination.
Free Online Non-Credited Education and Professional Development Courses
Free online courses typically utilize web videos and other multimedia, so a reliable Internet connection is necessary. Students may require special software like Adobe Acrobat Reader or multimedia players in order to access course materials. These free courses aren't available for academic credit, and students will not receive grades for any of the coursework they complete. Students may need to purchase textbooks to gain the full benefit from some courses.
Concept to Classroom offers free workshops for teachers in timely education topics like starting and running an after-school program, inquiry-based learning and using the Internet as a teaching tool. Students may be able to use the online workshops to gain professional development credits. Workshops use recommended reading assignments, written lessons, websites and videos to explain the concepts.
Free Courseware Project at the University of the Western Cape
Based in a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, the University of the Western Cape is a sustaining member of the OCW Consortium. As of December 2012, free online courses were available in biodiversity and conservation biology, nursing, public health, information systems and law. Available materials vary between courses, with some containing extensive online resources and others containing few learning materials.
OpenCourseWare at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health
Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University is a member of the OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium, and its free professional development courses deal specifically with concepts related to public health. Available courses cover such subjects as public health policy, environmental health, food-borne terrorism, nutrition and mental health. Course materials may include lecture notes, readings, videos and MP3-based lectures.
OpenCourseWare at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT is one of the premier U.S. schools participating in the OCW program, with more than 2,100 courses as of December 2012. Free courses are available in various fields, including science, engineering, business, architecture, literature, languages and even a few fine arts areas. Most of MIT's free courses are based on syllabi from on-campus courses taught in previous years. Course materials offered include lecture notes, assignments, quizzes, multimedia and guidelines for final projects.
OpenCourseWare at Tufts University
Tufts University offers OCW courses through the School of Arts & Sciences, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, among other departments. OCW courses at Tufts are mainly offered in science-based areas, including epidemiology, human development, physics, agricultural science and geographic information systems. In addition to course materials, students have access to image galleries on specific topics and to materials from professional seminars held at the school.
OpenCourseWare at the University of California - Irvine
UC Irvine offers free OCW courses in several areas, including engineering, health sciences, law, computer science and education. Some courses provide video lectures, while others consist of notes in PDF form. UC Irvine's OCW program is aimed at providing continuing education for working adults, and approximately 10 new courses per month are added.
OpenCourseWare at the University of Notre Dame
Through its participation in the OCW Consortium, Notre Dame offers courses in more than 20 areas of study, including architecture, civil engineering, mathematics, history and theology. Students can earn certificates for participating in certain courses. As of December 2012, applied multimedia and thermodynamics were two courses offering these certificates. Available materials vary between courses but may include lecture notes, reading assignments and exam questions.
Open Educational Resources at African Virtual University
The African Virtual University is a unique institution that aims to help bring the African continent to the forefront of online education and to make educational resources available worldwide. Its work is supported by 14 African governments. The Open Educational Resources program offers a number of courses in areas like math, biology, teacher education, physics and chemistry. Course materials are offered through video and written documents.
Open Learning at The Open University
Based in the United Kingdom, the Open University is a member of the OCW Consortium and offers hundreds of free online courses. Those seeking to enhance their level of professional development may be particularly interested in the school's courses in business, management, engineering, healthcare and law. Courses generally consist of written lessons with activities and illustrations. Some lessons also contain discussion questions.
Open.Michigan at the University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is another sustaining member of the OCW Consortium. Open.Michigan courses are offered in areas like architecture, finance, foreign languages, public health and social work. Students can learn through a variety of course materials including audio podcasts, websites and transcripts of lectures.
Open Yale Courses at Yale University
Via video lectures, Open Yale Courses allow students to effectively audit real classes at Yale. Additional course materials may include syllabi, reading assignments and problem sets. Among the subjects offered are African American studies, chemistry, classics, the Italian language, economics and music.
Stanford Center for Professional Development at Stanford University
The Stanford Center for Professional Development offers a series of free online videos aimed at those looking to enhance their professional knowledge and skills. The site features prerecorded, on-demand videos on such subjects as human-computer interaction, corporate risk appetite and entrepreneurship. Stanford also offers a free live streaming webinar and lecture series given by professionals in various industries and Stanford faculty.