Universities with the Best Free Online Courses
Free online courses are offered by real schools. Learn which courses are available, what topics they cover and which ones lead to real college credit.
Online Courses for Credit
All of the schools listed below are well-known universities with a variety of free online course offerings. These classes are typically offered as part of an OpenCourseWare (OCW) project. Materials can be accessed at any time and the coursework is self-directed, though no academic credit is awarded for course completion.
Students who would like access to flexible online learning that can be used to earn college credit might want to consider Education Portal's courses on such areas as business, math, science, foreign languages, the social sciences and humanities. Each class includes free text lessons. For a nominal fee, registered members can also watch video lessons taught by subject-matter experts and take self-assessment quizzes to help check their progression, making this an affordable alternative to the tuition associated with traditional credit-bearing classes. Listed below is a sampling of available courses:
- Business 103: Introductory Business Law - Survey the history of American law and the legal system before exploring the ins and outs of contract law, property law, labor law, sales and torts.
- Economics 102: Macroeconomics - Examine the relationship between supply, demand and market equilibrium. Instructors also discuss indicators of economic growth, productivity and inflation.
- History 106: The Civil War and Reconstruction - Learn what life was like in 19th century America and examine the political tensions leading to war. Watch the conflict unfold and explore the effects of Reconstruction.
- Math 103: Precalculus - Instructors provide problem-solving steps associated with linear, binomial and polynomial equations. Lessons also show students how to use scientific calculators and compose functions.
- English 101: English Literature - Learn the literary terms used to analyze English poetry, fiction and drama from the Middle Ages up to the turn of the 20th century.
- Political Science 102: American Government - Components of the Constitution and the powers conferred to each branch of government are among the topics discussed in this course. Instructors also examine the influence of interest groups and the media on the democratic process as well as the goals of various government policies.
- Biology 101: Intro to Biology - Get an overview of cell structure and genetics, plant and animal biology, evolution, ecology and social biology.
Free Online Non-Credited Courses
Carnegie Mellon University offers non-credit courses and materials through its free courseware program, the Open Learning Initiative. Self-paced courses involve lessons and self-assessments in subject offerings that include statistics, biology, chemistry, French and English.
MIT OCW offers more than 2,000 free undergrad and graduate courses from dozens of subject areas, including biological engineering, economics, health sciences, media arts and management. These non-credit courses are available in text, audio and video formats and some are translated into other languages. Students may have access to lecture notes, assignments and exams, and many of the course materials can be downloaded.
Tufts University has free OCW courses that are available to anyone with Internet access. Many of the courses available are in the sciences, such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science. The courses on this site don't hold credit value, but students may have access to course materials, such as homework assignments, lecture notes and other supplementary materials.
UC Berkeley offers free online videos of their courses dating back to 2005. The classes, both current and archived, are available as podcasts and video webcasts. Courses cover a range of subjects including astronomy, computer science, engineering, law and philosophy. The courses on the site don't generally include homework assignments or exams.
UC Irvine began providing OCW in 2006 and has a robust offering of free courses, materials and lecture series. The university listing of non-credit courses covers topics like physics, organic chemistry, capital markets and computer science. Many courses include video lectures, readings, homework assignments and exams.
UMass Boston offers free, non-credit courses on the school's OCW website in subjects such as history, psychology, nursing and public policy. Students have access to materials provided on the site, which can include lecture materials, projects and homework assignments.
Student can access free courses from the University of Michigan in such subject areas as engineering, information science, Spanish and chemistry; the website even has curriculum originally offered in the U-M medical school. Depending on the course, students can find lectures, handouts and assignments, as well as student presentations and projects.
Notre Dame offers OCW in areas such as theology, English, math and peace studies. These free, self-directed courses were originally offered at the university and can include lectures, readings, homework and quizzes.
Utah State University provides access to free online courses through OCW. These non-credit courses include everything from anthropology to wildland resources. Course resources may include lecture notes, homework and reading assignments. The materials can be downloaded or viewed directly on the site.
Free courses from Yale University include video lectures that were recorded in live classrooms at the school. The course materials include video, audio and transcript formats of the lectures, and may also include suggested readings, quizzes and exams. Some instructors provide access to supplemental materials. Non-credit courses include studies in psychology, organic chemistry, political science and English, and the course materials may be viewed on the site or downloaded in a ZIP file.