Colleges and Universities Offering Free History Courses Online

See our list of the top free online history courses. Learn about what courses are available, what topics they cover and whether you can use them to get college credit.

Online History Courses for Credit's collection of courses offer a cost-effective option to students looking for a flexible form of online learning that can save them some of the time and expense associated with completing a traditional course. Unlike the free courses listed in the section below, these history classes can be used to earn college credit applicable toward a degree program. Instruction is delivered in the form of free text lessons. There are also 5-10 minute video lessons and self-assessment quizzes available to registered members who pay a nominal fee. Available history courses include:

  • History 101: Western Civilization I - Lessons begin with an overview of prehistory and the civilizations of the ancient Near East, Greece and Rome. Instructors also cover the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Elizabethan Era.
  • History 102: Western Civilization II - Instructors discuss imperialism in the 17th and 18th centuries along with the era's political, scientific and industrial revolutions. The course concludes with chapters on World War I and II and Western civilization since 1945.
  • History 103: U.S. History I - Topics of study cover U.S. history from first contacts with the Americas' indigenous peoples to the end of Reconstruction. The American Revolution and the country's early presidencies are covered in between.
  • History 104: U.S. History II - Chapters in this course range from the Gilded Age and American imperialism to the Cold War and contemporary America.
  • History 106: The Civil War and Reconstruction - Causes of the war and key battles are among the topics addressed in this course. Instructors also delve into the war's conclusion and the effects of Reconstruction.
  • History 108: History of the Vietnam War - Use this course to explore roots of the Vietnam War as well as U.S. involvement during the administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.

Free Online Non-Credited History Courses

African American History II at Notre Dame University

This course is one of three non-credit history classes that learners can survey for free on Notre Dame's OpenCourseWare (OCW) site. Detailed lecture notes include links to some of the reading material. The course concentrates on the progress of the African American population from the south to the north during the Reconstruction, as well as the political development of African American society.

The American Revolution at the University of Washington

This course is divided into three sections and discusses America before, during and after the Revolutionary War. Each section includes several pages of readings and a follow-up quiz. To access the course materials and quizzes, students need to agree to the school's terms and submit their name and email address, but there is no verification process. College credits are not awarded upon completion.

History of the American West at the University of Michigan

This history course covers topics relating to the birth of the American West, including Manifest Destiny, Indian relations and the Mexican-American War. Materials for this free OCW course include downloadable PowerPoint slides used in class lectures, supplemental reading materials and an interactive class syllabus. The downloads are available as both pdf. and .ppt files.

Ancient History Courses

The Ancient City at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this non-credit OCW history course, students can wander through the ancient buildings of Rome and Greece while exploring the connections between urban architecture and the sociopolitical world during this time period. Textbooks are not included for free, but there is an extensive list of Web resources and assignment descriptions for self-assessment.

History and Civilization at Utah State University

The reading materials for this OCW course cover the creation, culture and transformation of several Western civilizations and overviews of different belief systems. The course materials include readings, lecture notes and lists of important terms to know. PowerPoint slides from the original in-class lectures are also accessible. The school offers options to earn college credit for the course through various examination options.

World History Courses

Western Civilization I at

This course covers world history beginning with the Ice Age, moving through ancient empires, like ancient Greece and Rome, and up through the colonial period of the fifteenth century. The course includes free videos, transcripts, and quizzes and leads to real college credit that is accepted at over 2,900 U.S. colleges and universities.

Nineteenth Century Europe at University of Massachusetts - Boston

Educational materials from four free online history courses are available within the non-credit program offerings on the UMass Boston OCW website. The Nineteenth Century Europe course covers a spectrum of topics ranging from the Industrial Revolution to the German unification. Written assignment topics and lecture notes are included in the online materials, but the textbook must be purchased to participate in the reading assignments.

Welsh History and Its Sources at The Open University

This 25-hour course provides a list of resources that lead students to a greater understanding of the history of Wales. Website links, history timelines, audio files and video excerpts are included in the outline of course materials. Online students may need Adobe Acrobat or Windows Media Player software to access the files in this course. No college credit is awarded for this free course.

World War and Society in the 20th Century: WWII at Harvard University

Harvard University offers a free, non-credit course on the history of World War II through its Open Learning Initiative. It includes videos of 24 recorded lectures that cover topics on the Cold War, the war on the home front, the Japanese perspective and the aftermath of the war, among others. Each video is 50 minutes long.

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