7 Universities Offering Free Natural Sciences Courses Online

Free online courses in natural sciences are offered by real schools. Learn which natural sciences courses are available, what topics they cover, and which ones lead to real college credit.

Online Natural Science Courses for Credit

Students looking for a form of online learning that offers the ease of access and flexibility of free online courses but can lead to academic credit like a traditional class might want to consider Study.com's collection of online courses. Instruction is delivered via free text lessons, though registered members who pay a small fee can also access short videos and self-assessment quizzes to help monitor their progress. Both the video and text formats can be used to earn real college credit applicable toward a degree program, and for far less than the cost of enrolling in a typical class. Available online courses include:

  • Science 101: Intro to Natural Sciences - Course chapters survey the fundamentals of thermodynamics, physics, atmospheric science, cell biology, human anatomy, ecology and evolution.
  • Chemistry 101: General Chemistry - Lesson topics range from the periodic table to chemical bonding. Other areas of study include atomic theory, the Bohr model and unit conversion.
  • Biology 101: Intro to Biology - This course highlights such subjects as nucleic acids, cell division, animal reproduction, social biology and more.
  • Earth Science 101: Earth Science - Instructors cover rock types and minerals, components of the Earth's spheres, geologic time and the forces shaping the Earth's surface.

Free Online Non-Credited Natural Science Courses

Carnegie Mellon University

Students using the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University may receive feedback through self-grading online materials, including assessments and practice exercises, but they don't earn course credit. Particular software, such as Java and Flash, are free and necessary to install. Biochemistry learners with a background in introductory chemistry can explore metabolic control, protein function, and biological membranes, among other topics. They don't need to be familiar with introductory biology; however, math skills in differential calculus and basic algebra are required. Modern Biology teaches students about cell and molecular biology, biological chemistry, and metabolism. It equips biology majors with the foundation necessary for advanced coursework but can also help other students understand prevalent biology topics.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Independent learners at MIT have access to lecture videos featuring professors as well as concept quizzes, tests, or questions. They can also participate in online study groups. Credits can't be earned, however. Made up of four units, Fundamentals of Biology may appeal to individuals interested in genetics, biochemistry, recombinant DNA, and molecular biology. Physics I: Classical Mechanics introduces kinetic gas theory along with Newtonian and fluid mechanics to first-year students. The next sequence is Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism, which covers concepts like electromagnetic forces and waves and electric and magnetic fields.

Tufts University

These options at Tufts University don't include all of the sessions, nor will students earn credit from them. Both courses offer lectures consisting of PDFs and slides, and textbooks are recommended. Covering how genetic principles apply to medical practice, Genetics includes topics in cancer genetics, prenatal diagnosis, gene mapping, and clinical cytogenetics. Introduction to Modern Physics examines the universe's origin along with concepts introduced in the 20th century, such as the Uncertainty Principle and the special theory of relativity. Online learners can retrieve the original exams and solutions, but they don't submit any themselves.

University of California, Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley's available free lectures aren't suitable for credit and they may not provide the full course content from the original class. Astronomy 10 consists of 25 videos that explain how the universe, stars, and galaxies form and evolve. Visuals are missing for a portion of one, and another only has the last 50 minutes available. In Chemistry 3B, video lectures teach students about life-related chemistry. This is the second class in an organic chemistry course sequence. Building on the basics, the course highlights organic chemistry as it relates to medicine, materials, and biology. Lessons from the Fall 2012 course have been posted on the Internet while the course is ongoing.

Utah State University

At Utah State University, individuals can listen to audio lectures and obtain most of the notes. University credit isn't available, although students may pursue alternative credit options, such as CLEP exams. With a recommended textbook, students can follow the syllabus to get a basic understanding of General Ecology principles. Some concepts discussed are energy and nutrients, water and temperature relations, population growth, food webs, and global change.

Yale University

Yale's free online courses feature audio and video lectures, but none of them lead to course credit. Some recommend textbooks to follow along with the syllabus' reading assignments. Students interested in The Atmosphere, The Ocean, and Environmental Change learn about the controlling physical processes affecting Earth. Class sessions address global warming, ocean currents, and the ozone layer, to name a few topics. Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics helps non-science majors learn about three astronomy areas, including dark energy, extra-solar planets, and black holes. Additional topics, such as planetary transits and orbits, pulsars, and Hubble's law, are covered in the lecture series available. Accessible resources include class notes and exam solutions, but online students don't take the exams or turn in assignments. In Fundamentals of Physics, students with a background in math and physics can work on quantitative-reasoning and problem-solving skills while learning about Newton's laws of motion, torque, and Kepler's laws. Other topics of study include relativity, simple harmonic motion, and fluid dynamics.

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