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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 online for free. These courses don't require students to register or pay tuition, but they also don't provide a pathway to college credit. Study.com offers a way to earn college credit for a nominal fee through short, engaging video lessons and self-assessment quizzes. Subject areas include biology, marketing, college algebra, American literature and sociology. Interested students can find the following courses available through Study.com:

  • 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 do 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

Concept to Classroom offers free workshops for teachers in timely education topics. 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. Topics include:

  • Cooperative and collaborative learning
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Teaching to academic standards

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. Course materials may include lecture notes, readings, videos and MP3-based lectures. Available courses cover such subjects as:

  • Behavior and health
  • Genetics
  • Health policy

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. 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. Free courses are available in various fields, covering topics like:

  • Engineering
  • Fine arts
  • Humanities

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. In addition to course materials, students have access to image galleries on specific topics and to materials from professional seminars held at the school. OCW courses at Tufts are mainly offered in science-based areas, including:

  • Epidemiology
  • Human development
  • Histology

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:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics

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. Courses generally consist of written lessons with activities and illustrations. Some lessons also contain discussion questions. Those seeking to enhance their level of professional development may be particularly interested in the school's courses in:

  • Business studies
  • Management
  • Engineering
  • Healthcare

Yale University

Via video lectures, Open Yale Courses allow students to effectively audit past classes at Yale. Additional course materials may include syllabi, reading assignments and problem sets. Among the subjects offered are:

  • African American studies
  • Chemistry
  • Classics
  • Economics
  • Music

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:

  • Genetics and genomics
  • Information and data analysis
  • Energy and innovation

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