List of Free Online World History Courses and Classes

See our list of the top free online world history courses. Learn about what courses are available and what topics they cover to find the course that is right for you.

Online World History Courses for Credit

While free online world history courses may contain most of the materials and lectures used in the original college classes, students cannot obtain academic credit for utilizing the majority of them.'s online courses, however, offer an affordable option to students who'd like to earn credit without spending the time and expense required to complete your typical college class. For a small fee, registered members can access self-assessment quizzes and short, entertaining video lessons taught by experts in their subject area. These lessons prepare students to earn credit-by-exam. Courses available to students interested in world history are listed below:

Free Online Non-Credited History Courses

European Civilization: 1648-1945 at Yale University

Students can learn through 24 video or audio lectures, each lasting approximately two hours. A short written synopsis of the material is included for each lesson. Topics include absolutism, exceptionalism, Napoleon, the middle class, nationalism and imperialism, among other subjects. Students will need to obtain several textbooks at a cost if they want to fully learn from the course and be able to complete the reading assignments that accompany the lectures.

The Experience of Colonialism 1850-1914 CE at San Diego State University

This is one of the teaching units in world history offered by San Diego State University in partnership with the National Center for History in the Schools (UCLA). Aimed at the high school level, this course provides lessons, activities, illustrations and student assessment questions about colonialism. One can learn about various factors contributing to industrial imperialism, like ideologies, political parties, technological revolutions and economics. There is a list of related resources and information on how this unit corresponds to national and state standards for world history.

History of Ancient Rome at the University of Notre Dame

This course looks at Rome from the time of the city's founding through the demise of the Roman Empire. Students can read through notes from selected classroom lectures and access discussion questions on the lecture topics. Essay assignments and writing tips are included in the course materials. Three textbooks are recommended as well as other readings; users would have to purchase these. Students are given a list of free online resources that serve as supplements to the course material.

History of the World Since 1500 CE at Columbia University

This course is comprised of 21 videos that are each a little over one hour, available through Columbia's YouTube channel. Topics covered include European colonization of the Americas and Africa, Islamic governments, China during the 1800s and the Cold War. No study materials or reading assignments are provided.

International and Global History since 1945 at the University of California - Berkeley

Students can download 26 audio podcasts of lectures from iTunes U. No other course materials are provided. The lectures look at the changes that have taken place around the world since the end of World War II in 1945, including the Cold War and the end of colonialism. The division of Europe and East Asia after the war is also explored.

Islamic Societies of the Middle East and North Africa: Religion, History and Culture at the University of Notre Dame

In this course, students can access written lectures, illustrated with maps of the region, to explore Islamic societies from their beginnings through the present day. Nine lectures are provided, along with handouts explaining terms. In addition, students can access an online version of the Qur'an. Class assignments are available if users would like to complete them.

The Making of Modern South Asia at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This course examines India from 2500 BC through current times. Links for a few of the reading topics and videos are available, and several PDFs that list key terms are provided. Students get a list of related resources including links to online maps and photo essays. A list of exam study topics is provided, but not the exam questions.

The Rise and Fall of World Communism at the University of Notre Dame

This course examines the communist countries that rose and fell during the 20th century as well as the few that survive today. Students can download illustrated lecture notes on the development and demise of communism as well as discussion questions and essay topics. An extensive list of recommended readings, much of which can be accessed online for free, is included in the course materials.

The World Since 1492 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This undergraduate course examines the last 500 years of world history with special regard to European colonization, the formation of a bourgeois society, the development of capitalism and the creation of the countries we know today. Though full lecture notes are not available, students can download supplementary information in the form of PDF handouts. Users are not able to access the long list of required readings and suggested films for free, so although a list of reading assignments and essay questions is included, users may not have adequate learning resources to complete these assignments on their own terms.

World War II History at Harvard University

Through 50-minute video or audio lectures, students get a look at the events leading to the war, the actual conflict and the war's repercussions, including the Cold War. The course covers the Holocaust, the war's effect on society and the war as it was seen on the home front.

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