Universities with the Best Free Online Courses

Sep 08, 2021

Free Online Courses

The schools featured below are highly regarded higher education institutions that offer a wide range of free online courses. These courses typically let students access materials at any time, allowing them to self-pace their studies. These materials are commonly offered through university OpenCourseWare projects, or through a variety of open online course provider platforms. Many of these free courses do not offer credit, but in some instances, students are given the option of paying a small fee to receive credit in the form of a diploma or certificate of completion. However, students interested in earning a degree, and consider opting for the certification or diploma want to confirm transferability and acceptance towards an academic degree.

Carnegie Mellon University

Several free online courses are offered by the Carnegie Mellon University through its Open Learning Initiative project website. The courses comprise lessons in a unit and modules format with no teachers and no tests. No college credit is offered on completion of any of these courses. Subject areas include computer science, life sciences, arts and humanities, math, technology, languages and social sciences. Courses offered within these fields include the following:

  • Principles of Computation with Python
  • Engineering Statistics
  • General Chemistry 1
  • Environmental Technology
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Spanish 1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has an OpenCourseWare project offering around 2400 free undergraduate and graduate courses in almost every conceivable subject area. MIT's OpenCourseWare platform is a gateway to non-credit course materials that are provided in a range of formats such as lecture notes, assignments and exams. Courses offered include the following:

  • Introductory Biology
  • Public Transportation Systems
  • Statistical Method in Economics
  • Music and Technology
  • Fundamentals of Probability

University of California - Berkeley

Berkeley offers a plethora of courses in a wide range of disciplines through the edX online course platform. Classes are provided in a podcast or webcast format and, for the most part, there are no exams or homework assignments. Upon completion of a course, an instructor-signed certificate of completion can be purchased for $200-250. Berkeley's free online offerings include:

  • Marketing Analytics
  • Academic and Business Writing
  • Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies
  • Foundations of Data Science
  • Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation

University of California - Irvine

UC Irvine provides a variety of free online courses and materials through its open online portal. These non-credit courses are in subject areas like biology, engineering, humanities and social sciences. Delivery of these courses is achieved through readings, video lectures, assignments and exams. Courses include:

  • Organisms to Ecosystems
  • Introduction to Thermodynamics
  • Religion and Law in Ancient Greece
  • International Sociology
  • Introduction to Teaching English as a Foreign Language

University of Massachusetts - Boston

The University of Massachusetts Boston's OpenCourseWare comprehensive free online course offerings are rooted in subject areas such as chemistry, history, political science, psychology and special education. The online materials include lecture materials and assignments. The course work offers highly informative materials and perspectives, however, they do not lead towards degree completion.

Courses include the following:

  • Chemical Principles 1
  • International Relations
  • Social Attitudes and Public Opinion
  • Nineteen Century Europe
  • Psychosocial Aspects of Visual Impairment

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan also offers free courses through the edX platform in numerous subjects including material offered in their own medical school. Courses here are delivered by way of lectures, projects and assignments, including student presentations. Enrollees can pay a fee for a certificate of completion which starts at around $50. The current course offerings are not accepted as transfer credits towards a degree.

The course selection includes the following:

  • Community Engagement: Collaborating for Change
  • Python Data Structures
  • Introduction to Continuum Physics
  • Anatomy: Human Neuroanatomy
  • Social Work: Research

University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame offers free online courses in statistics, math, religion, technology and history. These courses are delivered through lectures, quizzes and homework assignments. Courses include:

  • Jesus in Scripture and Tradition
  • Math in Sports
  • Introduction to the Quran: The Scripture of Islam
  • Data Science Readiness Assessment
  • The Meaning of Rome: The Renaissance and Baroque City

Utah State University

Utah State University offers a significant selection of online courses in a range of fields such as anthropology, biology, economics, physics and theater arts. Utah State's course offerings include free online teacher education classes that are part of the K-12 teacher education curriculum. Students interested in becoming certified as a public school teacher are advised to contact their home institution and state regarding course transferability. Utah State University offers a variety of courses, which include the following:

  • Research for the Classroom Teacher
  • Classical Drama and Theatre
  • General Ecology
  • Information Theory
  • Data Visualization Theory and Practice

Yale University

Yale University offers around 40 free online courses in physical and life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Course materials comprise audio and transcripts of lectures, videos, readings, quizzes and exams. No course credit or certification is available with any of Yale's free online course offerings which include:

  • Frontiers of Biomedical Engineering
  • Introduction to Ancient Greek History
  • Game Theory
  • Roman Architecture
  • The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food

Tuition-Free Online Degree Programs

While the courses described above can enhance an individual's learning or increase the chance of a college student's success in their on-campus degree program, they are not degree programs in themselves. However, the University of the People, a nonprofit distance education institution, offers online courses that lead to complete undergraduate and even Graduate degrees. The university offers associate's and bachelor's degree programs in business administration, health science and computer science, and master's degree programs in business administration and education. While there are no tuition fees, an application fee of $60 is required alongside a $100 assessment fee for each course. Scholarships are available for students who can't afford these fees. However, it is not regionally accredited which means that the acceptance of the degrees and individual courses are not guaranteed.

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