Universities with the Best Free Online Courses

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

Online Courses for Credit

All of the schools listed below are well-known universities with a variety of free online course offerings. These classes are typically offered as part of an OpenCourseWare (OCW) project. Materials can be accessed at any time and the coursework is self-directed, though no academic credit is awarded for course completion.

Free Online Non-Credited Courses

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University offers non-credit courses and materials through its free courseware program, the Open Learning Initiative. Self-paced courses involve lessons and self-assessments in subject offerings that include statistics, biology, chemistry, French and English. Carnegie Mellon offers these courses for free:

  • Introduction to Programming in Java
  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Technology
  • Introduction to Psychology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT OCW offers more than 2,000 free undergrad and graduate courses from dozens of subject areas, including biological engineering, economics, health sciences, media arts and management. These non-credit courses are available in text, audio and video formats and some are translated into other languages. Students may have access to lecture notes, assignments and exams, and many of the course materials can be downloaded.

  • Introduction to Art History
  • Fundamentals of Probability
  • Quantum Physics
  • Queer Cinema and Visual Culture

University of California - Berkeley

UC Berkeley offers free online videos of their courses dating back to 2005. The classes, both current and archived, are available as podcasts and video webcasts. Courses cover a range of subjects including astronomy, computer science, engineering, law and philosophy. The courses on the site don't generally include homework assignments or exams. UC - Berkeley has the following courses for free:

  • Blockchain Technology
  • Writing for Social Media
  • The Foundations of Happiness at Work

University of California - Irvine

UC Irvine began providing OCW in 2006 and has a robust offering of free courses, materials and lecture series. The university listing of non-credit courses covers topics like physics, organic chemistry, capital markets and computer science. Many courses include video lectures, readings, homework assignments and exams. At UC - Irvine, students can take these courses free of charge:

  • Immunology and Hematology
  • Intro to Fluid Mechanics
  • Religion and Law in Ancient Greece

University of Massachusetts (UMass) - Boston

UMass Boston offers free, non-credit courses on the school's OCW website in subjects such as history, psychology, nursing and public policy. Students have access to materials provided on the site, which can include lecture materials, projects and homework assignments. UMass - Boston's lineup of free online courses includes:

  • General Biology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Calculus

University of Michigan

Student can access free courses from the University of Michigan in such subject areas as engineering, information science, Spanish and chemistry; the website even has curriculum originally offered in the U-M medical school. Depending on the course, students can find lectures, handouts and assignments, as well as student presentations and projects.

  • Social Welfare Policy and Services
  • Programming for Everybody
  • Storytelling for Social Change

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame offers OCW in areas such as theology, English, math and peace studies. These free, self-directed courses were originally offered at the university and can include lectures, readings, homework and quizzes. Notre Dame offers a diverse range of free online courses:

  • Jesus in Scripture and Tradition
  • Math in Sports
  • I 'Heart' Stats: Learning to Love Statistics

Utah State University

Utah State University provides access to free online courses through OCW. These non-credit courses include everything from anthropology to wildland resources. Course resources may include lecture notes, homework and reading assignments. The materials can be downloaded or viewed directly on the site. OpenCourseWare courses include:

  • History of Utah
  • Classical Drama and Theatre
  • General Ecology

Yale University

Free courses from Yale University include video lectures that were recorded in live classrooms at the school. The course materials include video, audio and transcript formats of the lectures, and may also include suggested readings, quizzes and exams. Some instructors provide access to supplemental materials. Non-credit courses include studies in psychology, organic chemistry, political science and English, and the course materials may be viewed on the site or downloaded in a ZIP file. Yale, a pioneer in free online learning, offers many courses, including these:

  • Game Theory
  • Modern Poetry
  • The American Revolution
  • Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature

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