Strolling in Harvard Yard amidst ivy covered red brick buildings, I’ve wondered what it would be like to attend classes there. Now, we can all enjoy courses from famous universities – for free. Many online courses are available year-round to enjoy at your own pace. Others start on specific dates and involve assignments and interaction. All are free. It’s a unique way for universities to reach out to those of us unlikely to enroll at their brick-and-mortar institutions. Explore a topic you’ve always been interested in, or give your resume a new edge with a course aligned with your career goals.
Harvard. The Harvard Extension School offers free non-credit open courses like computer science and Greek civilization. They also offer free options through EdX, which requires sign-up and has specific start dates.
- World War II History. Investigate WWII through feature films, primary sources, and scholarly interpretations.
- Shakespeare: The Later Plays. Explore gender, politics, family, and culture in the bard’s work.
- Health in Numbers: Public Health Research. Learn basic biostatistics and epidemiology to discover health patterns in populations.
Stanford University. Some Stanford Online Courses begin on specific dates, and some involve interactive assignments. Consider cryptography, game theory, logic, or these:
- Crash Course on Creativity. Frame problems, challenge assumptions, and learn creative teamwork.
- Finance. Challenge yourself to address practical everyday financial decisions in uncertain times.
- Solar Cells, Fuel Cells, and Batteries. Explore technological solutions to the world’s energy demands.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT Open Courseware offers independent learning at your own pace. Beyond calculus and engineering, you’ll find courses in Asian pop culture, environmental policy, and animal behavior.
- Visualizing Cultures. Explore the culture clash between Europe and Japan.
- Advanced Strategy. Learn corporate strategy through case studies of successful firms.
- Chinese I. Use audio samples and language software to begin reading and writing.
Coursera. You’ll find a collection of free online courses from Princeton, Johns Hopkins, University of Virginia, and others. Coursera offerings start on specific dates; registration is required.
- A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior. Examine the psychology of decision-making to understand what motivates investors, employees, and consumers in this Duke course.
- Planet Earth. Learn about earthquakes, volcanoes, and geologic phenomenon in this course from University of Illinois.
- Drugs and the Brain. Explore what happens in a brain exposed to nicotine, painkillers, or antidepressants in this CalTech course.
More Sources. YouTube, iTunes U, and other sites carry free courses from a variety of institutions. From artificial intelligence to clinical psychology, from astrophysics to art and film, you will be surprised at the offerings available for free.
- Art. The Elements of Drawing. Learn the principles of drawing in this free iTunes U course from Oxford.
- Spanish. Learn Spanish through Mi Vida Loca, a BBC mystery video series, or via Destinos, a narrated soap opera produced by WGBH. Subscribe to Coffee Break Spanish podcasts from iTunes.
- History. Columbia University’s History of the World to 1500 CE course on YouTube covers prehistoric times through the 16th century. Follow it with UC Berkeley’s Europe and the World: Wars, Empires, Nations 1648-1914 on iTunes U.
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