The last few years have witnessed a massive shift in the availability of high-quality, low-(or no)-cost education online. From skill-based training platforms, to top universities sharing videos of their classes for free, to MOOCs, there have never been more ways with which to obtain a world-class education for free. There are tons of options out there today, but we’ve highlighted some of the biggest names pushing free online education forward below. Happy learning!
(In Alphabetical Order)
1. Academic Earth
Academic Earth offers several hundred online courses from 13 top and Ivy League Universities. While many of the courses are hosted on the proprietary platforms of each university, Academic Earth offers a nice space to progress through “playlists” of curated course content. Current playlists include subjects like “first day of freshman year,” “the laws of nature,” and “the nature of evil.” Video electives are offered created by Academic Earth itself and offer entertaining and often witty takes on academic and newsworthy topics, from Bitcoin to Atlas Shrugged.
Alison was inspired by the UN declaration of human rights that states “education should be available to all,” and currently offers over 600 courses that have been taken in 200 countries. With courses provided by top corporations as well as universities, a large number of skill and job-based courses as well as traditional academic topics are covered. For basic academic disciplines, diplomas as available as well.
AMSER stands for the Applied Math and Science Education Repository, and is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Science Digital Library as a portal for educational resources and services for those in Community and Technical Colleges. All material is also available to the public free of charge. While these aren’t technically “college courses,” the offerings at AMSER are an integral part of many college students’ learning experience, and thus worth a mention. It’s a great place to discover what you should be learning, keep up to date on updates and new research in countless fields, and supplement your own educational experience (whatever that may be).
4. Ars Digita University
Ars Digita University was a one-year, intensive post-baccalaureate program in computer science from MIT. While the program is a little dated, it’s one of the most comprehensive free online offerings of an entire academic program from a top school. Lectures, coursework, and exams are present from the 2000-2001 MIT school year in classes ranging from math for computer science, to object-oriented program design, to artificial intelligence and applied probability.
5. Blackboard-Open Education
Open Education powered by Blackboard is the result of 50 institutions of higher education using the Blackboard platform to share some of their course offerings with the public. Particularly for many students who are already using Blackboard in their studies, the Open Education program provides a particularly valuable way to supplement studies and get topics not available at your current institution. Self-paced and live courses are available in a broad variety of topics that institutions have decided to share with the public.
6. Boston College Front Row
Boston College Front Row is sponsored by the Boston College Magazine, and while it doesn’t provide entire college classes, does provide recordings and resources related to Boston College academic and cultural events. Events archived in Boston College Front Row must be sponsored by one of the University’s colleges, schools, department, or research centers, and worthy of being stored for the benefit of teachers, students, scholars, and researchers. Currently over 1000 programs are offered through Front Row on nearly every subject imaginable.
7. Brigham Yount University Independent Study
Brigham Young University offers over 50 free online courses, with notable concentrations in the study of Mormanism, the Bible, basic mathematics, and personal development. For a relatively small sum, an additional 500 courses are available at middle school through undergraduate levels.
8. Caltech Online
Caltech currently offers ten on-demand, live, or upcoming MOOCs, largely on STEM topics. Drugs and the Brain, a course originally presented in December of 2012, is currently the 34th most popular MOOC ever (at the time of this writing). Other courses generally fall into three categories: big data, economics, and astronomy. All courses are presented on either the Coursera or edX platforms.
9. Canvas Network
The Canvas Network offers MOOCs presented by over 90 partner institutions of higher learning. Courses are available in live sessions if you catch an upcoming class in time to join, or as self-paced courses after they’ve already run. Courses run the gamut from traditional university course offerings, to skill-based and soft-skills training.
10. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Institute
Carnegie Mellon offers 24 open or free MOOCs, 1 future MOOC, and 5 that require prior work on their open learning institute platform. The largest portion of available courses are introductory college courses in fields such as languages, the sciences, math, visual design, and foundational STEM. Courses may be taken in a self-paced manner alone, or you may register with a key given to you by an instructor at a traditional institution if you wish to proceed with a cohort. Additional benefits for educators incorporating OLI courses into their curricula include the ability to see what topics are hardest and easiest for students, as well as student progress on a class-by-class or individual basis.
11. Class Central
Class Central offers over 1500 on-demand free courses, as well as several hundred up-coming live courses from a number of top universities. Business & management, science, social sciences, and education & teaching topics offer the largest number of course offerings, though there area number of topics from almost every academic or skill-based discipline. If you’re attempting to discern whether a given MOOC is right for you, or what the right MOOC for a given topic might be, their MOOC report offers valuable reviews.
Coursera is one of the largest MOOC platforms online, working with over 100 partner institutions that range from institutions of higher education to the Museum of Modern Art and National Geographic Society. Currently over 800 courses in over 30 languages are offered. While most courses may be taken for free, many may also be taken for a nominal fee so as to obtain a verified certificate. 28 specializations that center on mastering s skill with a targeted sequence of courses are also available.
13. Duke Law Center for the Public Domain
The Duke Law Center for the Public Domain was the first university center to focus on promoting research and scholarship on the public domain, those who contribute to the public domain, and the role of the public domain in society. Appropriately, their offerings are open to the public in the form of video lectures on creativity, culture, science, innovation, and videos from past conferences on the public domain. The center also hosts a variety of talks in person as well as contests.
EdCast offers online courses from close to 50 partner institutions that range from universities, to startup incubators, to corporations. The feature rich platform allows for educators to manage tasks like answering forum questions, checking on student progress, and the ability to approve posts, as well as easily provide supplementary content on the forum. While EdCast does offer some free university courses, it is also a powerful platform through which to collaborate and build educational experiences for your class or organization.
EdX is one of the largest online MOOC platforms, and offers over 460 courses from over 65 founding partner and member organizations (many of which are some of the top universities in the world). Courses are offered over a wide variety of subject areas, the largest of which include computer science, engineering, social sciences, sciences, and business and management. Courses may be taken in a self-paced or live-cohort paced manner, and some have the option to be taken for a small fee for a verified certification.
Free Video Lectures offers over 1000 free courses and 25,000 free video lectures from top universities. You may download their offerings in MP4, FLV, 3GP, MP3, and as torrent files for ease of storage. Videos are grouped by topic and institution, allowing for you to make a playlist of shorter lectures on the same topic from multiple experts. Current offerings center around STEM and Business topics, though the humanities are covered as well.
FutureLearn offers over 70 free online courses from 55 higher education partners. Courses range from traditional college course offerings to skill-based and special interest courses like “Caring for Vulnerable Children” and “How to Succeed at Interviews.” Courses are offered live or as self-paced on-demand programs that have already aired. Most courses provide certifications for a nominal fee.
18. Harvard Extension School
Harvard offers over 40 MOOCs through the edX platform that may be taken for free, or for verified certificates for a nominal fee. Larger portions of their edX offerings include a many-part series on China, a number of courses on data analysis, literature, and history courses.
19. iTunes U
iTunes U provides a teaching platform through which many top universities offer courses and lectures for free. With multimedia offerings for iPads and full-sized computers, as well as audio-only offerings for iPods, the learning platform provides a unique learning opportunity in the free online learning platform scene.
20. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers over 100 free online courses through their openCourseWare platform, comprising probably the most extensive collection of free public health coursework online. Course “collections” are available on their site and include core courses from the Hopkins Masters of Public Health, Ethics, Public Health in Developing Countries, and courses on Food.
21. Khan Academy
Khan Academy offers over 2400 free videos on nearly every traditional academic topic as well as test preparation. The college admissions section is a unique offering with a number of resources meant to help prepare students for identifying programs of interest and being quality applicants. All offerings are free and provide metrics to track progress as well as interactive learning opportunities.
22. Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
The Small Business Development Center of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania offer over 90 online learning programs. While all business centered, they cover a wide array of topics including accounting, planning, legal, government, sales, marketing, and tax. Courses are also available in Spanish.
23. MIT OCW
MIT’s openCourseWare has been pushing the boundaries of open education online for a number of years, and offers the largest number of courses provided by a top university for free. Though the extent to which all course materials are submitted varies, at the very least most courses include a syllabus, readings, and course assignments. MIT OCW Scholar programs are considerably more fleshed out than most offerings on their site and center around introductory level courses in math and the sciences.
Mooc-Ed.org is a project supported by the William & Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State College of Education. The platform offers MOOCs for educators, with a number of archived courses as well as five spring 2015 courses: fraction foundations, learning differences, disciplinary literacy for deeper learning, coaching digital learning, digital learning transition, and teaching statistics through data investigations.
MOOEC or Massive Open Online English Course is a collaboration between 24 international universities and organizations offering over 50 English language courses for non-native speakers. Courses are practical and center around common questions about living or travelling abroad, cultural norms, and language acquisition. Courses are divided into five sections: lifestyle, general English, pathway to higher learning, IELTS Preparation, and English for academic purposes.
26. New York State University Computer Science Department
New York State University at Albany offers a wide range of computer science-related resources with everything from book reviews, where to start if you’re learning computer science, online courses, tutorials, and lectures. The site is maintained by the University Libraries, and keeps up-to-date info about learning resources, conferences, and computing news.
Open Education Database has been providing data about online education since 2006, and currently has a database of over 10,000 free online classes. Courses are organized into the following subjects, arts, business, education, engineering & computer science, health & medical, liberal arts, math, and science. Particularly large offerings are available through MIT, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University. Quality curation of materials by their “iLibrarians” guides regular users through new courses and interesting learning opportunities online.
28. Online Course Report
Online Course Report offers a search featuring over 10,000 online courses, the large majority of which are free. Courses are cataloged according to difficulty and cover a wide variety of topics. Other site features include reviews of online learning platforms as well as “pathways” which step readers through free online learning materials helpful for obtaining business-ready skillsets.
29. Open Culture
While not a learning platform, Open Culture, a site that offers the best of free cultural and educational media around the web, has compiled a list of 1100 free online courses from top universities. Courses are divided in an in-depth topical way. Many courses have a number of ways to enjoy them, including audio, video, notes, and syllabus. Elsewhere around the site a wide range of free educational material can be found.
Open Michigan is a project supported by the University of Michigan that offers educational resources from 20 departments and University locations. A wide range of course levels and topics are available, including additional resources, the ability to download all course materials and creative commons licensing so that you may mix and match course materials in your own classes. Most video lectures are hosted on YouTube.
31. Open University Learning Space
OpenLearn is the home for free learning from the Open University, and offers around 750 free courses on a wide variety of topics. Free courses come clearly labelled by media type, with many including audio, activities, video, and readings. Most free courses are provided on an on-demand basis, allowing you to start whenever you would like. Start a profile to build up a number of badges showing what you’ve been working on.
OpenUpEd is a collaboration between partner institutions in 12 European countries seeking to create the first pan-European MOOCs initiative. Currently the platform offers over 175 courses for free in a variety of topics and languages. A workload ranking offers the estimated amount of work each course is believed to take relative to other courses. OpenUpEd has a number of ongoing quality assurance procedures as well, hoping to ensure their goal of how MOOCs in different institutional and cultural settings can help with the opening up of education.
Open2Study offers over 45 free online courses often centered around skillsets or areas of general interest. Most courses are live, and announced some time before they have started so students may join in with a cohort. An active forum section helps to supplement course offerings, as well as assessments, simulators, and quizzes. For a fee, some certifications and accredited degrees are also available through Open2Study.
Saylor Academy offers around 100 open courses online, many of which can be taken for credit by select institutions. All courses are not only open, but open licensed, so that you can reuse and remix them as you please in your own educational or teaching endeavors. Current featured pathways include foundational courses, full curricula (in business administration or computer science), career-related courses, for-credit courses, and partner programs. Compared to many other MOOC platforms, Saylor provides an incredibly in-depth educational experience, with active forums, a testing center, and an ePortfolio.
SkilledUp has what is probably the largest database of free and paid online courses, with over 93,000 free courses to choose from through a quite comprehensive number of online course-offering organizations. Current courses are broken into four large catagories: creative, technology, general education, and business. The SkilledUp insights section is also a valuable resource if you’re looking for online training for your business or institution.
36. Stanford Engineering Everywhere
Stanford Engineering Everywhere offers 13 of the most popular Stanford Engineering courses free of charge and through creative commons. Courses include video lectures (that may be downloaded), syllabi, handouts, homework, and exames, as well as social networking experiences to collaborate and network with fellow students. SEE courses include content offered in actual Stanford Engineering classes but are not for credit.
Study.com has an expansive array of online course offerings that are centered around the particular goals of students: studying for an exam, improving grades, learning a difficult subject, earning college credit, or using in the classroom. Current courses are available at middle school through post-graduate levels, and include certifications, adult education, and professional development. Science, English, and business courses are the most prevalent on the platform.
38. The Writing University
The Writing University is supported by the renowned University of Iowa writing program, and currently offers 3 MOOCs as well as forums. Current course offerings include “How Writers Write Poetry 2015,” ” Every Atom 2014,” and “How Writers Write Fiction 2014.” Courses are taught by writers and resident scholars and posted to the canvas network (1 course), or self-hosted (2 courses).
39. Tufts OCW
Tufts OpenCourseWare offers over 55 free courses, with a larger offering of medical and veterinary courses than most online learning platforms. Course materials are in depth and include exams, quizzes, video lectures, readings, and supplementary material. Courses are provided at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and note how many hours of course materials are provided.
40. UC Berkeley Edx
UC Berkeley offers over 30 MOOCs through the EdX platform, all of which may be taken for free or for a verified certificate for a small fee. Notable selections include the BerkeleyX “book club,” in which professors tackle single famous literary texts in MOOC format. A number of statistics and programming courses are also available, as well as prep courses for the AP exam in computer science.
41. UC San Diego Podcast Lectures
UC San Diego offers podcasts in video and audio format for several hundred current and past courses. With recordings for every class period for listed courses, UC San Diego offers one of the most comprehensive compilations of online college level instruction. Search for individual course pages to view supplementary material such as books, extra reading materials, and so on.
Udacity offers over 50 courses built by industry leaders and universities, and centered around their nanodegree programs: front-end web developer, data analyst, iOS Developer, Full-Stack Developer, and an Introduction to Programming. While courses freely offer instructor videos and exercises, nanodegrees and accompanying projects, coaches, and certifications are only offered for a monthly subscription fee. Helpful skill level guides and estimated timelines for how long courses should take are additional benefits of the Udacity platform.
Udemy offers over 25,000 courses–particularly in skill-based topics–with a large portion for low or no cost. Courses are produced by a massive array of independent scholars, experts, corporations, and universities, and may be found at nearly any skill level. Courses are offered in over 80 languages with over 6,000,000 past and present students, making Udemy one of the largest MOOC platforms available today.
44. Umass Boston
UMass Boston’s OpenCourseWare offerings come from 16 departments with close to 50 courses offered online for free. Unique offerings include a number of early education development, environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences, and mathematics courses. Many courses include supplementary course materials, syllabus, and readings.
45. University of California- Irvine
The University of California Irvine offers over 100 free courses through their OpenCourseWare platform, with large numbers of classes available particularly in their UNEX education and chemistry departments. A number of individual lectures, as well as “collections” are also available for subjects like California Subject Examination for Teachers, Gifted and Talented Education, Open Chemistry, Freshman Start, Sustainability, and a number of other topics.
46. University of Notre Dame
Notra Dame offers four MOOCs through their edX platform: “I ‘Heart’ Stats: Learning to Love Statistics,” “Understanding Wireless: Technology, Economics, and Policy,” “Jesus in Scripture and Tradition,” and “Math in Sports.” Currently all four courses are in registration phases and will be continuing through the Spring and Summer. Though courses may be catalogued afterwards by the edX platform.
47. University of Washington OpenUW
The University of Washington offers free online courses throug the Canvas Network, Coursera, and edX. On the Canvas Network, large portions of the the University’s Integrated Social Sciences bachelor’s program are available. Coursera largely offers programming and cybersecurity courses, and edX has a variety of topics. A number of self-hosted introductory topics are also available.
48. Utah State University
Utah State University offers over 75 free courses through their OpenCourseWare Platform, with the largest concentrations of topics available in Instruction Technology & Learning Sciences. Course are available to download, and come with lecure videos, exams, simulations, syllabus and additional reading. Utah State University OCW courses may also be used by educators to supplement their own coursework.
49. Open Yale Courses
Open Yale Courses offers over 40 courses through iTunes U and Coursera including a high concentration of world class humanities courses. Classes may be downloaded in their entirety, or followed through audio and video elements online. Syllabi, lecure notes, and reading lists are also available. If you’re looking for a quicker educational resource, Yale offers a number of high quality lectures on YouTube as well.
While not entire courses, oftentimes lectures from top Universities that are shared through YouTube also provide links to other course materials elsewhere. Besides traditional lectures, YouTube is also a great resource for quick refresher videos, documentaries, and other academic and cultural events that have been posted. For top universities on YouTube, check out offerings from Yale, Stanford, Gresham College, MIT, UC Berkeley, and Harvard.