7 Elite Universities Offering Free Online College Classes


How to Take Free College Classes at 7 Elite Universities

Top universities from around the world are offering free online college classes that include recordings of lectures to interactive courses with assignments and final projects. These types of learning opportunities can be a great way for job seekers to boost their skill set, gain valuable knowledge, and enhance their likelihood of career progression. 

With an overall goal of making high-quality education accessible to any person, in any location, several elite universities are offering free college classes to interested individuals. In return, the institutions are able to compile research that can be used to improve their courses and develop better technologies for online and classroom-based learning. The offerings are non-credit courses, but some provide a certificate of achievement or completion.

The common term that’s come to define these free classes is MOOC, which stands for Massive Open Online Courses. Many of these universities offer free classes via a MOOC platform, such as Coursera, edX, and Udemy. Take a look at seven big-name universities offering free online college classes.

7 Universities Offering Free Online College Classes

Carnegie Mellon University

The Pittsburg-located university was founded in 1848 by Andrew Carnegie as a technical school and merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research in 1967 to become its current iteration.

Through its Open Learning Initiative, CMU offers low-cost courses and also has an “Open and Free” section that allows students to access courses materials for free. These courses are self-guided, meaning there is no instructor or grades assigned, along with no credit. “Evidence-Based Management,” “Introduction to Programming in Java,” and “Spanish I” are just a few of the courses available.

Duke University

Duke University is located in Durham, North Carolina. Of its online program, the university said: “Through online learning, Duke seeks to offer flexible global learning opportunities to a wide set of students throughout their lives.”

Duke University’s free courses are on Coursera, a popular online learning platform. Free classes are on an audit basis, allowing you to access materials, but you won’t be submitting assignments for a grade or earning a certificate. You can review the syllabus, instructors, and reviews from previous students for each class on Coursera. Offerings include, but are not limited to, courses in statistics, medical neuroscience, and machine learning.

Harvard University

Harvard is the oldest higher education institution in the U.S. The Ivy League school is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Online learning website edX hosts Harvard’s free courses. These self-paced courses are free on an audit basis, but a certificate can be awarded for a fee. Each course will provide information on how much time is required, the difficultly level, and information on instructors.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Known for its academic focus on engineering and computer science, MIT is a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based school. In 2001, the institute decided to place nearly all of its course content online.

Known as OpenCourseWare (OCW), the site contains material from 2,400 courses. OCW doesn’t require any registration and courses are categorized by topic, department, and MIT course number. Each course contains lecture notes, readings, and assignments.

Stanford University

Stanford University, located near the Bay Area in California, is a top school often known for its proximity to Silicon Valley. Since 2011, Stanford Online has been the university’s online collection of courses.

According to its website, “…Stanford offers more than 100 unique, free online courses or MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in service to the world, for lifelong learning and self-enrichment.” Free college classes can be found on its website in a wide range of topic areas that span humanities, medicine, engineering, and more. Enrollment can be completed at any time as classes are self-directed and completed on your terms.

University of California, Berkeley

UC Berkeley is a public university that serves as the flagship campus of 10 universities within the University of California system. The school is included on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Colleges, making it a top college.

In 2012, UC Berkeley created a resource to house all of its online courses and degree programs. In conjunction with edX, courses ranging from statistics and marketing to business writing and literature can be audited for free.

Yale University

An Ivy League school located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is a prominent school ranked as #3 by U.S. News & World Report in its Best Colleges list.

Open Yale Courses (OYC) offers a registration-free way to access Yale courses. No credit or certificates are available. Lectures are presented in video and audio format, and you’ll also have access to the syllabus and suggested readings.

Whether you are seeking personal enrichment, a way to learn new skills for your resume, or a start to a successful career change, an investment of time and motivation is all you will need for these free online college classes. And no matter where you are in your career or job search, FlexJobs offers career coaching and resume reviews that can help you incorporate your newfound knowledge.


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A version of this post was originally published on August 17, 2014.