Getting an education is, unfortunately, very expensive.
We all know a person or two who are still paying off student loans even in their 40’s and 50’s.
According to the Student Loan Hero, Americans owe over $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.
That’s $1.4 trillion!
That’s why thousands of people have given up on college because they can’t afford it.
Fortunately, there is also some good news…
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Free online college courses!
Yes, there is such a thing as a free online college course.
I have gathered a huge list of websites that offer totally free college courses in any category you can imagine.
Some of these websites are even backed by some of the most respected universities in the world.
With some of these places, you can effectively earn a degree for free since they offer accredited degrees and certificate of completion.
Either way, each one of these sites serves as a fantastic resource for people looking to continue their education while avoiding debt.
What will I learn?
Top 10 Sites Offering College Courses for Free
Let’s start with a few top resources that I think everyone should bookmark and use.
Coursera is among the early adopters of MOOC (Massive Open Online Cources) and today it boasts of more than 100 partner institutions, making it one of the largest online educational providers.
The partners consist of mostly institutions of higher education. But you can also find obscure ones like the National Geographic Society and the Museum of Modern Art.
The lessons are conducted in roughly 30 languages and they cover some 800 courses.
You won’t be charged a single penny for taking any course, but you may have to pay a fee if you want a verified certificate.
The founder of Alison strongly believes that education is a form of human rights and this single-mindedness has helped to spread its online classes to some 200 countries, with some 600 courses on offer.
Typical providers are big MNCs and courses are likely to be on product training and generic vocational skills. There are also university partners for degree courses.
Alison also provides entry-level courses like diploma certification.
3. MIT Open Courseware
Massachusetts Institute of Technology can count themselves as the early mover in the open education platform. Of course, when we talk about MIT, it is only expected that the courses they carry are going to be varied and diverged.
One neat feature of this MIT OpenCourseware is that it actually provides recording on the real class proceedings.
The thing that I don’t particularly like is that you still need to buy a physical book to go along with the online courses.
All in all, there is pretty much nothing else to complain about if you are referring to a solid institution like MIT.
4. Open Learning Initiative (Carnegie Mellon University)
Not to be outdone by MIT, Pittsburgh based Carnegie Mellon also offers its own version of online classes.
Naturally (at least I think), they cannot compete with MIT in terms of scope and depth. But it seems that there is more thought going into the organization of the courses and I find the teaching easy to follow, and a better customer experience as a result.
Consistent with many free online providers, students are not going to get any course credit or have direct interaction with a lecturer or tutor.
5. Khan Academy
Salman Khan’s videos on YouTube was all it took to inspire Khan Academy.
Some years ago, he was helping a cousin on academic work by creating YouTube videos for him.
Apparently, there were many more benefactors than just his cousin. He learned about the phenomena and decided to aggregate these videos (allegedly over 1000 of them) and upload on Khan Academy (now classified as a 501(c)(3) non-profit).
His specialty was mathematics, but the site has since expanded to include other topics.
The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, claims that his kids have benefited greatly from the site, crediting the very informal way on how Khan manages to put across mathematics concepts and ideas have made mathematics interesting, and the learning fun again!
6. Stanford University iTunesU
Yet another Ivy League entrant into the online course play, meaning quality learning stuff at your fingertips.
Consistent with its wide array of curriculum on offer at its physical University, you can expect broad and in-depth topics covered in the online equivalent.
The contents are served out through iTunes only, so they ask that you buy an Apple product. However, the courseware is free for all.
7. Johns Hopkins Open Courseware
Not many can claim greater acclaim than the Maryland-based Johns Hopkins, as far as medical schools go.
So if you are fascinated with medicine or if you are a medical student, there is no better place to go than here.
8. The Open Education Consortium
The OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium is an online platform provider.
Its educational content is widely acknowledged to be of university or college level and it certainly boasts of a huge collection.
But I think what makes OCW stands out among its peers is the fact that it manages to secure licensing rights on all course materials, so it is completely legit to download their online courses.
They also recommend planning materials and the website hosts a variety of evaluation tools to guide you on your learning process.
EdX first offered online courses in 2012.
It is the result of a collaboration between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of technology.
The initiative has no profit motive, only backed by the determination to bring courses on offer from both colleges to the millions who are interested.
10. The Open University
This is probably the most comprehensive and practical website for working adults.
First off, the material fits for higher education quality, and the undertaking of certain (in fact, most of them) courses do not require background qualification or prior working experience.
Now the most impressive part of the Open University is its “supported open learning” concept.
Within this concept, students can get connected from anywhere to commence lessons, and they can plan their entire learning exercise in accordance with their daily schedule.
It is also noteworthy that the OU website allows you direct interaction with a tutor, or get connected to online students forum for study collaboration (whether locally or internationally).
More Sites to Take College Courses for Free
Let’s continue with some of the other sites where you can get free college-level education.
This is short for the Applied Math and Science Education Repository.
The National Science Foundation and the National Science Digital Library are the two parties providing the necessary funding. It consolidates educational resources and services to serve primarily students at Community and Technical Colleges.
12. University of the People
University of the People is a not-for-profit online education provider. Its mandate is to raise the education level for the world and naturally it has an international slant to it.
It doesn’t charge users for enrollment, taking class, or accessing educational materials it publishes on its website.
GCFLearnFree provides free wholistic education on the web. With its innovation and creativity, it has brought together some 750 lessons under its wing. The lessons here are acknowledged to be of quality type. The diversity of the topics means that you can pick and choose virtually any skill you want to upgrade.
You are also free to choose if you want to participate in one tutorial or getting involved in the whole class.
14. Tufts Open Courseware
Tufts embraces an open platform for their courseware development. The mainstay on this website here is the medical and dental school courses. There is also a splinter of other programs for you to choose from as well.
15. Open University Learning Space
Learning Space is kind of a spin-off from the UK-based Open University, as it recycles the learning material from OU.
True to the OU spirit, it embraces diversity and it is noted for its students of many ethnic backgrounds and skin colors.
For online content, it doesn’t place any restrictions on users who have a real appetite for knowledge.
One thing it does well is the organization of the online courses. These courses are meticulously cataloged and categorized, so that makes it easy for users to navigate and locate the right course.
16. Open Culture
Open Culture is more like an aggregator website. It goes searching educational media presented on the web and collate them together on its website.
Classes conducted in real universities are presented in MP3 format. There is a great variety of podcasts to choose from. You can opt for the heavy stuff like engineering and science, or go for the lighter material like arts and literature.
Other media on this website includes e-books, audio books and multimedia types.
17. Online Education Database
The content on the Online Education Database (OEDB) is heavily linked to established colleges like Yale, MIT and Tufts.
Now you can have the same learning opportunity as those students enrolled in the Ivy League, without having to fork out that substantial amount, or drag your tired body to those campuses.
So far, there are over 200 online courses available to the public.
18. Annenberg Learner
Annenberg Learner is different from the rest of the websites mentioned here. Instead of being a student learning center, it is meant to improve the teaching skills of teachers.
They distribute multimedia files that touch on the intricacy of teaching in American schools.
Other than the excellent video programs, there are also well-written research and articles on all aspects of teaching.
19. Academic Earth
Academic Earth group together online courses available on the web and bring them all into one place.
Their sources are typically those in the Ivy League. Granted, you can always go to the individual online campus to access the disparate courses but it is undoubtedly easier if this content is compiled within one site.
They pay some attention to the organization of the courses, so you can appreciate the varying content from various schools all under a single category.
Other than the collated online courses, Academic Earth also boasts of an excellent editorial team.
From time to time, they produce marvelous research and editorial on new and hot topics like Bitcoin.
20. Ars Digita University
When Ars Digita University pushed out its one-year post-baccalaureate program in computer science in 2001, it created a massive buzz in the educational world. Granted, it has borrowed the shine from MIT, which owns the rights of this program.
21. Blackboard-Open Education
This is an initiative backed by some 50 higher institutions to consolidate their online courses. The objective is to present all the courses involved on one single platform – Blackboard – and make it available to the public.
The greatest benefactor of this program is the thousands of students who are already on Blackboard. It enables students to have access to topics that may not be included in their current curriculum.
22. Brigham Young University Independent Study
If the study of the Bible, especially Mormonism, interests you, you got to check this out! There are also 50 free online courses which include basic mathematics and personal development stuff.
With a token fee, you are entitled to a further 500 courses that are meant for mid-schoolers and undergraduates.
23. Canvas Network
This is another MOOC platform provider which serves courses online. Its platform has a healthy network of some 90 higher institutions. Depending on preference, you can either join the class through live streaming (provided you can fit the class schedule), or you can take the class archive presented on the website.
A mixture of courses is available, from the usual engineering and IT, to those that deal with personal improvement and characteristic traits.
24. Class Central
The library of courses on offer here is huge. Last I checked, they have some 1500 courses in the archive that are free to download. There was also an announcement that a few hundred new courses would be made available live.
Their educational partners represent the top-tier in the educational sector. You can learn about finance and business, science and technology, arts and social behavior, and many more (really, 1500 courses can cover a lot of stuff). It also has a detailed explanation about MOOC, suppose you want to find out what the hell is that!
25. Free Video Lectures
True to its name, all of the contents here are condensed into video formats. And there are lots of them: a total of 25,000 video clips that roll up into some 1000 courses.
Most of the sources are those top colleges that the population can easily identify with.
There is also a rich choice of download formats. You can have a no-hassle audio MP3 file, the very popular MP4 format, or FLV/3GP, or even torrent files for speedy download.
FutureLearn has a partner network that makes up the top 55 educational institutions in the country. Together they contribute more than 70 free online courses.
These courses tend to be practical and they do address real-world issues.
The two topics that caught my eyes are: Dealing with an Emotional Kid and Ace Your Interview. You can join a real-time classroom or choose to download past archives.
If you need some form of a verified certificate, you will be asked for a small fee.
27. Harvard Extension School
Harvard extends its online courses through the edX platform. Currently, there are 40 courses on offer and all are available free of charge. If you want a verified certificate upon your course completion, they would as for a nominal fee. This edX platform also extends to some specialized courses like China study, data analysis and history subjects.
28. Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
This is a good place to get a head start in business.
The project is the brainchild of the Small Business Development Center of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. This program is intended for people about to get into business, or businessmen who wish to refresh their knowledge about the business world.
MOOEC stands for Massive Open Online English Course. It is made up of 24 international colleges and organizations. The objective is to raise the English language comprehension of the world. It hopes to achieve this through its offerings of 50 language courses that are targeted towards non-native speakers especially.
The courses take on a direct approach and often deal with everyday lives and social norms.
Broadly these courses are broken down into five categories: lifestyle, general English, pathway to higher learning, IELTS Preparation, and English for academic purposes.
30. New York State University Computer Science Department
The Computer Science Department of New York State University is behind the creation and maintenance of this website.
It takes you through the whole learning curve where computer study is concerned. They range from the very basic to complicated concepts in the computing world.
From time to time, it also publishes new research on the subject, conferences and breaking news.
Open.Michigan is a program conceived by the University of Michigan with the aim to raise the overall educational level of the populations.
Courses are divided into topics and levels so that they could hopefully fit every level of demographics.
It also has a section that is dedicated to licensing, in its effort to inspire enough users to use parts of its program to come up with their own courseware. This section gives detailed instructions on licensing requirements so that the tailor-made program conforms to required legislation.
The lectures are captured on video format and most can be found on YouTube.
OpenUpEd has a heavy European slant as all educational partners are hailed from 12 Europe countries. This is the first attempt to Europe wide MOOC and the 175 online courses are offered in multiple topics and languages.
The courses are organized somewhat differently as each one compares to another in the expected time commitment, rather than the wider world or the online educational space. But maybe as the name suggested, it is more about opening the educational settings across the various European countries!
Open2Study, with its 45 free online courses, may not look impressive at first glance. But I really appreciate its simplicity and practicality. Instead of promising degree or post-graduate qualification, it sticks to the basic and offers incremental skill development.
They encourage live participation and you are advised to enroll before the next class commences. Even if you fail to do so, there is always the online forum section to facilitate real-time involvement.
Additionally, assessments, simulators, and quizzes are made accessible so the opportunity of direct involvement is never shut down on you. If you desire some form of certifications or accredited degrees, you can have them in exchange for some nominal fee here.
34. Saylor Academy
Saylor Academy has a remarkable affiliate program with a number of educational institutions.
You are able to make use of credits from these associated institutions to participate in their 100 online courses.
One good thing about Saylor is that all these courses are pre-licensed so you are free to recycle the materials for your own teaching purpose (if you have such inclination).
In summary, there are the obligatory foundational courses, full curricula (in bis-ad or computer study), career-related courses, for-credit courses, and partner programs. On top of the decent online course, Saylor’s website is also equipped with a user forum, testing center, and ePortfolio.
35. Stanford Engineering Everywhere
Stanford Engineering Everywhere (or SEE) is an amazing program from Stanford. It actually makes available its 13 most popular Stanford Engineering courses without a penny on your end.
You will find video archives (on lectures done in physical classroom), syllabus, handouts, homework, and examinations on their website. If you have such inclination, there is also the social angle on the website, which allows you to mingle and collaborate with fellow Stanford students. But keep in mind SEE courses offered this way does not warrant any credit.
Udacity, with more than 50 online courses under its belt, is a typical site that looks to propagate the computing skill among the masses.
Sure enough, you get qualified guidance on web development, big data analysis, or Apple OS programming. But you do not get certificates unless you are on their monthly fee-based subscription plan.
On the other hand, I find it useful for Udacity to spell out the time commitment required to complete a certain course.
37. Umass Boston
I won’t say UMass Boston’s OpenCourseWare is out of this world but they have some really unique propositions that blow my mind away, stuff like Earth and Ocean Sciences.
They offer courses on a wide variety of subjects including early childhood development and mathematics courses.
38. University of Washington OpenUW
The University of Washington has made use of different channels to popularize its free online courses, namely the Canvas Network, Coursera, and edX.
It also seems odd that the individual faculty also have their favorite platform. The Integrated Social Sciences loves it on the Canvas Network, and their bachelor’s program is only made available there.
For IT stuff, look to Coursera, as there is a multitude of programming and security stuff over there. edX is a mixed-up sort, you can find everything else over here.
39. Utah State University
Utah State University’s online courses cover some 75 topics and they are all made free on the OpenCourseWare Platform.
I must say people responsible behind these courses are a practical lot as most materials are about Instruction Technology & Learning Sciences.
You can download individual courses, and your download will be accompanied by lecture notes, examinations, simulations, syllabus and reference. Utah State University OCW coursewares could also be used by the users as a supplementary to their own teaching or training.
40. Open Yale Courses
Another institution that chooses Coursera as the platform to broadcast their online courses. You decide if courses from Open Yale Courses is to be downloaded or you just follow the video snippets on their website.
The site also advises on syllabus, lecture notes, and reference lists.
If you want to do without hassle, I suggest you check out YouTube for immediate access to their learning resources.
41. P2P University
Whenever I come across Peer to Peer University, it always reminds me of the old adage we attribute to the internet, a true liberation and democratization of the information sphere.
Its tendency for anyone to create and collaborate on anything under the sun is surely liberating. But the skeptics in me says that check the credibility of the person/party uploading this stuff before you download it!
There you have it, a massive list of websites that offer free online college courses.
If you know of any other site that isn’t mentioned on this list, please feel free to let us know in the comments below and I will add to the list.
Lisa J Katnic
The various offerings of online schools/classes seem impressive. Certainly there are many to chose from. I will narrow it down to a few and go from there. I’m glad I checked this out. It’s been a while since I’ve committed myself to this kind of thing. I hope to report back a positive experience. Thank you.
Can’t wait to hear about your experience, Lisa. Please do update us. Good luck!
i am 65 and was a nurse for 36 years. Now I want to learn something different. I am interested in antique jewelry and learned things from trail and error after years of collecting. I love the treasure hunt. I am really interested in free courses on learning about identifying and evaluating the quality of antiques , especially jewelry. books and tableware/china/etc. (or any one of those subjects). My mother was a collector of all kinds of antiques and she completed my early years of education so I have more years with antiques than I even had as a nurse! I would like to continue to develop knowledge that I would use. any suggestions?