by Katy Wilson at Education Unlimited

Did you know you can take free online courses from prestigious universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Yale? 

Once considered a passing fad, it is now apparent that massive open online courses (MOOCs) are here to stay. An increasing number of world-renowned universities are providing high-quality course content to the public for free.

Many universities have recognized compelling reasons to do so, including:

  1. To support their mission to provide education to all;
  2. To give back to the community;
  3. To contribute to the betterment of humankind;
  4. To connect with potential future students;
  5. To stay in touch with alumni.

Most universities won’t offer credit for free courses, but some will offer certification of passing the course for a small fee.

Even without any credit or certification, there are many reasons to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

  • Further your education and general knowledge for the love of learning;
  • Stimulate your brain function by learning new information;
  • Obtain continuing education for professionals working in certain fields;
  • Supplement your education in particular topics to enhance job performance;
  • Gain new skills to reach career goals;
  • Enhance your understanding of a topic before paying for a course.

There are several platforms in which open online courses are offered, including YouTube and iTunes. Many universities have created partnerships with various education sites such as Udacity, edX or Coursera. Most courses are self-paced and require no registration with the university. 

Courses may utilize a variety of materials such as downloadable files or videos. Some are recordings of actual live lectures, while others are developed especially for the online platform.

There are many universities offering free online courses. Here are seven of the top:

Harvard University

Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest university in the United States. Known for its devotion to excellence in teaching and learning, it is also one of the most respected. There are more than 360,000 alumni around the world. 

Courses are available online on almost any topic, including art, history, cooking, neuroscience or business, to name a few. 

Courses can be taken for no credit for free, or students can choose to receive a verified certificate for a small fee. Coursework is available on a variety of platforms including HarvardX, iTunes and Harvard Extension School.

Stanford University

Stanford University is a world-renowned institution established in 1891. Its faculty is passionate and devoted to providing free online learning opportunities to people all over the world. Stanford faculty love to share their knowledge with a wider audience. 

Stanford Free Online Courses Website

Over 10 million people have already enrolled in one or more of their free online courses, which are available through iTunes, YouTube and Stanford eCorner.

Free courses from Stanford include a wide variety of topics from its schools of medicine, engineering, humanities and sciences and more.

Yale University

Yale University is a private Ivy League research university, established in 1701. It is well known for providing quality education in a number of disciplines. Architecture, art, drama, engineering, applied science, forestry and environmental studies, medicine, music, nursing and public health are a few of their specialties. 

Yale offers online courses through Coursera as well as a site called Open Yale Courses. They provide free access to a selection of introductory courses on topics including astronomy, biology, economics, history, philosophy and psychology, and others.

Lectures given by distinguished Yale professors are recorded and made available for free at Yale Online Courses. No credit or certification is available.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University is America’s first research university, established in 1876. It is very well respected in the world of medicine and is often recognized among the top universities in the world. 

Johns Hopkins offers a wide selection of free courses and materials relating to public health topics. Over 5 million people have taken their non-credit online courses.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University is a prestigious private research facility based in Nashville, Tennessee, which offers a full range of degrees in the areas of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Education and Human Development and Music. There are also graduate programs in Divinity, Law, Medicine, Nursing and Management. 

Topics include programming, business, health and medicine, teaching and social sciences. Paid certificates are available for some courses. 

Online courses are available via a website called Class Central. 

The University of California at Los Angeles

UCLA is a public university located in Los Angeles, California. It is known for its can-do attitude, rigorous academic standards, and innovative academic opportunities. UCLA boasts a number of alumni who have won Nobel Prizes and other prestigious awards, made groundbreaking inventions and discoveries, or created successful technology-based businesses. 

UCLA offers free courses through a website called Free Video Lectures. Topics include chemistry, literature, mathematics, social sciences, psychology and history.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been dedicated to advancing knowledge in science and technology since 1861. It is frequently ranked among the top five universities in the world. 

Courses are available for free, or students can opt to receive a verified certificate for a small fee.

Are you looking for more universities and colleges offering free online courses? Here’s a larger list of institutes offering free courses online.