Free Online Classes

Yes, MIT, Yale, and Stanford are tough to get into. With an average acceptance rate hovering at about 13.4%, your educational dreams of studying at these top universities may seem like a distant dream. But, you would be wrong! Get a taste of a MIT, Yale, or Stanford education by participating in these free online courses. Today, you can learn the skills you need to improve your career, completely tuition-free.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) program, although not an MIT education, reflects most of the undergraduate and graduate courses offered at MIT. Here’s how it works: course materials are compiled from the faculty, licensed, then formatted for open sharing on the Internet. Some courses even have video content. There is no registration required and the courses are all self-directed. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to make contact with the professor who designed the course or obtain a certificate or credit upon course completion. But the valuable OCW resources should be taken advantage of! You can enhance your education in courses from the following departments:

  • Aeronautics and Astronautics: Educators and students from all around the world come to MIT in order to learn about air and space travel. The MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department works to better space travel technologies that allow us to explore untouched portions of our universe.
  • Anthropology: Anthropology is the study of human culture and behavior throughout time. Learn about human beings through classes like “Anthropology of War and Peace” or “Ethnic and National Identity.”
  • Architecture: The MIT architecture department, instituted in 1865, is home to one of the top architecture programs in the United States.
  • Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation: This department at MIT strives to advance health and wellness through physical, social, and intellectual education. Learn about weight training, archery, and a number of other activities.
  • Biological Engineering: This MIT department focuses on problems in medicine and biology and applies engineering principles to solve them.
  • Biology: Biology is the study of lifeforms. Learn about the way life works with classes like “Genetics” and “Nano-life: An Introduction to Virus Structure and Assembly.”
  • Brain and Cognitive Sciences: Your brain is the most incredible machine known to mankind. Learn about the inner workings of your mind by learning about memory, emotion, the senses, and more.
  • Chemical Engineering: Chemical engineers work to harness the properties of materials in order to study molecular information and develop new information through experimentation. This department shows how students can use cutting-edge technologies to solve modern problems.
  • Chemistry: Ranked as one of the top chemistry departments in the nation, you’ll certain be able to pick up valuable lessons about the chemical structures of all things.
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering: Students who take classes in civil and environmental engineering are concerned with a number of questions: “How do we develop public infrastructure renewal? Can we create greater access to clean drinking water? Can we find sustainable solutions to our energy needs?” These are just some of the questions you can tackle in this department.
  • Comparative Media Studies: How does media change the world? This sector of MIT explore the full implications of the media in our world.
  • Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences: This department deals with many sectors of intellectual life. Students in this department will learn about physics, geology, biology, chemistry, and more in order to learn about planets and the ways in which we are able to collect information about them.
  • Economics: The intellectual interests of the MIT economics department focuses on how we create, spend, and manage currency on a large scale (macroeconomics) and on an individual level (microeconomics).
  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: Electrical engineering and computer science is not just about typing long lines of code. These fields strive to study the fundamentals of how technologies work and what we might be able to build in the future.
  • Engineering Systems Division: Engineers analyze complex technological and social systems in order to develop better systems. MIT students do this with courses like “Technology, Law, and the Working Environment,” “Transportation Systems,” and “Technology Policy Negotiations and Dispute Resolution.”
  • Experimental Study Group: The Experimental Study Group at MIT was developed as a student-centered learning environment that focuses on interactive learning. There are many different classes available from this program, including “Science Writing and New Media” and “Physics of Rock Climbing.”
  • Foreign Languages and Literatures: Part linguistics, part anthropology, and part literature, this interdisciplinary department opens students to new ideas of communication, culture, and the human experience.
  • Health Sciences and Technology: This MIT department is one of the oldest biomedical engineering and physician-scientist training programs in the country. Classes in this department include everything from “Principles and Practice of Drug Development” to “Genomics, Computing, Economics, and Society” and more.
  • History: The MIT history department introduces a wide variety of topics in the history of places all around the world and in all different times.
  • Linguistics and Philosophy: This department houses both the linguistics faculty and the philosophy faculty at MIT. The result is a rich tradition of learning in courses such as “Psycholinguistics,” “Philosophy of Love in the Western World,” and “Theory of Knowledge.”
  • Literature: MIT is most known for its science and engineering programs. But the humanities do not languish here! About 75% of all undergraduates take a course (such as “The Art of the Probable: Literature and Probability” and “The American Novel“) in this department.
  • Materials Science and Engineering: Here you will be able to tackle “the relationships between structure and properties in all classes of materials.” Learn how to break down and build up materials by taking classes from this distinguished faculty.
  • Mathematics: Math is not simply about crunching numbers. MIT courses in mathematics are meant to prepare students for careers in systems analysis, actuarial science, operations research, and more.
  • Mechanical Engineering: If you love engineering but aren’t sure about what type of engineering most interests you, mechanical engineering is one of the broadest and flexible programs to take a look at.
  • Media Arts and Sciences: You don’t have to be able to see into the future in order to discern that technology will continue to develop at an incredible rate and influence the way we live our lives. This department focuses on that fact and on how technology will continue to influence how we communicate with one another.
  • Music and Theater Arts: MIT celebrates the practice and performances of music and theatre. This is reflected in their numerous musical theory and script analysis classes.
  • Nuclear Science and Engineering: As the first of its kind, the MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering drew in both civilians and military members to learn more about nuclear science and engineering. Today, the program directs students to harness nuclear power so as to better human life.
  • Physics: The Physics department at MIT has much to be proud of. Three faculty members in the department hold Nobel Prizes and 21 others are a part of the the National Academy of Sciences. Here, you can get a sneak peak into topics like “theoretical and experimental particle and nuclear physics, cosmology and astrophysics, plasma physics, theoretical and experimental condensed-matter physics, atomic physics, and biophysics.”
  • Political Science: With an orientation towards domestic and international public policy, the political science department offers a rich collection of free materials for your perusal, including lectures and notes from classes like “Feminist Theory,” “Political Economy of Globalization,” and “Comparative Health Policy.”
  • Science, Technology, and Society: Humans have always built things. From the first tools to the tallest towers, mankind seems to have a propensity towards creating things. The Department of Science, Technology, and Society at MIT strives to answer the questions, “How did science and technology change? How do these changes relate to the bigger picture of civilization?”
  • Sloan School of Management: Leadership is an essential quality in today’s world. If you are seeking ways to sharpen your already-present managerial skills, or simply desire to learn more about the qualities of a good leader, then the Sloan School of Management is a good place to go.
  • Special Programs: For those classes that don’t fit into any of the departments at MIT (and you can see that there are many!) there is the Special Programs division. Where else will you be able to find classes like “Chemistry of Sports,” “The Mathematics in Toys and Games,” “Lego Robotics,” and “The Anthropology of Computing“?
  • Supplemental Resources: MIT and its educational partners contributed a number of different materials to supplement your learning in other areas through OCW. Although not all of the material corresponds with a particular OCW class, you may be able to gain something by looking through these various resources.
  • Urban Studies and Planning: A sub-department of the School of Architecture and Planning, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), trains students to enact positive social change through careful and socially conscious urban development. It has consistently been considered one of the top urban planning programs in the country.
  • Women’s and Gender Studies: This interdisciplinary program explores women’s issues in an academic framework. Classes like “Feminist Political Thought” and “Rethinking the Family, Sex, and Gender” will help you to explore feminine significance and gender issues with thoughtfulness and depth.
  • Writing and Humanistic Studies: Need to improve your writing? Whether you need to sharpen your expository prose, or wish to boldly experiment with the technicalities of difficult poetry, this is a good place to learn! From “Expository Writing: Autobiography – Theory and Practice” to “Communicating in Technical Organizations,” the Writing and Humanistic Studies program is full of instruction in all kinds of writing genres and professions.

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Yale University

Yale also has a selection of courses available to the public. Open Yale Courses (OYC) is a fantastic way to supplement your education by learning from leading scholars and professors. The lectures and course materials available at OYC are from a number of introductory classes at the university. Like MIT’s OCW program, no course credit or certificate is available. Take a look at the following list to see what departments and classes are available for your perusal:
  • Astronomy: Sophocles once said, “Astronomy? Impossible to understand and madness to investigate.” The astronomy department at Yale confounds this ancient thinking by keeping their eyes skyward and sharpening their minds with the study of astronomy, physics, and mathematics. In the OYC, you’ll be able to take the class “Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics,” which focuses on extra-solar planets, black holes, and dark energy.
  • Biomedical Engineering: The Department of Biomedical Engineering is amongst Yale’s youngest departments, but it is growing rapidly. With an academic blend of biology and engineering, the department trains students to better understand how humans are built and the things that prevent them from functioning correctly, with the goal of preventing disease and developing effective treatment. For those taking advantage of the OYC, you will be able to take “Frontiers of Biomedical Engineering” with professor Saltzman. No need to be a science major either!
  • Chemistry: For those wishing to get a bit of an edge in the physical and life sciences, the course in “Freshman Organic Chemistry” is a great start. In this introductory course, Professor McBride lectures on modern theories in organic chemistry, their historical significance, and their foundation in the scientific method. Class sessions include “Seeing Bonds by Electron Difference Density” and “Rise of the Atomic Theory (1790-1805).”
  • Classics: With a key emphasis in Greek and Roman literature and civilization, Yale students who study the classics will receive rigorous training in both Greek and Latin. But this department is not just about linguistics and literature. You will also have to delve into history, philosophy, art, and more. You’ll be able to explore just some of these topics in the “Introduction to Ancient Greek History” course available on OYC.
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Dive into the science of our origins and surroundings with the OYC class “Principles of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior” with Professor Stephen C. Stearns. This course will teach you the foundation of ecology and evolutionary biology in an accessible manner and give you a taste of the biology major at Yale, which is a joint offering of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB).
  • Economics: From the macro to micro, from history to theory to market organization and to international and developmental economics, the economics department at Yale has a firm grip on the workings of the way money works. For those who wish to gain more insight into how we manage currency and what makes it tick, you’ll be able to take three different courses: “Game Theory,” “Financial Theory,” and “Financial Markets.”
  • English: The English department at Yale teaches students to read and analyze British, American, and other English-language literatures by providing a historical background and giving students the necessary study tools to understand literature. There are a number of different courses available at OYC, including “Milton,” “The American Novel Since 1945,” “Introduction to Theory of Literature,” and “Modern Poetry.”
  • Environmental Studies: Using an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and solving environmental issues, Yale educates students from the natural sciences to make exact observations, record change, identify human causes in those environmental changes, and comprehend what makes for a healthy ecosystem. “Environmental Politics and Law” explores how the law can help guide people towards ecological responsibility.
  • History: History is one of the most popular majors at Yale–and for good reason! The department houses and extensive variety of classes in the histories of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America; from the beginning of recorded human history to the modern age. Through OYC, you’ll be able to take a number of introductory courses, like “The American Revolution” and “France Since 1871.”
  • History of Art: The Department of the History of Art at Yale focuses on material history; that is, art, architecture, and visual culture in a historical, anthropological, and sociological context. The courses come from a range of different methodologies but are rather centered on the commitment to extensively investigate works of art. This department is home to a many different courses in Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and modern European and American art, in addition to courses on pre-Columbian, African, and Asian art. One such class, which is available at OYC, is “Roman Architecture” with Professor Diana E. E. Kleiner.
  • Italian Language and Literature: In Life of Johnson, Samuel Johnson is said to have mused, “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.” Some lucky Yale students are able to make up for this inferiority by opting to be schooled on all things Italian. With linguistic, literary, and historical approaches in subjects like film, philosophy, literature, history, art, music, and more; the Italian language and literature department offers academically rigorous classes like “Dante in Translation” to encourage a love of Italy’s contribution to the world.
  • Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology: The Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) offers courses in six sectors, which includes “biochemistry, molecular biology, and chemical biology; cellular and developmental biology; genetics; neurobiology; plant sciences; and biotechnology.” Students coming out of this department are well equipped in many job sectors, particularly in the medical field. Sample this education with the OYC “Global Problems of Population Growth” with Professor Robert Wyman.
  • Music: Music has a unique hold over us. It requires no words, yet can evoke powerful emotions. It cements our social outings, calms our minds, and even heals our bodies. The Department of Music at Yale opens its arms to all those interested in music by offering coursework in “composition, music history, musicology, performance, and theory.” One introductory course available through the OYC program is “Listening to Music,” where you’ll gain the basic tools to analyzing how music–from Bach to the blues–is composed.
  • Philosophy: The Department of Philosophy at Yale is rich in a tradition of intellectually stimulating and poignant lectures on issues like ethics, metaphysics, epistemology and more. Here, students can confront questions like “What is the purpose of mankind? How are we able to know anything? What is right and wrong?” Through OYC, you can take the course “Death,” where you will encounter questions of immortality, suicide, the definition of death, and more.
  • Physics: Whether you are fascinated with atomic physics, quantum optics, nuclear physics, particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology, condensed matter, quantum information physics, or applied physics, you will be able to satisfy your intellectual craving at Yale! But if you don’t have the time for so much, then take a look at OYC, where you’ll be able to follow “Fundamentals of Physics, I” and “Fundamentals of Physics, II.”
  • Political Science: Yale is renowned for its political science department. Some of the foremost leaders in political science–including Gabriel Almond, Robert Dahl, Karl Deutsch, Robert Lane, Harold Lasswell, and Charles Lindblom– were faculty members at Yale. This rich educational tradition can be tasted through OYC. From an “Introduction to Political Philosophy” to “Moral Foundations of Politics” and “Capitalism: Success, Crisis, and Reform,” you’ll be able to see a piece of a political science education at Yale.
  • Psychology: Mankind is perpetually interested in himself. From the profound questions like “Why am I the person I am today?” to the smaller musings such as “Why can’t I tickle myself?,” psychologists have sought to explain what makes human beings tick. These questions (and many, many more) are addressed for free through OYC, where you can take “Introduction to Psychology” and “The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food.”
  • Religious Studies: The Department of Religious Studies at Yale offers a scholarly examination of numerous religious traditions and doctrines from around the globe. Undergraduates will gain a basic foundation into the intellectual, cultural, and religious teachings of many world religions while the graduate sector of the department is divided into a number of different fields, including: American Religious History, Ancient Christianity, Asian Religions, Islamic Studies, Judaic Studies, New Testament, Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, Philosophy of Religion, Religious Ethics, and Theology. OYC has two classes for your own education: “Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)” and “Introduction to New Testament History and Literature.”
  • Sociology: The Department of Sociology offers a number of concentrations in the major, including “Comparative and Historical Sociology, Cultural Sociology and Social Theory, and Social Stratification and Life Course Research.” Additionally, faculty members study areas like gender, sexuality, politics, sociology of religion, economic sociology, ethnography, and more. A course in the “Foundations of Modern Social Theory” is accessible for your own educational endeavors.
  • Spanish and Portuguese: Acclaimed for its meticulous and important theoretical methods of study of Spanish and Portuguese, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese brings a beautiful blend of language, literature, and culture to any student. You will get the chance to experience this educational treasure through the free course, “Cervantes’ Don Quixote.”

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Stanford University
If you are the type of person who does not like to remain resting for long, then the free courses from Stanford on iTunes U might be a great choice. Simply download the lectures from the course of your choice and take them with you! Listen on your long commute, when you go jogging, or even when doing housework around the home. It’s a good way to keep your mind sharp even during the most mundane parts of life. You can find downloadable courses in the following departments:
  • Business: How will the future of the Internet change business? This question is addressed in a course from the Stanford School of Business. But don’t stop there! Make sure you check out the other available courses as well, like “Leading Matters.”
  • Engineering: Check out the Engineering lectures from Stanford’s iTunes U, where you can listen to the weekly Computer Systems Colloquium, segments from a Stanford Energy Seminar, and more!
  • Fine Arts: Stanford celebrates the fine arts by promoting it on iTunes U with recordings of musical performances and lectures in film, writing, art, and more.
  • Health & Medicine: From “The Anatomy of Movement” to “The Future of Human Health” and “Stem Cells: Policy and Ethics,” you can satisfy your craving for understanding of the human body and its functions by downloading these lectures and seminars.
  • History: If you want to learn more about key historical characters like Ben Franklin or Hannibal, or you wish to go deeper into the history of colonial and revolutionary America, this is the place to stop. Make sure you check out the “Travel/Study” series, where you can gain some fascinating and useful knowledge about key locations around the globe such as Egypt, Vietnam, and more.
  • Humanities: This interdisciplinary portion of Stanford’s iTunes U offers educational gems like the podcast “Philosophy Talk” and lectures on philanthropy in the modern era.
  • Language: The university keeps it short and sweet with a key series of lectures on the “Structure of English Words,” which covers topics like the history of English, morphology, allomorphy, and language families.
  • Literature: Unlock your imagination and use an academic framework to learn to analyze the great books that you have already come to know and love. We especially loved Stanford’s “Book Salon” podcast for its “seriously unstuffy” look at literature.
  • Mathematics: Anyone need a calculator? If so, then consider stepping up your skills in linear dynamical systems by learning from professor Stephen Boyd.
  • Science: In this extensive sector at Stanford’s iTunes U, you can download talks on Darwin, climate change, astrobiology, and much, much more.
  • Social Science: Are you lost as to why the president does what he does? Then consider the “Presidential Politics” lectures. Not sure what geopolitics is? Turn to Martin Lewis’ lectures on the subject. Whether you have a question in the social sciences or not, you’ll find a lot to explore here.
  • Society: History, philosophy, gender studies, and more can be found here to satisfy your interest in issues that deal with the way people live and interact.
  • Teaching & Education: Want to become a better teacher? Check out the podcast from Stanford’s school of education. Need to develop your professional skills? Then turn to Stanford’s Career Development lecture series for an overview of certain sectors of the job market.