Some of the world’s most renowned colleges and universities offer free courses to self-learners through OpenCourseWare. Keep reading to find out more about the free course options available at these top 25 schools.
Overview of School Rankings
The schools listed below all offer OpenCourseWare to students. OCW is a form of learning that lets students take courses for free via the Internet. Students can choose from a wide variety of course options and are generally able to take these courses at their own pace. None of the courses offered through OCW award credit.
The top 23 schools on this list were selected because they received national rankings from organizations likeU.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review or global rankings from Times Higher Education. The order they appear was also based on the number of OCW courses each school offers. While not ranked by the above organizations, the final 2 schools were included because of other ranking organization data (such as program or country rankings).
#1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT is a highly ranked university, coming in at #7 on U.S. News & World Report‘s list of top national universities in 2014. It was also named the #5 best value school by the publication. MIT offers the most OpenCourseWare options, with over 2,100 free courses. Courses cover nearly every topic imaginable and are translated into several different languages. Audio and video courses are also available. Some of the most visited courses as of March 2014 included linear algebra, intro to psychology, physics and principles of microeconomics.
#2 University of California, Berkeley
UC Berkeley offers webcasts of hundreds of courses and lectures. Both current and archived courses can be experienced through on-demand replay. Course topics include everything from archaeology to bioengineering to psychology. Video and audio recordings of major events that take place on campus, such as guest lectures or environmental summits, are also available for no cost. The university was ranked 20th among national universities and topped the list of public schools nationwide, according to U.S. News & World Reportin 2014.
#3 The Open University
The UK’s largest university based on enrollment, the Open University has an Open Learn website with a huge free course catalog of more than 700 courses. Some of the subjects covered include history, business, education, art, law, computer science, foreign languages, society, math and technology. Courses are labeled as introductory, intermediate and advanced, so it’s easy to find appropriate course materials. The university was ranked among the top 100 universities under 50 years old by Times Higher Education for 2012-2013.
#4 Tokyo Institute of Technology
Tokyo Institute of Technology, known as Tokyo Tech, has an OpenCourseWare program that features more than 200 courses. Course materials include lecture notes, a syllabus and an outline. Audio and video materials are also available. Course options include engineering, math and computer science topics. Tokyo Tech was ranked 128th worldwide by Times Higher Education for 2012-2013.
#5 Middle East Technical University
Middle East Technical University was named among the top 100 most powerful universities by Times Higher Education in 2013 with a reputation ranking of 51-60. The school offers over 100 free courses, with a high concentration of courses available in informatics and physics. Additional OpenCourseWare options at this university can be found in subjects like aerospace engineering, modern languages, math, game technologies and psychology.
#6 Delft University of Technology
Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands provides about 130 free courses through its OpenCourseWare program. This engineering science school features courses covering energy, infrastructures, health and the environment. Courses are available from the school’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, and specific examples include bio mechatronics, aerospace engineering, electrical power drives, electronic instrumentation and solid state physics courses. Delft was listed in 77th place among top universities worldwide by Times Higher Education in 2012-2013.
#7 Stanford University
Stanford University offers more than 100 free courses in several different formats. Students can participate in In Session courses, which are live courses available via the Internet. In Session courses can be found in subjects like game theory, machine learning, quantum mechanics, writing and genetics, to name a few. Self study courses are available via iTunes U and can be taken at any time. Continuing education and archived courses are also available for free. Stanford was ranked 5th on U.S. News & World Report‘s list of the top national universities and was named among the top 5 best value schools in 2014.
#8 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers free online access to some of its most popular courses. About 100 courses are available, and all of them relate to public health. Some of the courses focus on general public health, chronic diseases, infectious diseases, nutrition, maternal health, genetics, global health and health policy. Johns Hopkins was ranked the 12th top national university by U.S. News in 2014. It was also 20th among the publication’s best value schools.
#9 University of California, Irvine
Ranked as the 49th best national university by U.S. News in 2014, the University of California in Irvine was also listed as the #14 top public school by that publication. Nearly 100 courses and lectures are available at this university in areas including engineering, humanities, physical sciences, business and health. A number of free courses are also available to help students prepare for the California Subject Examination for Teachers, as are courses in TEFL.
#10 University of Michigan
This university is home to Open.Michigan, an initiative that offers more than 85 educational materials for free. Materials include courses, tutorials, datasets and more. These materials are available in subjects like business, education, medicine, public policy and music. The university was ranked 28th among top national universities by U.S. News in 2014. It was also ranked 4th on the publication’s list of top public schools.
#11 Utah State University
Utah State University offers around 80 comprehensive online courses through its OpenCourseWare program. Free courses are available in such areas as agriculture, anthropology, engineering, education, history, languages, physics and theatre arts. Downloadable course materials include reading assignments, exercises and essay questions. U.S. News listed Utah State in the top 200 national universities in 2014. The school was ranked the 51st best schools for veterans by the publication.
#12 University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is home to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, which is a well-known creative writing residency program for aspiring writers. Students can get a taste for creative writing through the Virtual Writing University. This initiative offers almost 70 free podcasts for students interested in reading and writing methods, poetry, short stories, grammar and emerging technologies in the field, to name a few. These podcasts are also available for download. In 2014, the university was listed as the 73rd best national university and the 29th top public university by U.S. News.
#13 Tufts University
Tufts University provides free online access to course materials from its many schools, including the School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, School of Arts and Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the Fletcher School. About 55 courses are available at Tufts and include courses in human pathology, biostatistics, genetics, histology and intellectual development. Tufts is the 28th best national university and the 32nd best value school, according to U.S. News rankings in 2014.
#14 University of Massachusetts, Boston
UMass Boston makes available all sorts of free courses and course materials through its OpenCourseWare program. Nearly 50 courses can be found in subjects like biology, history, math, nursing and health sciences, psychology, counseling and special education. Some courses feature video lectures, while others offer course materials like quizzes, lecture notes and assignments. UMass Boston’s College of Management was named among the Best 295 Business Schools by The Princeton Review in 2014.
#15 University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame publishes about 45 free courses in a number of areas of study. Some of the course offerings include Africana and Middle East studies, history, philosophy, sociology, political science, theology and gender studies. Course materials include video lectures, assignments, quizzes and exams. The university was ranked the 18th best national university by U.S. News in 2014.
#16 Yale University
Yale University has free courses available through its Open Yale Courses website. Each course includes video lectures and other educational materials. About 40 courses are available and cover topics in English, astronomy, physics, religious studies, philosophy, psychology and political science. Yale was ranked the 3rd best national university in 2014 and the second best value school by U.S. News.
#17 University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong features a number of free learning materials for students, including 5 courses and about 25 lectures. These materials are all available through the Department of Architecture and include study in such areas as the built environment, green building practices, energy efficiency, building energy and environmental sciences. Students can also find a series of notes and case studies covering similar topics. The university was ranked 35th in the world by Times Higher Education in 2012-2013.
#18 Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University has over 20 free online courses available through its Open Learning Initiative. These courses cover topics in engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, statistics, economics and French. Two courses in STEM readiness and foundations are available along with a media programming and healthcare management course. Carnegie Mellon was ranked 23rd among national universities by U.S. Newsin 2014. The publication also named it the 14th best up-and-coming school in the nation.
#19 Duke University
Duke’s Massive Open Online Courses initiative is a newer program released in 2012. It offers about 20 courses through its partnership with Coursera. Examples of available courses include irrational behavior, bioelectricity, astronomy, medical neuroscience and chemistry, to name a few. Duke is the 7th best national university, based on 2014 U.S. News rankings. The publication also named it the 12th best value school.
#20 American University Washington College of Law
American University’s law school features almost 20 podcasts covering legal topics. Students can listen to podcasts on student debt relief, government secrecy, human rights and more. Some podcasts cover guest lectures, while others focus on seminars and workshops from student conferences or summits. Each podcast features a number of different episodes. American University was listed as the 75th best national university by U.S. News, and its law school was ranked 75th in the nation in 2014.
#21 University of Washington
This university’s educational outreach department is home to Open UW, which offers just over 10 free courses online. Courses cover topics like mythology, public speaking and project management. Other courses are available in computer science topics. The University of Washington was the 52nd best national university in 2014, according to U.S. News. It was also ranked among the top 20 public schools by that publication.
#22 New York University
NYU Open Education is a pilot program that currently offers about 10 free courses. Courses include calculus, behavioral science, sociology, American literature and public finance options. Students can also find a course on ancient Israel and a course covering genomes at NYU. These courses are available on iTunes U and YouTube. NYU was the 32nd best national university in 2014, according to U.S. News.
#23 Tulane University
Stephen A. Nelson, an associate professor in Tulane’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, offers six of his courses to interested students for free via the Internet. Courses are available in physical geology, petrology and mineralogy. A course on natural disasters and one on Hurricane Katrina are also available, as is a course on the Earth. Students have access to the syllabus and lecture notes. Tulane was ranked as the 52nd best national university by U.S. News in 2014.
#24 Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music was named the top Hollywood music school by Hollywood Reporter in 2013. The college is home to Berklee Shares, a new program that offers about 12 free sample music lessons and music production videos based on the school’s music courses and educational programs. The music lessons cover songwriting, guitar, jazz and orchestration as well as music business and music theory topics.
#25 Universidad Nacional De Colombia
Universidad Nacional De Colombia offers more than 200 free courses to Spanish speaking students. Subjects that can be studied include administration, science, nursing, art, agronomy, engineering, architecture, medicine and dentistry. In 2011, this university was ranked the top university in Colombia based on a study initiated by the Colombia Ministry of Education and the Colombian Institute for the Promotion of Science and Technology.