Free Online College Courses

Category: Education

What's the deal with online college courses... how can they be offered for free? Is there some catch involved, and will I get actual college credit if I take free online college classes?

Take College Courses Online

Everyone knows that college is not cheap. But did you know that some college courses are free, online? Some of the most prestigious universities in the world offer thousands of courses free of charge to qualifying students, or to anyone with a Web browser.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - offers more than 1,800 courses through its OpenCourseWare project. These courses are offered in text, video, and audio formats and are even translated into a number of languages. Students from all over the world use OpenCourseWare and 96 per cent of them say they would recommend it.
  • free online college courses

  • Open University is based in the United Kingdom. Through its OpenLearn program it provides undergraduate and graduate level courses to everyone free of charge. Topics include the arts, history, business, education, IT and computing, mathematics and statistics, science, health and technology.
  • Carnegie Mellon University has its Open Learning Initiative providing informal instruction to college-ready students at no cost. Subjects you can study here include but are not limited to statistics, biology, chemistry, economics, French, and physics.
  • Stanford University, always striving to be the coolest school for geeks, has teamed up with iTunes U to offer access to Stanford courses, lectures, and interviews with professors. You don't have to use Apple's iTunes application to download materials to your iPod, Mac, or PC. You can even burn the materials to CD.
  • University of California at Berkeley, one of the top schools in the United States, has been offering online lectures and interactive Webcast courses since 2001. Hundreds of current and archived courses can be downloaded or viewed and heard at your leisure. Subjects include astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer programming, engineering, psychology, legal studies and philosophy.
  • Kutztown University's Small Business Development Center offers the largest collection of free business courses available on the Web. Covering accounting, finance, government, business law, marketing and sales, materials are in text, interactive case studies, slideshows, graphics, and streaming audio.
  • The University of California at Irvine also joined the OCW Consortium. UC Irvine's offerings are relatively small but growing. Current courses cover topics like financial planning, human resources, capital markets and e-marketing. Course materials include syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams.

Want more free online college courses? Continue to Part Two and Part Three

The real value of learning is in the learning itself and what you do with knowledge, not in its contribution to a piece of paper called a diploma. But still you should read the fine print of online college courses' Web sites carefully. You may or may not get college credit for them. For more information on accreditation, see my related article Are Online Colleges Accredited?

Have you taken online college courses? Tell me about your experience, or post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Free Online College Courses"

(See all 25 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

21 Dec 2009

Another on-line college site is It includes courses from Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, University of Michigan, UCLA, and Yale. I love the site's FAQ in response to the question of whether credit is offered for the courses: No - but feel free to learn as much as you'd like.

Posted by:

24 Jan 2010

Dear bob
the system not work for blue screen have how can't install os for stop system it tell what are ur told to me want
thank your

Posted by:

26 Jan 2010

Hi Bob, Thank you for your website. I love it. May I ask you a question. I'm new to downloading, uploading. I'm interested in a couple of courses on I have a PC. Would you tell me what program (and the steps) I need to have to put these courses on my computer or a separate harddrive. I am a stay-at-home mom with two small kids and would greatly appreciate any help you can give me regarding my question.

EDITOR'S NOTE: There's nothing to download. At, just click and watch the video lectures.

Posted by:

09 Apr 2010

I took online courses for credit, in order to pursue my MBA through Westwood College Online. I would say, you are better off trying out free online courses first, before investing a lot of time and money taking courses for credit.

I started Westwood College Online on January 8, 2010, and had to drop out completely on April 4, 2010, because Westwood, in my opinion, was letting too many people in the program, who had no business being there. There were foreign students in my classes who did not have proficient English language skills, and American students who were academically challenged. Therefore, someone like me, who is hard-working, tenacious, determined to succeed, compassionate, treated everyone with kindness, dignity and respect, who was used to taking classes online and understood what was involved, had to "baby-sit" the others in my classes, which in turn was affecting my individual grades and my group grades, and also causing me undue stress!

By the way, when I left Westwood College Online, I received a letter in the mail from the Dean, stating that I was on the Dean's List, because my grade point average was a 3.75 or higher!

If you are smart, save your money and time, by attending a vocational school. Because at least when you graduate, you will have a job marketable skill, unlike just having a lot of knowledge, no skills, and tons of student loan debt attending a college or university.

Posted by:

16 Apr 2010

Dear Bob,
It is such a pleasant surprise to bump into your space. I was searching for the easiest way to understand how to print through a wireless network and found yours easy enough. After that i went through your site and caught the word "free" Now i am going through the online courses. I live in a third world country in south east asia, so this is absolutely fantastic!Seems like theres no reason not to do something about this. Thank you!

Posted by:

21 Apr 2010

this all is awesome...

Posted by:

11 May 2010

I received a bachelors in Business Management from Western Governor's University. I was able to put 20 years of experience to use to quickly bore through four years of training in TWO!! I Loved it, the University assigns Mentors who check your progress and advise you on what classes to take concurrently or simultaneously for the most effective use of time. Some classes have a trainor and a schedule but others are self-modulated. All of the testing is done through proctored exams taken at a local college (your choice). I was able to just "Test out" of many of the classes with a modicum of study. I was also able to keep working full time -- a huge benefit. You pay one fee for 6 months and however many classes or credits you can complete in that time are all included. So the more time you are able to devote to this, the cheaper it is in the end. An initial exam is given before you are accepted into the school to determine your ability to handle the coursework. They try very hard to get the students to interract and to instill a sense of unity and comraderie. As a WGU graduate - I recommend it proudly.

Posted by:

mugisha kapira
05 Jun 2010


Posted by:

08 Jul 2010

I noticed a comment about the open university being free, its not. I am doing a degree course, its costing me about 700 pounds for 60 credits you need 360 credits for a course. You can apply for financial help if you are on low income or benefits.


Posted by:

Kevin Fox
01 Sep 2010

Excellent article. Universities offering subjects through OpenCourseWare also provide links to other institutions participating in OCW worldwide.
With regard to the Open University; Pauline is right in that it is not possible to study for a BA. or BSc. free online. However; “The OpenLearn website gives free access to Open University course materials.” provides free online courses in partnership with the British Council “which will help you attain further qualification on well-known global English language qualifications such as FCE, ESL, ESOL, IELTS and TOEFL.” Some of their other courses include:
Health literacy HIV/AIDS: Awareness & Prevention. Microsoft Digital Literacy. Schools Curriculum.
Accreditation becomes more of an issue when parting with money, think about the end... and start there.

Posted by:

amit saini
03 Sep 2010

how can we resize c:to other drive with f/s fat32
please give me tips if there r requirment softwere for merger so pls send or tell me today

Posted by:

22 Oct 2010

You forgot University of the People who offers free for Credit Courses.

Posted by:

10 Nov 2010

One course you left out is


Posted by:

11 Nov 2010

Another great place to find college-level material is the Research Channel. Currently they are revising the original site but can be found at There are videos of college-level lectures, professional development and presentations from around the world usually for free.

Posted by:

05 May 2011

Thank you for posting this, Bob! As inflation soars and jobs disappear, free quality education will be so valuable to people. Now... if only we had a free and secure, broadband internet...

Posted by:

22 Oct 2011

Open Course Ware may be great to an extent. In my humble opinion, it gives one knowledge. Knowledge is free and abundant. Hurray, we can all be knowledgeable!

One still needs wisdom to guide the application of knowledge. Large industry, business, government interests hamstring one here. One needs qualified instructors providing a 'rubber stamp' to attain a degree, even with OCW.

These instructors justifiably do not take on people for exams without a fee. If the instructors do not charge, the institutions where they practice do. So, yes it is great having the knowledge, save for when you need vouched for by credible sources for employers.

Imagine telling a manager you are freely educated and have no proof of credentials at an interview. You would be laughed out of any opportunity right away. The more I consider everything, the more inclined thinking is The Venus Project sounds quite an improvement.

Posted by:

23 Oct 2011

FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is now offering free cyber security training. They have ten courses in three different tracks; Non-Technical End Users, Technical for IT Professionals, and a third for Managers and Business Professionals. Even if you don’t need them, these courses may be just the ticket for friends, family, or customers and they are FREE. The training site is located at

Posted by:

04 Dec 2011

Great post and resource list Bob. Especially to upgrade skills and skip the classroom towards your degree. Independent learners like myself have used these to test out of the first 2-3 years of a 4 year degree.

Now that many of these are online, completing a self-designed Master's is great. But it's not for everyone. It takes a lot of self discipline and being organized.

Posted by:

12 Jun 2012

Thanks for the info on the free education Bob
I am in my 80s and still looking for ways to extend my knowledge so this will keep me busy

Posted by:

20 Sep 2015

I've gone through quite a few ALISON courses and even though they are generally pretty simple and easy, knowledge is always good.

There's more reader feedback... See all 25 comments for this article.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free Online College Courses (Posted: 15 Dec 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved