Free Online Classes

Barbara J. Feldman

What’s happening in online education is earth-shattering. If you have the motivation and desire to learn, you can now audit free classes taught by distinguished professors at many of the world’s most prestigious universities. In addition to the fly-on-the-wall experience of watching a lecture on video, many of these courses include exercises, reading assignments, and online discussions with other students. And today’s selections are not limited to college-level material, as some of these sites also provide middle-school and high-school classes.

  • Academic Earth5 stars

    AcademicEarth is dedicated to breaking down the barriers to a "world class education." College-level video classes and supplemental materials (such as exercises and reading assignments) are available from universities such as Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard and Yale. They are listed by subject, university, or instructor, and are also available as Playlists. Playlists are themetic collections of lectures (usually from a variety of colleges) picked by the AcademicEarth editors. Recent playlists included The Sound of Music, Money Makes the World Go Round and You Are What You Eat, with about a half-dozen lectures in each list.

  • Apple: iTunes U5 stars

    More than 400 universities (including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and UC Berkeley) distribute classes and lectures through the Apple iTunes Store. Additionally, you'll also find content from organizations such as MoMA, the New York Public Library, Public Radio International, and PBS stations. And it's not just MP3 audio files, either. Classes can include PDFs, ebooks, slideshows, and movies. To get started, download the free iTunes software (for Mac or PC) or to learn about mobile access, watch the video "Learn how to access iTunes U on your iPhone or iPod Touch."

  • Khan Academy5 stars

    Kahn Academy is a non-profit educational organization that began simply enough in 2004 when founder Sal Khan was remote tutoring his cousins in middle-school and high-school math, and found that making YouTube videos to explain the concepts was the best use of his time. Now, seven years and 2100 videos later, Khan Academy has delivered more than five million lessons all around the world. Topics include all levels of math and science, although they are working to expand into other subjects such as history.

  • Open Course Ware Consortium5 stars

    The Open Course Ware (OCW) Consortium site is a directory of courses housed at member's websites, so there is a lot of diversity in layout and formats. But the concept is great, and participating American institutions include MIT, Tufts University, and University of Michigan. The mostly college-level courses can be searched by source, subject and language, but there is a warning that not all OCW sites are included in the search database, so if you are looking for a specific class from a specific source, it is better to visit the directory of OCW websites, and search directly from the member's website.

  • Open Yale Courses5 stars

    "Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn." Remember the use of the word "introductory" is relative! Classes include Freshman Organic Chemistry, The American Novel Since 1945, and Roman Architecture. Some classes include study groups (an online discussion board with other virtual students) through the third-party site OpenStudy.

  • Honorable Mentions

    The following links are either new discoveries or sites that didn't make it into my newspaper column because of space constraints. Enjoy!


    Cite This Page

  • Feldman, Barbara. "Free Online Classes." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 10 May. 2011. Web. 27 Aug. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/resources/free-online-classes/ >.


  • About This Page

  • By . Originally published May 10, 2011. Last modified March 9, 2014.

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