Free Online Courses By Respected Universities

Published on: December 21, 2022

These days students are spoiled for choice when selecting a degree from a prestigious and respected university. Unfortunately, studying at some of the best often means paying a premium price. Online degrees have done a lot to help lower the cost of entry for students, but for many, the price still serves as a significant barrier. Fortunately, there has also been a trend for some prominent universities to offer special courses online that students can enjoy for free. These courses can be great introductions to specific topics or standalone courses to teach students valuable knowledge. New courses are continually added to the roster, but here are some of the unique ones that are available from some of the most respected universities.



About: Harvard University has been around since 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the USA. It is one of the most highly-ranked universities in the world and includes several U.S. presidents, billionaires, and Academy Award and Pulitzer Prize winners among its alums.

Free Course Highlights: Harvard offers courses that can be completed in less than a week, all the way to courses that can take more than 12 weeks. Most of these courses can be done online and cover everything from introductory to intermediate and advanced topics. Some of the highlights include Systematic Approaches to Policy Design, Resilient Leadership, Understanding Customer Needs, Principles of Biochemistry, and Modern Masterpieces of World Literature.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


About: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT as it is commonly known, was established in 1861in response to the increasing industrialization of the U.S. Amongst its alumni, faculty members, and researchers have been a number of Nobel laureates, Turing Award winners, MacArthur Fellows, astronauts, and heads of state.

Free Course Highlights: MIT launched its OpenCourseWare platform in 2001, intending to offer a free and open collection of material from thousands of its courses. The platform is free to browse and use with no signup or start and end dates for any of the courses. Some highlights include The Film Experience, Introduction to Functional Analysis, Water Diplomacy, Introduction to Algorithms, The Human Brain, and Robotic Manipulation.



About: Stanford University in California was founded in 1885 and has a reputation as one of the most successful universities in attracting funding for start-ups. In addition, a lot of highly successful companies were founded by Stanford alumni.

Free Course Highlights: The free online courses offered by Stanford provides students with a flexible way to learn new skills and study new and emerging topics at no cost. Some of the highlights include Antibiotic Stewardship, Automata Theory, Compilers, Disaster Medicine Training, Game Theory, and Introduction to Haptics.

University of California Berkeley


About: The University of California, Berkeley, was established in 1868 as the University of California and is a founding member of the Association of American Universities. Many scientific advances were made possible thanks to this university, as well as numerous breakthroughs in genomics as well as computer science.

Free Course Highlights: The University of California, Berkeley joined the edX consortium in 2012, opening up more than 100 classes to learners worldwide. Learners can participate in Professional Certificates, MicroMasters, and Massive Open Online Courses using the edX platform. These courses include The Science of Happiness, Blockchain Technology, Bridging Differences, Video for Content Creators, and much more.

University of Washington


About: The University of Washington was founded in 1861, making it one of the oldest universities on the West Coast. It has one of the largest library systems in the world and offers degrees through its 140 departments. As with the other universities on this list, alumni of the University of Washington are filled with Nobel Prize laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, Marshall Scholars, and more.

Free Course Highlights: The University of Washington has many free online courses available through edX. Some of the highlights include Introduction to Cybersecurity, Introduction to Public Speaking, Positive Behavior Support for Young Children, and Becoming a Resilient Person - The Science of Stress Management.

Columbia University


About: Columbia University was established as King’s College in 1754 before it got its current name in 1896. It’s the oldest institution of higher education in New York and has produced scientists as well as scholars playing pivotal roles in numerous scientific breakthroughs. In addition to seven United States Founding Fathers, Columbia University alumni include U.S. presidents, foreign heads of state, Nobel laureates, and more.

Free Course Highlights: Columbia University partnered with edX in 2014 to offer online MicroMasters, XSeries, and individual courses. These cover a variety of topics and are taught by top instructors at the university. Some highlights include Artificial Intelligence, Business Analytics, Crisis Resource Management, Indigenous People’s Rights, Machine Learning, and Robotics.

University of Cambridge


About: The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209, making it the world’s third-oldest surviving university. Cambridge also boasts having the most Nobel Prize winners in the world among its alumni and faculty.

Free Course Highlights: Like many other prestigious universities, the University of Cambridge has partnered with edX to provide learners across the globe with quality educational courses. These range from Foundations of Finance, and Digital Platforms in Performance, to Building Stakeholder Value, The Neuropsychology of Decision Making, Writing Successfully for the Stage, and much more.

Yale University


About: Yale University was established in 1701 as the Collegiate School, making it the third-oldest institution of higher education in the U.S. While the curriculum was initially restricted to theology and sacred languages in those early days, it continued to expand through the years. Yale graduates include a number of U.S. presidents, Founding Fathers, Supreme Court Justices, and more.

Free Course Highlights: Yale offers free and open access to a number of introductory courses with no registration required. These courses include lectures that were recorded in the Yale College classroom along with audio and text transcript formats. Courses include Financial Markets, The American Revolution, Fundamentals of Physics, Roman Architecture, and more. 


The universities mentioned above are just a small number offering free courses to students, with others such as Princeton, California Institute of Technology, and Johns Hopkins University also deserving of a mention. While the free courses are no substitute for a full degree, they can be a great start for students looking for a free and convenient way to kickstart their studies.

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