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30 Free Online College Classes From Elite Institutions

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Getting a degree can be expensive, but enhancing your education doesn’t have to be. As a matter of fact, several elite institutions offer online courses for free. Some of these courses are “audited,” which means that they don’t count toward a degree or a certificate. Others do come with a certificate at the end of the course. In any case, these free online classes can help you in your career and personal life. 

How to Get Started 

What do you need to get started with some free courses? All it takes is an internet connection, a reliable computer or tablet, and the desire to learn. If you prefer taking notes the old-fashioned way, go ahead and grab a pen and a notebook. Once you’ve done that, you’re good to go. Now it’s time to choose your class or classes. Some people know exactly what they want to learn. If that’s you, go ahead and search for that subject on free learning platforms or apps. Others just know that they want to learn something new. If that sounds familiar, take some time to browse through your class options. You’ve got plenty of choices, so take your time. Sometimes, the process of finding a class can be just as fun as taking the class itself. 

Not quite sure where you want to start? Take a look at the options below. These choices come straight from some of the most elite universities, so you get excellent quality with your classes. 

1. Global Human Capital Trends 

columbia video network graduate program columbia university logo 129781

Columbia University offers this Global Human Capital Trends course through their Canvas Network. This course is perfect for business owners, people who have an interest in business, and HR professionals. It’s one of the best free online courses for those who want dive deeply into the HR field. The course covers current business trends, especially where those trends relate to HR, and it provides insight into the tools that business owners use to meet certain challenges. This course is self-paced and can be started at any time, so there’s no pressure for students. 

Source: Columbia University – Canvas Network

2. Women Have Always Worked: The U.S. Experience 1700 – 1920 

columbia video network graduate program columbia university logo 129781

Columbia University offers this free, woman-focused course through edX. Though the US still has a long way to go in terms of equality, women are steadily gaining more power and presence in the workforce. A lot of factors took place to make these advances happen, and this course examines the work that led to these changes. Students learn about the changes that led to women’s right to vote. It also covers the roles and jobs that women have taken on in society from 1700 up to 1920. History enthusiasts looking for the best free online courses will find what they need in this class. This course is just the first part of a dual set. If you’re interested in learning more after this course, you can look into the next class, which covers 1920-2016. 

Source: Columbia University – edX

3. Dog Emotion and Cognition 

nicholas school of the environment duke university logo 38007

Do you ever wonder what your dog is thinking? Then this Dog Emotion and Cognition course from Duke University can help. Whether you want to make training easier, want to connect with your dog, or just have an interest in dog psychology, then this course has what you need for forge a true connection. This course explains the basics of dog psychology and how humans can connect with their companions more easily. It goes over the history of human interaction with dogs, and it covers the things that dogs do to communicate with their human companions. If you’re a vet or dog trainer looking for free courses online with certificates, then you should take note of this one. The certificate itself comes with a fee, but everything else about the course is free. This course will likely help you on the job. 

Source: Duke University – Coursera

4. The Brain and Space 

nicholas school of the environment duke university logo 38007

This Duke University course covers a range of sensory motor skills. When you move to pick up a pen, throw a ball, or hug a friend, your brain goes through a lot of steps to determine where you are and where everything else is around you. This course on The Brain and Space goes over all of those steps, teaching students how the brain knows the body’s location. If you enjoy science and are looking for free courses online with certificates, this course would make a great choice. Likewise, if you have sensory motor issues or work with people who do, the course can help you make sense of the brain and body connection. This class does have fixed start dates, so take a look at the web page for the next available course session. That said, it’s only a six week course, so it doesn’t require a long commitment. 

Source: Duke University – Coursera

5. FA19: Introduction to Analytics Modeling 

gt online georgia institute of technology logo 129872

This introduction to Analytics Marketing course comes from Georgia Institute of Technology. Through this course, students learn the methods and models that help people get the most from their data. When looking for free college courses online, you may want to pay attention to this one if you work in business or just want to learn more about analytics. You’ll learn how to predict, analyze, classify, and much more. The class has several start dates, so take a look at the web page for the next session. There’s also a self-paced option if none of the session dates work for your schedule. 

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology – edX

6. FA19: Data Analytics for Business 

gt online georgia institute of technology logo 129872

Interested in Data Analytics for Business? Georgia Institute of Technology has a course for that. This course introduces students to the concept of business analytics. It also shows students how to use that information to make the best business decisions. It’s one of the best free online courses for future business majors, business leaders, and those who want to brush up on their data basics. In this class, students use real data information and practice solving business problems with available data. This practical approach gives students the experience that they’ll need in the business world. This course has several fixed start dates as well as a self-paced option, so find the one that works best for you. 

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology – edX

7. FA19: Computing for Data Analysis 

gt online georgia institute of technology logo 129872

Georgia Institute of Technology offers a Computing for Data Analysis class for free online. This course is part of Georgia Tech’s MicroMasters program that teaches students how to gather, interpret, and analyze data. This class and its related courses have gained a lot of attention from business enthusiasts looking for free college courses online. Through this course, students learn how computing and mathematics blend together for business purposes. Students get to work with real-world data throughout the course. This practical approach helps students apply their skills to their business lives. The class is 15 weeks long and comes with several start dates. 

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology – edX

8. Justice 

harvard

What is justice? How can people apply justice to their lives? This class from Harvard explores those questions over 12 weeks. It’s a self-paced course, so students can get started whenever they’d like to do so. Students in this course examine the concept of justice from a critical perspective. They dig deeply into the meaning and application of justice. The reading materials include sources from both contemporary and classical writers, so students get a wide range of well-rounded perspectives. For those who want to take free online college courses with a philosophical bent, this class makes a good choice. After this course, students will think more deeply about applying justice to their lives. 

Source: Harvard University – Free Online Course (Audit) – edX

9. Super-Earths and Life 

harvard

A lot of people wonder whether or not there’s life on other planets. However, few get to take a class on the subject. Now, not only can people take such a class, they can take that class from the comfort of their own homes. This Harvard University course combines the best of astronomy, geology, and biology for one of the most interesting free online college courses. This course, called “Super-Earths and Life,” examines how life emerged on earth and how it could potentially do so on other planets. This course covers some basic questions like “what is life?” Then, it moves on to the the history of discovery, evolution, and how scientists may use this information to look for life outside of earth. 

Source: Harvard University- Free Online Course (Audit) – edX

10. China and Communism 

harvard

This China and Communism course from Harvard if one of the best free online courses if you enjoy history, politics, and economics. The course itself is free, but it comes with a paid certificate option, too. This class encourages students to take a critical view of current narratives surrounding communist China. It delves deeply into the history of communism in China and how the communist party impacted the country as a whole. Furthermore, it explores how China’s communist economy interacted with the broader socialist world. Overall, this class provides a lot of opportunity for history enthusiasts. 

Source: Harvard University- Free Online Course (Audit) – edX

11. The Analytics Edge 

mit logo

MIT offerse several opportunities for those who want to take free online college courses. One of those courses is called The Analytics Edge. The course has several start dates, but it also has a self-paced option, so students can begin whenever they’re ready. The course covers the ways in which data shapes the contemporary world. Then, it teaches students how to use data and analytics in their careers and lives. This class goes well beyond theory, though. Students also get to work with software to build and use real data models. 

Source: MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

12. Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life 

mit logo

Biology enthusiasts have a unique opportunity to learn from this free MIT course. If you’re looking for free college courses online, this one will improve your science knowledge. In this course, students learn about basic biological concepts such as DNA, RNA, proteins, genetics, and other pieces of the human life puzzle. It explores the ways in which these concepts impact human daily life and health. The course also covers topics like rational medicine. Students can choose a start date or take the self-paced option. This course is hosted by professor Eric Lander, who was one of the leaders in the Human Genome Project. 

Source: MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

13. Supply Chain Fundamentals

mit logo

This Supply Chain Fundamentals course from MIT is a good choice for manufacturers who want to take free online college courses. This class covers the foundations of supply chain management from beginning to end. Students learn how to plan, manage, and control their supply using relevant data. They learn the fundamental mathematical tools that they’ll need to manage the logistics process. This free course is part of a broader set of courses on manufacturing. When you finish this course, you can take a look at the other courses in this series. These courses come with certificate options, which can have a positive impact on one’s manufacturing career. 

Source: MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

14. Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge and Consciousness 

mit logo

This philosophy course from MIT covers some big ideas. This class is one of the best free online courses for those who want a broad overview of philosophical topics. The course introduces students to some of the biggest questions that philosphers ask, and then it explores the thought processes that people use to reach answers for themselves. This class covers materials from famous philsophers, but it also encourages students to think philosphically themselves. Through this course, students build their own reasoning and communication skills. They can then apply these skills to conversations throughout their lives. 

Source: MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

15. HOPE: Human Odyssey to Political Existentialism 

princeton u

Princeton University offers a course called “HOPE: Human Odyssey to Political Existentialism.” This course provides an introduction to the existential standpoint. It covers some of the most prominent existential questions. This course explores those questions, both on an individual and political level. This self-paced course blends the humanities and philosphy with sociology and politics for a very unique class experience. If you want to take free online college courses online for a chance to explore the subjects you might not get in your own college life, this course provides a great learning opportunity. The course will also help you expand your worldview. 

Source: Princeton University – edX

16. Constitutional Interpretation 

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The Constitution is the backbone of the United States government. However, people don’t often agree on its interpretation. This Constitutional Interpretation course from Princeton covers different viewpoints. It provides an introduction to the US Constitution and its history. Students learn about how the Constitution was ratified and the changes that it went through between then and now. After the course covers constitutional history, it moves on to various interpretation methods. It’s a self-paced course that only takes seven weeks to finish, so it’s among the best free online courses for those who want to dip their toes into the online learning waters. If you have an interest in American politics, this course will give you a great place to start. 

Source: Princeton University – edX

17. Religion and Hip Hop Culture 

Rice University logo from website

If you’re interested in religion, hip hop, or both, you can take a course that explores both topics in depth. How does hip hop overlap with religion? How do these two topics inform one another? This Religion and Hip Hop Culture class from Rice University explores these topics. It encourages students to think about them from a new angle. The course starts by introducing religion and hip hop as concepts. Then, it goes over some of the questions that both religion and hip hop attempt to answer. For those who want free college courses online but don’t know where to start, this course may be the answer. It’s only a four week long course, it’s self paced, and it combines interesting subjects for a great learning experience. 

Source: Rice University – edX

18. Medicine in the Digital Age 

Rice University logo from website

Medicine in the Digital Age makes a great supplemental course for medical professionals or anyone else who may be interested in medicine. Technology has changed the way this culture looks at medicine and healthcare. It has changed the way people research medicine, talk about it, and approach it. As a matter of fact, the digital world is expanding too quickly for medicine to keep up with it. How can the medical field respond properly? How can people use digital resources responsibly when it comes to medicine? This course from Rice University explores those questions. It reveals how the digital age has changed the world of medicine, and it asks students to consider how they will move forward with this new information. It’s an excellent choice for science enthusiasts who may be looking for free college courses online. Physicians, nutritionists, and health-conscious people will likely enjoy this course. 

Source: Rice University – edX

19. Proteins: Biology’s Workforce 

Rice University logo from website

If you’ve already taken some basic biology classes and want to dive a little deeper, this course on proteins could be your next step. Why learn about proteins? Proteins are a big part of human life. As a matter of fact, proteins are found throughout the entire human body. This class from Rice University explores proteins on a deep level. In this class, students learn the basics of protein, how proteins make the human body work, and other characteristics of protein. If you’re involved in the sciences and are looking for free courses online with certificates, this course may be the best choice. The certificate comes with a fee, but that fee isn’t nearly as high as it is for certificates in other courses. Plus, the course itself is free. If you work in the sciences or plan to do so in the future, this class is a great resource. 

Source: Rice University – edX

20. Self Awareness and the Effective Leader 

Rice University logo from website

Do you want to enhance your leadership skills? If so, understanding yourself may be the key. In the engineering field, solid leadership matters. Without excellent leadership, engineering projects get delayed. This Rice University course, which was designed specifically for engineers, helps students develop their leadership skills. Although the class was designed for engineers, other people in the sciences may also benefit from this class. Leadership starts with proper self awareness. Effective leaders must understand their own strengths and weakness. They must know themselves well so that they can use their skills to solve problems and maintain team trust. For engineers who want to take free online college courses, this particular course makes a great supplement to other engineering classes. 

Source: Rice University – edX

21. Machine Learning 

stanford u

Stanford University’s free Machine Learning course covers all of the basics of AI. It teaches the foundations of machine learning, but it also covers the practical steps for for AI programming. Students learn about how society has been shaped by machine learning and how they interact with these machines every day. They also learn several techniques for effective machine learning, and they even get opportunities to practice those techniques with their newfound skills. This free course comes with a paid certificate option for those who want it. If you want to take free online college courses with a practical approach, this course may be the best choice for you. 

Source: Stanford University – Free Online Course via Coursera

22. Introduction to Artificial Intelligence 

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Not long ago, artificial intelligence only existed in science fiction. The idea seemed like it belonged in a very distant future. Things have changed quickly since the days when AI seemed unattainable. Today, people use artificial intelligence all the time. As a matter of fact, people use AI so often that they don’t even realize they’re using it. Smart phones, for example, use artificial intelligence. Stanford’s free online course doesn’t just go over the past and present of AI, though. It also covers some of the possibilities for the future of AI. This introductory course is one of the best free college courses online for those who want to learn more about AI. The course covers the basics of AI, goes over definitions, and reveals how AI shapes people’s day to day lives. 

Source: Stanford University – Free Online Course via Udacity

23. How to Learn Math: For Students 

stanford u

Not everybody enjoys math. In fact, a lot of people have negative emotions and memories attached to math. The more anxiety a person develops around math, the poorer their math performance will be. If that sounds familiar to you, then this course from Stanford may be one of the best free online courses for your needs. This class doesn’t cover any specific type of math. Instead, it teaches students the best methods for learning math. Students learn how to overcome math anxiety and learn in the ways that will work best for them. If you’re about to take a math class, and you’re feeling anxious about it, look into this class. It could help you approach the subject in a completely different way. You may just unlock your math potential and discover a newfound confidence with this subject. 

Source: Stanford University – Stanford OpenEdx

24. Introduction to Food & Health 

stanford u

A lot of health issues can be traced back to poor nutrition. On the other hand, with proper nutrition, people can often thrive and enjoy optimum health. That said, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding food and nutrition. That’s why physicians must provide guidance and help their patients make the best nutritional choices. This course from Stanford covers the basics of food and nutrition, and it recommends the best practices for teaching nutrition to patients. Although the course was designed for those in healthcare, it’s a good choice for those who are interested in health and want to take free college courses online. It’s also a great starting place for aspiring nutritionists and dieticians. 

Source: Stanford University – Stanford OpenEdx

25. America’s Poverty Course 

stanford u

America’s Poverty Course from Stanford University teaches students about poverty in eight seperate modules. The course explains several factors that lead to poverty and inequality in the US, and it goes over the policies and other actions that have aimed to adress those issues. Through this course, students learn how to think differently about poverty and ask how they can address poverty on a structural level. If you want to take free online college courses on how social justice and politics intersect, this course would make a great choice. 

Source: Stanford University – Stanford OpenEdx

26. The Science of Happiness 

uc berkeley

What is happiness? Most classes that ask that question are philosophy classes, but in this case, you can learn about happiness from a scientific perspective. A lot of people have written about happiness, but how many people offer real, practical tips to achieve it? This course from UC Berkeley does just that. The Science of Happiness presents happiness as an attainable goal, not as a faraway and lofty concept. The course delves into neuroscience, biology, and other topics to uncover how happiness really works in the brain. If you want to take free online college courses that can help you on a daily basis, this course has what you need. 

Source: University of California, Berkeley – edX

27. How to Write an Essay 

uc berkeley

UC Berkeley’s essay writing course is designed for English language learners. Writing an essay is an important skill for college, but it can be tough, especially when you’re writing in your second language. This course covers the basics of writing an essay in English. It goes over essay structure, basic grammar, the editing process, and other important parts of essay writing. For those who speak English as a second language, taking this class before starting college can make a big difference for academic success. Students can apply what they learn in this course to many of their college classes. Even if you just want to sharpen your writing skills in general, this course can help you reach your goals. 

Source: University of California, Berkeley – edX

28. Writing for Social Justice 

uc berkeley

Social justice issues have always been a part of the world. From personal goals to broader social justice, these topics require excellent communication. This class from UC Berkeley teaches students how to write effectively for social justice issues. This is one of several free courses online with certificates avaialble from UC Berkeley. In this class, students learn how to write in a compelling way, whether they’re writing to bolster an opinion or to reach someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum. 

Source: University of California, Berkeley – edX

29. Marketing Analytics 

school of continuing and professional studies university of virginia logo 130350

The University of Virginia offers a free Marketing Analytics course. This class is one of the best free online courses for those in the marketing field. People in all sectors of marketing can benefit from this class. Likewise, business owners can get a lot from this information. Analytics play a big role in the marketing field. With the right analytical strategies, marketers can get to know their clients from a sales perspective. They can understand purchasing habits, demographics, and other important data. In this course, students learn now to read, categorize, and make use of that data. From there, they can use that data to develop marketing campaigns and reach their audience effectively. 

Source: University of Virginia – FutureLearn

30. Applied Cryptography 

school of continuing and professional studies university of virginia logo 130350

With this Applied Cryptography class from the University of Virginia, students learn the essentials of encryption. If you have any interest in cyber security or even numbers in general, this is one of the best free online courses that you can take. Cryptography is a big part of contemporary day to day life. These numbers play a role in purchases, phone conversations, and computing. In this class, students learn all about the different ways cryptography impacts their lives. Then, they learn about various encryption strategies. This class presents cryptography as a puzzle. Then, it gives students the skills that they’ll need to create and solve that puzzle. 

Source: University of Virginia – Udacity

Benefits of Free Online College Courses 

There are several benefits to taking free college courses online. For one thing, you get to learn in a no-pressure environment. If you’re going for a certificate, then you’ll be learning on a pass-fail basis, not on a GPA basis. If you’re learning just because you want to learn, then you don’t have to worry about grades at all. You get out of the class exactly what you put into it, and there’s no need to worry that a crashed computer or a missed deadline will negatively impact your grade. 

Another benefit comes from the fact that free online courses let you learn at your own pace. Again, there’s no pressure to study for an exam or make the grade. Need to re-watch a part of the course? Need to pause and take a break? No problem. A lot of online courses will let you do just that. You can give yourself as much time as you need for the material to sink in. 

Finally, with online courses, you can rediscover the joy of learning. Sometimes, it’s good to learn something just because you want to learn it. The process of learning can enrich your life. 

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