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9 Top Universities Offering Free Online Courses

Studying online courses

Free online courses are a great way to boost your employment prospects: they add a little extra something to your CV and are a great talking point in interviews, as well as being a great way to spend your free time.   

With so many established higher education institutions now offering free online courses, it can be a challenge deciding which one you should go for. 

We’ve rounded up just a few of the most popular free online courses from some of the best schools in the world. This is by no means an exhaustive list – it just gives you a glimpse of the many schools offering online learning experiences.

1. Harvard University

Harvard University

Harvard University offers over 600 free online courses and enables you to get a taste of an Ivy League education for free. Here are just a few of their courses you might enjoy:

Shakespeare’s Life and Work: Learn how to read William Shakespeare’s plays, while also learning his biography over the course of four weeks. The course also covers Elizabethan and Jacobean history and modern performance.

Justice: An introduction to moral and political philosophy, Justice explores critical analysis of classical and contemporary theories over this 12-week course. You will read texts by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Jon Stuart Mill and John Rawls.

The Health Effects of Climate Change: Climate change is more topical than ever. In this seven-week course, find out how global warming impacts human health and how we can help to diminish its effects.

View all of Harvard University’s online courses here.

2. University of California, Irvine

University of California, Irvine

Flickr: ucirvine

The University of California, Irvine offers a variety of courses on a wide range of subjects. Here are several that might spark your interest:

Better Business Writing in English: This course promises to help you develop a personal voice in your writing, giving you the opportunity to practice your writing skills in different types of business communications. 

Introduction to Electronics: Learn about the basic components of electronics: diodes, transistors, and op-amps. Perfect for those who want an insight into electrical engineering.

Games without Chance: Combinational Game Theory: A beginner’s guide to combinational game theory. The course covers the mathematical theory and analysis of simple games without chance moves.

See the University of California, Irvine’s full list of online courses here.

3. Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology has been offering online courses since 2012. Since then, 3.3 million people have enjoyed these world-class courses, in a wide range of topics. Here are a few you might enjoy:

Data Analytics in Business: This course helps you to understand data and business analytics. It then gives you the opportunity to apply these business analytics algorithms and methodologies to real-world business datasets. 

Innovation Leadership: A six-week course for anyone looking to become an innovation leader. You’ll learn why innovation leaders are essential for growth and how to become one.

Supply Chain principles: This 15-hour course is a great introduction for anyone looking to pursue a career in the supply chain. It will help you gain an understanding of the extended supply chain and make you aware of the career paths available to you. 

Take a look at Georgia Institute of Technology’s full online course list here.

4. École Polytechnique

École Polytechnique

École Polytechnique is a leading French institute that combines top-level research, academics and innovation at the cutting edge of science and technology. It offers 29 online courses, 10 taught in English and 19 taught in French. Here are a few that might interest you:

An Introduction to Probability: Taught in French, this is a two-part course offering weekly classes that teach the basics of probability, giving you a gradual yet thorough understanding of probability and how it’s used in the real world.

How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: Designed for students with previous experience in academic research, this course will do exactly what it says in the title. Taught in English, you will learn to accurately write and publish a full scientific paper in four weeks.

From Particles to Stars: If you’ve ever wondered how the Universe was formed, how it has evolved in the last 14 billion years, or even what the universe is made up of, then this is the course for you. The course lasts for ten weeks and is taught in French. 

Browse all of École Polytechnique’s online courses here. 

5. Michigan State University

Michigan State University

One of the largest universities in the United States, Michigan State University offers a selection of online courses. Here are a few that might appeal to you:

Become a Journalist: Report the News: Study journalism’s impact on social and issues and trends. Learn best practices and ethical standards for newsgathering processes. This course takes approximately six months to complete and is great for aspiring journalists

Write a Feature-Length Screenplay for Film or Television: Over the course of 20 weeks, you will write a complete, feature-length screenplay for film or television. You’ll be taught a structured process that allows you to produce a polished script.

Art for Games Specialization: This beginner-focused course will teach you the essentials of 2D and 3D game art production over a period of six months. 

Take a look at the other courses on offer at Michigan State University here.

6. California Institute of the Arts

California Institute of the Arts

Ranking 20th worldwide for Art and Design in the QS World University Ranking by Subject 2020 is California Institute of the Arts. The school offers several creative courses:

Graphic Design Specialization: This six-month course teaches the fundamental skills needed for graphic design. You will also complete a project which can be used for a professional portfolio.

Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop: In this ten-hour course you will learn key poetic terms and devices by studying a range of poems by modern and contemporary poets. You will also get the chance to write your own poems and get feedback from professionals.

The Language of Design: Form and Meaning: You will carry out an objective analysis of a work of graphic design in this course, critiquing its effectiveness. This is a course for beginners and will take approximately eight hours to complete.

You can find the full list of courses at California Institute of the Arts here.

7. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Flickr: cogdog

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is an international research university which aims to advance teaching and research in science, technology, engineering, management and business studies. Here’s a selection of the online courses they offer:

Introduction to Fintech: Learn about the innovations, technology and regulation driving the transformation of finance in Asia’s first FinTech MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).  This course begins on May 15 and will be taught by leading experts.

Making Sense of News: This six-week course will develop your critical thinking skills to allow you to better identify reliable information in news reports and become better informed.

State, Law and the Economy: If you’re interested in learning about economics, this course is a great place to start. The course teaches essential economic concepts relevant to the study of political economy.

See the full list of online courses offered at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology here. 

8. UCL (University College London)

UCL (University College London)

One of the top schools in the UK, ranking eighth in the world in the most recent QS World University Ranking. They offer a wide variety of courses, including: 

Anthropology of Social Media: Why We Post: A five-week course on the consequences of social media and a comparative and anthropological approach to social media use around the world.

Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing: An Introduction: Run by UCL’s department of geography, this course will give you a basic understanding of citizen science and introduce you to the academic literature in this area.

Culture, Health and Wellbeing: An Introduction: This course will help you develop, deliver and evaluate health and wellbeing work within a museum, arts, heritage or cultural organization. It is a great introduction for anyone looking to work in this sector.

See what other online courses UCL has to offer here. 

9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT is highly regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious universities, ranking first in the world in the most recent QS World University Rankings. Here’s a selection of their online courses:

Number theory I: This graduate-level course will cover a range of topics in algebraic and analytic number theory.

Microeconomic Theory and Public Policy: If you’re interested in learning economics, why not learn from one of the best? This course uses microeconomic theory to analyze public policy. It will teach you the basics of economics and you are free to take the course at your own pace. 

Making Books: The Renaissance and Today: For people looking for something a little different, this course explores the impact of new technology on the recording and distribution of words and images during: the invention of the printing press in 1450, the adaption of electricity to communication technology in the 19th century, and digital media today.

Take a look at MIT’s other online courses here.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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