These days, a college degree is difficult to obtain due to financial constraints. Whether you are starting college for the first time, returning to school, or pursuing further studies, the high cost of a college education may be preventing you from doing so. Thanks to universities that offer free college courses online, it is now more accessible to those seeking a degree or certificate. Below is a comprehensive list of these universities and colleges that may help you jumpstart your career in your chosen field.
What Is an Online College Course?
An online college course is a program that you can complete without having to be physically present in school. You can do the coursework in the comfort of your home using your personal computer and internet connection. While they are not all the same, these programs typically provide you with materials to learn what you need. These include electronic textbooks, workbooks, etc. In some cases, you may have to obtain physical books on your own but that highly depends on the program you are taking and the university where you are taking it from.
Some universities have an online portal where a student can create an account and do most of the activities through the said portal. Grades, quizzes, and attendance are recorded there, as well as access to any information that you might need. It may also serve as a platform to communicate with your professors, school officers, and peers. Some schools also provide a “virtual classroom” via that portal or platform.
When learning your coursework, it may look very different from what a student typically experiences in the classroom. Nevertheless, it provides adequate information that you need to learn to obtain your degree or certificate. If you are pursuing a field of study that requires you to work in the field to gain experience, you may have to seek out those opportunities outside of the online course.
Will You Get a Degree From Free College Courses Online?
It highly depends on the university whether you will be granted an online degree or certificate after completing their program. It would be good to do as much research as possible before taking a course if you aspire to have a degree. And the great news is you can find that information in this guide. Just like in a typical college setting, not all courses make you eligible to hold a degree so it would also depend on your chosen field of study and the level of education that you are pursuing. Sometimes, you can get a degree by taking a two-year course but it is mostly granted to those who are taking a full three or four-year program.
If you want to take shorter courses, Coursera and Udemy are great platforms. While many of the courses there are paid, you can apply for a scholarship that is almost always granted if you clearly state why you need one.
Universities With Free College Courses Online
Here are the universities that offer the best free college courses online. You will also find a list of colleges that offer free online courses in the next section.
1. Harvard University
Perhaps, the most coveted university in the country, Harvard now offers free college courses online. You will get a taste of studying in an Ivy League school in the comfort of your home. There are plenty of courses to choose from in various fields! These courses are under the HarvardX program which is specifically created for online education. The courses alone are free but if you want to receive a certificate of completion, you may have to pay a small fee. Below is a quick look at some of the programs you can take at Harvard University Online.
Principles of Biochemistry
Ever dreamed of becoming a biochemist? This is a great place to start learning about the field without shedding any money. The course is basically an introduction to biochemistry that explores the molecules of life. Here, you will learn about the structure of macromolecules, the functions of protein, and the manipulation of enzymes. It takes a biochemical approach in studying the functions of cells. It’s an intermediate-level college course and you can go through it at your own pace.
Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking
For those who want to pursue careers in politics, public relations, or other leadership career paths, this is a great course. It will prepare you in becoming adept at dealing with people. Here, you will gain critical communication skills both in written and spoken form. It’s an excellent introduction to the theory and practice of rhetoric which will help you in building arguments and how you can defend them to help your audience better understand your viewpoints. It is also a self-paced course and is absolutely free unless you want to pay for the certificate.
Data Science: Machine Learning
If you want to pursue a career in tech, this field of study is quite in-demand right now and will be in the coming years. It’s under the field of data analysis and statistics. You will learn today’s most popular data science methodologies. Master the technology behind machine learning algorithms and principal component analysis. You will learn how to use data to discover potentially predictive relationships and techniques on cross-validation. If you’re not very familiar with this technology, here is a great introduction to how machine learning works.
2. Georgia Institute of Technology
Better known as Georgia Tech, this Atlanta-based university has been offering online degree programs since 2012. Georgia Tech is ranked top 20 in the world for fields such as mechanical engineering and statistics and operational research. This is a great online university for those who want to pursue advanced careers in tech. They offer worldwide access to their programs. Below is a list of some of the most popular courses offered by GATech.
Advanced Engineering Systems in Motion
This course focuses highly on kinetics and 3D motion. Here, you will partake in the advanced study of how kinetics is applied to engineering systems and structures. Take note that because it’s an advanced-level course, this is intended for students who already have some understanding of basic engineering. Learn angular velocity, inertial properties of 3D bodies, and how to solve angular acceleration.
Georgia Tech’s Innovation Leadership course is part of their massive open online course programs. It is designed for students who aspire to become leaders in technology. You will learn how to lead a team to create breakthrough products and cultivate innovative ideas. Learn how to hone your leadership skills and gain tools and practical skills on how you can become an exceptional global innovator.
3. Ecole Polytechnique
This French institute is known for its top-level research and use of cutting-edge science and technology to expand its academic programs. Naturally, some of the courses are taught in French, but there are 10 English courses that you can choose from. You will find some of their free online college courses that are open to all below.
Wind Resources for Renewable Energies
For those who are interested in environmental research and want to become part of the scientific community helping in the global warming crisis, this is a great course. You will gain invaluable knowledge on how to quantify wind resource and how to turn it into renewable energy. It’s intended for students pursuing further studies.
Creating and Developing a Tech Startup
This online college course is perfect for those who want to start a tech business. You will learn how to evaluate opportunities for your startup and understand crucial technical, commercial, and financial concepts that are vital to successfully building a tech business.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
One of the most popular universities in the country and in the world, MIT offers a wide range of free college courses online. The above universities are heavy on tech courses. While MIT, as its name suggests, excels in technology, it offers plenty of online degree programs in the arts as well. Their online program is more popularly known as MIT Open Courseware. It features open publication of material from MIT’s most popular degree programs from introductory to graduate degree levels. The great thing about it is you don’t even have to sign up and you can do the coursework at your own pace. See some of MIT’s college degree courses offered online below.
Introduction to Art History
As mentioned, the process of MIT’s Online Courseware is quite different from other online universities. Instead of joining an online course with other students, you will be downloading the materials for yourself and learn them on your own. This Introduction to Art History course is one of them and was taught in 2018. It will teach you art from a historical perspective and how it has changed over the years. You will also have access to the assignments provided in the course.
Cultural Anthropology: Introduction to Anthropology
This course is an excellent introduction to those who want to study in the field of cultural anthropology. It’s a comparative study of different cultures. Here, you will learn how to answer questions about the science of being human. It will teach you an understanding of how cultures across the world shape our societies and how they affect our institutions. By taking this free online college course, you will gain tools in analyzing diverse aspects of human ethnicity, language, art, etc.
Astrophysics: General Relativity
If you want to become an astrophysicist, this free online degree course will help you get an idea of what this field is all about starting from general relativity theories. It focuses on exploring black holes, which will give you an understanding of the elements of cosmology. You will also have access to the collaborative research done within the course and learn more advanced models of the cosmos.
5. University of the People
This online university is one of the biggest platforms where you can take free online college courses. It is absolutely tuition-free and is an American-accredited university. It provides open-access learning for higher education worldwide. They offer online degree programs in computer science, education, among other fields. See some of their courses below.
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
In this free college degree online course, you will gain a comprehensive knowledge of business models and how you can apply them to real-life settings. It focuses on analytics relating to business problems and solutions, leadership and entrepreneurship, and the implementation of business decisions. You will learn relevant business concepts necessary for our global society and will prepare you for a career path in business-related fields.
This free online degree course will also provide you with a bachelor’s in science degree. It’s an accredited program that will provide you with an in-depth knowledge of information technology (IT) and computer science. Learn database management as well as programming languages.
6. Carnegie Mellon University
There are several free college courses online offered by Carnegie Mellon University, one of the most renowned universities in the world. From engineering to psychology courses, you will have a chance to study in a leading academic institution all for free. It’s called the Open Learning Initiative. Below are some of their online college courses.
If you want to pursue a career in science technology engineering math (STEM), this is a competitive open and free online college course. You will learn core skills related to STEM that will prepare you for post-secondary technical programs.
This is a mini-course that will introduce you to the fundamentals of design and typography. It’s perfect for students who want to improve their visual design skills and will teach you how to apply them to a broad range of design problems. Learn how to control visual variables to create effective documents.
7. University of California – Berkeley
Berkeley has a wide range of free online college courses that they offer through their Open Access University. Some of them will even grant you a certificate upon completion for an additional fee. You will attend the classes in a podcast or webcast format. See some of their online degree programs below.
This free college course will teach you the basics surrounding the design of intelligent computer systems. It focuses on the statistical and decision-theoretic modeling program and will also teach you machine learning algorithms. Learn how facial recognition works and its limitations. You will learn vital techniques to build your knowledge of other AI-based studies that you want to pursue.
Blockchain is one of the newest trends in technology and this course will provide you with in-depth knowledge on the key topics in the blockchain space. Learn crypto-economic concepts, enterprise blockchain implementations, and how the government controls and regulates blockchain technology. A certificate is available for a small fee.
8. Yale University
Another Ivy League school, Yale offers a program called Open Yale Courses where you can choose from a wide variety of free college courses that you can take online. The courses include full class lectures and materials. You can download videos and readings provided as well. Take a look at some of these programs below.
Philosophy: The Science of Human Nature
In this course, you will study the philosophical works of the great philosophers including Aristotle, Plato, Kant, etc. It is designed around the topics of morality and justice as well as social structures, among others. You can download the entire course but you also have the option to purchase additional books.
This course covers the fundamentals of bio-engineering and how they are connected to human activity. It’s the perfect introductory course to the science behind biomedical engineering. You will dive into case studies, learn about the product-testing cycle, and patent protection for drugs and other medical products.
9. Utah State University
USU offers a wide range of online college courses although some of them require variable fees. These fees are very minimal and range from $10 – $70, but some are free. You can choose from different fields of studies from the physical sciences to humanities. These courses are offered mostly on the USU Extension platform. Below are some of them.
Climate Change Science Essentials
This is a 100% free online college course that will provide you with an understanding of the Earth’s complex climate system. Learn an overview of why global warming is occurring and the evidence of climate change.
Food Safety Managers Certificate
To acquire the certificate for this course, there is a fee of $70 but access to all materials is free. This course will teach you why this certification is required for those who want to specialize in food safety management and will prepare you for taking the certification exams. It covers topics on food safety risk factors as well as safety precautions.
10. Open University
As the name suggests, this online university is open and free to all. Courses are offered through a platform called OpenLearn. You can choose from different fields of study from education, STEM, and politics, which are just some of them. The university also offers certificates on some programs. Take a look at some of their free college courses that you can take online below.
Social Psychology and Politics
If you are an aspiring social psychologist, this is a great introductory course for you. This free online course will teach you about social movements and activism, and provide you insights into the role of culture in politics. You can download the course in your preferred format. The materials are available in Word, PDF, and Kindle formats. You will also be provided with a free statement of participation upon completion.
This course will help prepare you for a career in cybersecurity. Learn the key concepts and technology surrounding cyber-attacks. You may even end up working for some of the best cybersecurity companies!
Colleges That Offer Free Online Courses
If you’re looking for more options, here are some colleges that offer free courses. These are all tuition-free and open to all!
Berea promises a no-tuition guarantee to all students regardless of their background and financial situation. They offer both online and classroom educations.
Central Wyoming College
CWC offers college courses that are completely online. These include studies on criminal justice, social sciences, and business management.
Coastline Community College
This college offers courses that you can take on their internet learning platforms. They have an open-door admissions policy so you can enroll no matter what your socioeconomic background is.
College of Southern Maryland
If you’re seeking an associate degree, you can check out the free college courses that you can take online offered by the College of Southern Maryland. You can choose from different fields of study including information services and technical management.
Are There Any Expenses in Pursuing an Online College Degree?
As you can see from the above list, there are some expenses involved in some universities. That is if you wish to pay for the certificate or the credits that will be granted to you. In some cases, you may also have to purchase books that are not provided by the school. As for the case of Utah State University (USU), listed above, you may have to pay a variable fee but that is very minimal compared to what you will pay if you enroll in a full-time program in a typical university setting.
Benefits of Taking Online College Courses
It seems pretty obvious that the main advantage of taking college courses online is the convenience of being able to study in the comfort of your home, office, or practically anywhere. On the other hand, there are other benefits that you may not realize. Aside from eliminating the hassle and expenses of attending in-person classes, the benefits of pursuing an online college degree are endless. Here are some of them.
Easy Transfer of Credits
Different programs sometimes require similar prerequisites. Should you decide to pursue a different field of study or study at a different online university, it would be easier to transfer your credits to another program. How so? In case your current university doesn’t offer a particular prerequisite course, you can take that course at another university then have it credited to your current one.
In a classroom setting, you are more prone to being distracted by external factors. Your classmates may be making unnecessary noises or talking about topics unrelated to the course during class. This makes it more difficult to concentrate. And we all know of that one person who always prolongs the class by asking too many questions. Annoying, right? In an online setting, you will be free of these distractions. If there are noises in your home, you can put on your headphones and play some focus music, which you often can’t do inside a typical classroom.
Continue Working With Ease
Many students need to continue their full-time job to support themselves while studying. Since you don’t need to drive to and from work, you will save a lot of time and be able to focus both on your work and studies. You also don’t need to worry about conflicting schedules.
Study at Your Own Pace
Largely related to solving scheduling problems, being able to study at your own pace allows you to participate in other meaningful activities in your life. You can even use your weekends to study if you have important personal commitments during weekdays.
Significantly Lower Costs
Even if an online college course is not entirely free, it still significantly costs less than studying in a traditional university setting. While you may have to purchase books or pay some variable fees in some cases, it cannot beat the money you will save studying online versus in-person. Most importantly, it does not require you to take on a student loan which is one of the biggest problems of the younger generation in America today.
Can You Get a Job After Studying Online Courses?
Absolutely! While not all free college courses that can be taken online can provide you with a degree or certificate, they still teach you invaluable skills and knowledge required in many jobs. If you are pursuing a career that requires a degree or proof of completion, it does not hurt to invest in paying the fee to get that certification. After all, it still incredibly more affordable than acquiring your degree in a traditional university setting.
Enrolling in free college courses online opens endless opportunities no matter what you are pursuing. Whether it’s your first time enrolling in college or you are continuing or pursuing further studies, an online college degree is just as valid, if not more, as any degree. The list of options and tips above is a great place to start. So, delve into them and start your online college education today!