Sample Platter: Free Courses to Take Before You Commit

If you’ve been considering online education as a possibility in your life, you might be wondering what you can expect. Courses and how they’re taught at different universities vary widely, but you can probably expect that you will have a lot of face-to-screen time. This might not be something you’re used to, and maybe you’re unsure how you’ll react to sitting at your computer all day long. Well before you commit the time and money to a multi-year degree, why not try out a few of these courses first? These websites include a variety of different courses. Maybe staring at a lecture on screen works for you, but maybe you need something more interactive. This way you know what to look for when applying for schools.

Open Culture

Open Culture is the mother lode of free online education. Their list of 1000 free online courses has been referenced in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times and US News and World Report, and beyond. Wait a minute. Let’s back up. Did I say 1000? Yes. Yes I did. That’s 30,000 hours of free audio and video lectures just waiting to be mined. They sort everything by category, so you can easily find lectures on subject matters such as law, business, economics, and more. My last blog post looked at some of the more popular online courses. Here are possibly relevant links to courses for someone looking to pursue online education in those fields.

  • Business Degrees150 free online business courses are offered, such as Building a Business from Oxford University, Essentials of Advertising and Marketing from Arizona State, Introductory Probability and Statistics for Business from UC Berkeley, and Investment Philosophies taught at NYU.
  • Technology and Computer Science DegreesThere are over 100 computer science courses offered, including various Introduction to Computer Science courses, iPhone Application Development, and Artificial Intelligence courses taught at Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, and more.
  • Criminal Justice Degrees – There are many courses that teach about the law on Open Culture, including Theories of Law and Society from UC Berkeley, Law and Legal Thought in the 21st Century from Harvard, and Environmental Politics and Law from Yale. Likewise, the site links to various podcasts from top law schools such as Stanford, Georgetown University, and Duke.

Other Sources of Free Online Edcuation

  • edX – Essentially an extension of MIT’s OpenCourseWare movement that published its course lessons for free online, edX was founded by a partnership between MIT and Harvard in 2012. It is a non-profit MOOC that opens up a interactive online courses to some of the world’s best universities. Not familiar with MOOCs? The acronym stands for Massive Open Online Course. Essentially, you’ll be taking a class synchronously with hundreds of other students from around the globe. The idea is to help foster community in the online world.
  • Yale – Naturally, not everyone can afford a Yale education. Conveniently, they’ve posted full courses on Youtube. These are all essentially straight up lectures, but that’s something you’ll most likely see at your online school too. It’ll be good to watch a few and see how long you can stand staring at computer for an hour. Take advantage of the pause button too; students actually in the class don’t have that luxury.
  • TED Talks – An acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, not a Facebook wall goes untouched by TED talks. These eighteen-minute talks range from comedic to inspirational to brilliant. It’s not interactive but it is engaging and informative. At the very least, it’ll upgrade your small talk game at your next party.
  • University of the People – Recently accredited, the University of the People is an entirely free, non-profit online university. Yup, entirely free, save for modest application and exam processing fees. The university was formed in 2009, and as of right now, only offers four degrees: Associates and Bachelors in Computer Science, and Associates and Bachelors in Business Administration. The idea is certainly new but the accreditation by the Distance and Education Training Council, partnerships with NYU, Mircrosoft, Yale, and Hewlett-Packard, and the possibility to get a legitimate degree for a couple thousand dollars, the idea is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Now that you’ve seen the various ways one can learn online, it’s up to you to decide how to incorporate this information into your future career. Certainly Open Culture is a great resource, but acquiring a degree from an accredited university, whether on- or off-line is the name of the game. Consider all of these resources as a stepping stone in the right direction; now all you have to do is make the jump.


About Sarah Bass

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Sarah manages the editorial operations for Best Online Universities. Her responsibilities include proofing, editing, and developing content for the company’s Web sites. Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree from Drake University and an MA in Writing from DePaul University. When she isn't working on new and entertaining articles for BestOnlineUniversities.com you will most likely find her curled up with a good book, walking her dog, Roger, or breaking the sound barrier on the Nürburgring.