Find Free College Classes Online

Enhance your resume and your knowledge base with free online courses

Young man writing in notebook while using computer at home

Geber86 / iStock


Most people know the value of a college degree. Studies have shown that college-educated people tend to earn more money over the arc of their career than people who don't attend college. A college education can be prohibitively expensive, though, and it may be an unattainable dream for people who can't afford it.

However, the advent of free college classes and programs on the web makes continuing education a real possibility for anyone with an internet connection. Many well-respected colleges and universities offer all sorts of free college courses on the web in the form of podcasts, lectures, tutorials, and online classes. You won't receive college credit or a degree taking these free classes, but you'll advance your knowledge on a topic and enhance your resume with your efforts at advancing your education. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology OpenCourseWare

The logo for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where you can find some online classes for free.
 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

What We Like

  • It's like auditing MIT courses for free.

  • Comprehensive catalog taught by industry-leading academics.

What We Don't Like

  • Somewhat cumbersome user interface.

  • Historical only, no interactivity.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology maintains its MIT OpenCourseWare presence on the web. OCW contains information and materials from more than 2400 courses that have been taught at the school. MIT's goal is to publish all its course materials online and make them available to everyone at no charge. More than 300 million visitors have taken advantage of this information as of 2018.

Classes are available on a wide range of topics from Architecture to Science and include free lecture notes, exams, and videos from MIT. No registration is required. 

To participate, search the most visited courses or enter a topic of your own. Click on a class title, and you'll see a description of the course, the name of the professor, and when it was taught. The materials may differ from class to class but usually include video lectures, lecture notes, problems, and assignments. 

These free classes are historical. You can't have any live interaction with an instructor, receive any feedback on assignments, or get answers to questions. Still, you are receiving the same high-value class information that MIT-enrolled students received.

Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare

The logo for the Johns Hopkins University where student can find free online classes.

 Johns Hopkins University 

What We Like

  • Free, historical insights into courses offered at JHSPH.

  • Focus on public health and epidemiology.

What We Don't Like

  • Lack of interactivity.

  • Not much use beyond public health.

Johns Hopkins, one of the world's premier medical learning institutions, offers free materials and images from more than 100 courses developed by the faculty at JH. The classes of the school's OpenCourseWare program focus on public health. They are archival in nature and are not interactive experiences with faculty at Johns Hopkins.

Students can look up classes by course title, topics, collections, or images. There are several ways that courses are presented including with audio, with case studies, and as core courses for the Hopkins Master of Public Health. For anyone looking to advance their health care career without sacrificing quality, this is the first place to look.

Stanford Online

The logo for Stanford University where there are some courses that students can take for free.

Stanford University

What We Like

  • Offers one-off courses, professional and graduate certificates, and graduate degrees.

  • Based on a modified version of the robust Coursera program.

  • Taught by skilled instructors on faculty at Stanford.

What We Don't Like

  • Lots of material blends; difficult to differentiate course types.

  • A Stanford education isn't exactly cheap.

Stanford University offers an ongoing selection of free courses on many topics.

If you’re looking for a basic introduction to computer science, you’ll want to check out SEE (Stanford Engineering Everywhere), which is ostensibly for students interested in engineering, but there are quite a few free technology-related class offerings there. Most consist of recorded lectures, handouts, assignments, and other resources.

Stanford Online is an open platform for online research and learning that offers free classes, but they are mixed in with the fee-based classes, so you have to do a little searching for them. Enter "free online courses" in the search bar on the Stanford Online screen to get started. Courses usually include videos, problem sets, knowledge assessments, and other learning tools.

Unlike other open courseware sites, some of the free classes are monitored for feedback, and some offer a printable Statement of Accomplishment in the course if you receive a sufficiently high enough score in the class.

edX: A Collaboration With Colleges and Universities

An image of the edx logo.

What We Like

  • Free courses offered by leading universities and corporations.

  • Rich catalog of content.

  • MicroMaster's program is an innovation in higher education.

What We Don't Like

  • More advanced program-type offerings (like masters programs) are paid, which is inconsistent with branding.

  • Robust catalog, but a clear emphasis on STEM fields.

The edX website is a collaboration between MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and a huge list of other colleges and universities. It offers free classes from its partners online.

Scroll through current and new classes, choose the partner of your choice and browse its offerings for a class, or enter a topic in the search field. For example, if you click on Georgetown University, you'll see free archived classes on bioethics and quantum mechanics and other interesting topics, while at the University of Edinburgh, you see classes on climate change. 

Although most classes are in English, if you select Sorbonne University, you'll need to be fluent in French.

Although the classes themselves are free, edX offers an optional certificate for a fee to students who complete certain courses on a higher level. The fee varies from a few dollars to a few hundred.

EdX is just one of several massive open online course websites that offer college classes from several institutions.

iTunes U App

iTunes U App

What We Like

  • Free content.

  • Great for teachers.

What We Don't Like

  • For iOS only.

  • Huge, not-well-curated content library.

The iTunes U mobile app for iPhones and iPads is filled with free online classes from universities, colleges, and other sources. The content used to be located in iTunes as iTunes University, a late and lamented iTunes feature. However, all the educational content is still available through the iTunes U mobile app. Everything on the app is free, some in the form of podcasts with some downloadable resource material, and some as slides or videos. The catalog is enormous, although you can narrow the options to college-level and topics such as business, communications, engineering, languages, health and many more. 

Although the courses are free, you'll have to have an iOS mobile device, such as an iPhone or iPad to download the app. It isn't available for Android products.


The logo for Coursera, an online learning website.


What We Like

  • Mix of courses ranging from free one-off classes to full-fledged master's degrees.

  • Robust platform and broad industry exposure, with many top-notch partner universities.

What We Don't Like

  • Tends to skew more heavily toward tech fields.

  • Sometimes confusing to browse the catalog.

  • Watch for free vs. paid courses in search results.

Coursera is an online collaboration of several of the top-tiered universities in the world, with offerings from a wide variety of programs that range from humanities and biology to computer science.

Classes include recorded online lectures, multimedia, and links to other free resources. Registration is free, and when you complete the class, you are eligible to receive an electronic course certificate for a small fee.

Online courses include classes from Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Edinburgh, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt and others.

Not all the classes are free; the degree and certificates paths are all fee-based, but you can audit some of those classes via video lectures and see some course content for free. Free classes mingle with fee-based classes, so you have to do some searching to find just what you want.


The UDemy logo


What We Like

  • Instructors tend to be industry pros, not necessarily university faculty.

  • Broad reach of content.

What We Don't Like

  • Content is instructor driven, so there are some odd gaps in the catalog.

  • Pricing models vary wildly, and pricing for the same course can change.

Udemy differs from some of the other sites in that not all of the classes are free and some of the classes are taught not by professors but by people who have excelled in their particular fields, such as Mark Zuckerberg or Marissa Mayer.

Enter a topic in the search field such as "free IT classes" and then scroll to the bottom of the results list for the free classes, which are listed beneath the paid classes.

There are plenty of learn-to-code classes here, but there are also course offerings like Digital Marketing Basics, Network Security Essentials, and Conquer Your Stress. Don't Manage It.


Logo for the Udacity site, where students can take online classes for free.


What We Like

  • Emphasis on free courses in technology fields.

  • Support for job searchers.

  • Clear guidelines for tracks, for content.

What We Don't Like

  • Focus of some courses is, at times, too technically narrow.

  • Site strongly encourages sign-ups before revealing important context info.

If you’ve ever wanted to do something like create a search engine in seven weeks and you’d like to learn directly from one of the co-founders of Google, Sergey Brin, then Udacity is for you. Udacity offers a limited selection of courses, all computer science related, with instruction from distinctive leaders in their fields.

Classes are organized into three separate tracks: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. All classes are taught in a video format with quizzes and homework assignments. Final grades and certificates are awarded to students who finish the coursework successfully.

Students can opt into Udacity’s job program when they sign up for free classes, where they can choose to share their resume with the Udacity team and potential employers.

P2PU Collaborative Learning

The P2PU logo

What We Like

  • Free courses, often with in-person components.

  • Great networking opportunity.

What We Don't Like

  • Democratization has its limits; you're at the mercy of your peers.

  • No certifications offered.

Peer to Peer University is a collaborative experience where you’re meant to learn in community with others. Registration and courses are free. As you complete courses, you can display badges on your website or social profiles. Courses include classes in several programming languages, business topics, music theory, and a wide range of other topics. No certifications are offered here, but the courses are well executed and worth taking a look. Scroll the selections, view by topic, or enter a search term in the search bar to locate a class.