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9 Top Universities Offering Free 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 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

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 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 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

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

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.