The Top Five Collections of Free University Courses

Last week, the launch of Stanford Engineering Everywhere, featuring 10 free computer science and engineering courses, got no shortage of buzz on the net. This led me to think, why not highlight other major collections of free university courses/resources. As you’ll see, each collection offers countless hours of free, high quality content. Download the audio and video to your iPod or computer, and you can get lost here for days, weeks, even months. A perfect way to distract yourself on the cheap during the recession. For many more free courses, be sure to see our larger collection of Free Courses, which now includes over 250 free classes from leading universities.

1. UC Berkeley — Stanford’s neighbor to the north makes available a large number of courses online. The collection features lectures taken directly from the undergraduate classroom. And they can be accessed through multiple means — that is, through the web/rss feed, through Berkeley’s iTunesU site, and via YouTube. Overall, this is probably the deepest collection of free academic content out there. And here you’ll find one of the most popular undergraduate courses at UC Berkeley: Physics for Future Presidents, taught by Richard Muller. You can download the course in audio (iTunesFeedMP3s) or watch it in video here.

2. Yale – Last fall, Yale launched an open course initiative known as Open Yale Courses. The university initially came out of the gate with seven courses, and it plans to release another eight this fall. As you will see, Yale’s project is high-touch. Each course features a syllabus, reading assignments, class notes, and polished lectures, which, when taken together, contribute to a well-rounded learning experience. The lectures can be downloaded in one of five formats (text, audio, flash video, low bandwidth quicktime video, and high bandwidth quicktime video). And quite notably, Yale has designed the courses to be downloaded fairly easily, which means that you can put the lectures onto an mp3 player, even if you’re only a little tech savvy. Here’s a list of the course titles that you will find: Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics, Modern Poetry, Death, Fundamentals of Physics, Introduction to Political Philosophy, Introduction to Psychology, and Introduction to the Old Testament.

3. MIT – By now, MIT’s OpenCourseWare project is no secret. Leading the open course charge, MIT has put online materials from 1,800 courses, including syllabi, reading lists, course notes, assignments, etc. If there was a downside to the MIT initiative, it was that it originally lacked audio and video lectures. These days, however, MIT has started to fill that gap by adding audio and video components to a number of courses, including Walter Lewin’s very popular and publicized course, Classical Mechanics. Download the course lectures in video via iTunes or in various formats here.

4. Indian Institutes of Technology – In India, there are seven institutes dedicated to training some of the world’s top scientists and engineers, making the country an up and coming world power. They are collectively known as the IITs, or the Indian Institutes of Technology. And now more than 50 IIT courses are being made available in English on YouTube for free. (The main page is here; the courses are actually here.) Some of the titles featured here include: Introduction to Computer Graphics, Core Science Mathematics, Computer Networks, and Introduction To Problem Solving & Programming.

5. Stanford – Yes, last week we mentioned the 10 free courses coming out of the Engineering School. But we should also mention the open course collection maintained by the larger university. Stanford’s iTunes site gives you access to dozens of lectures and lets you download close to 30 courses in their entirety. Clearly, the thinking public loves physics (witness above), and among the Stanford courses you’ll find a multi-course overview of modern physics by Leonard Susskind, who has waged a long-running “Black Hole War” with Stephen Hawking (see his new book on that subject here). The lover of the liberal arts will also find some gems, including: The Historical Jesus, History of the International System, Geography of World Cultures, and African American History: The Modern Freedom Struggle. Lastly, I’ll mention that many courses can also be found on Stanford’s YouTube collection in video. Visit here.

We’ve integrated all of these courses into our own meta list of Free Courses from leading universities. It now includes roughly 250 courses, and we’d encourage you to bookmark the page and use it often. Enjoy.

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