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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