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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Physics for Future Presidents: Buy the Book, or Watch the Free Online Course

Richard Muller teach­es one of the most pop­u­lar under­grad­u­ate cours­es at UC Berke­ley: Physics for Future Pres­i­dents. You can watch it on YouTube (above). And now you can buy Muller’s new book. Just pub­lished by W.W. Nor­ton, Physics for Future Pres­i­dents: The Sci­ence Behind the Head­lines gives cit­i­zens the sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge they need to under­stand crit­i­cal issues fac­ing our soci­ety — is “Iran’s nascent nuclear capa­bil­i­ty … a gen­uine threat to the West,” are there “viable alter­na­tives to fos­sil fuels that should be nur­tured and sup­port­ed by the gov­ern­ment,” and should “nuclear pow­er should be encour­aged”? These issues (and more) get tack­led here. For more info on the book, you can lis­ten to a good inter­view con­duct­ed this morn­ing (mp3) here in San Fran­cis­co.

Muller’s course, Physics for Future Pres­i­dents, has been added to our col­lec­tion of Free Online Physics Cours­es, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

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Neuroscience and the 2008 Election

How does mod­ern neu­ro­science make sense of the cur­rent McCain-Oba­ma race? Have a lis­ten to Christo­pher Lydon’s fas­ci­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tion with George Lakoff, a pro­fes­sor of cog­ni­tive lin­guis­tics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley (iTunesMP3FeedWeb Site).

Lakoff is the author of the new book, The Polit­i­cal Mind: Why You Can’t Under­stand 21st-Cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can Pol­i­tics with an 18th-Cen­tu­ry Brain, and he’s essen­tial­ly argu­ing here that the Democ­rats have tra­di­tion­al­ly framed their argu­ments with a cold ratio­nal­ism .… and lost … while the Repub­li­cans have ground­ed theirs in a kind of emo­tion­al­ism that squares with how the brain func­tions. But, with Oba­ma, things are start­ing to change…

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Physics for Future Presidents

Just a quick fyi that we’ve added a pop­u­lar UC Berke­ley course, Physics for Future Pres­i­dents, to our col­lec­tion: Free Online Cours­es from Great Uni­ver­si­ties. You can down­load the com­plete course to your MP3 play­er. Just scroll down the page and look under “Physics.”

If you’d rather expe­ri­ence this course in video, you can watch the course on YouTube. I’ve post­ed the first lec­ture below, and you can find the rest of the lec­tures here.

YouTube Gets Smart: The Launch of New University Channels

Updat­ed: See full col­lec­tion of Uni­ver­si­ty Video Col­lec­tions on YouTube.

I heard rumors some­thing like this was com­ing, and now it’s here. YouTube has struck deals with major uni­ver­si­ties, cre­at­ing ded­i­cat­ed chan­nels from which schools can dis­trib­ute their media con­tent. Not sur­pris­ing­ly UC Berke­ley, always at the dig­i­tal fore­front, has tak­en the lead and launched an ambi­tious chan­nel with over 300 hours of video­taped cours­es and events. You can check out their chan­nel here. The oth­er major uni­ver­si­ty to sign on is USC (Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia).

Back in March, we lament­ed the sheer dearth of cul­tur­al con­tent on YouTube. (Lis­ten to our radio inter­view here and also see our relat­ed blog post.) Since its incep­tion, the now Google-owned video ser­vice has been awash with home-brewed videos of gui­tar riffs, dorm­room lip sync ses­sions, and pet tricks. Mean­while, videos of greater cul­tur­al sub­stance have been hard­er to come by (and that’s why we’ve tried to flag the good ones for you. See here, here & here.) YouTube’s new uni­ver­si­ty ini­tia­tive begins to rem­e­dy that prob­lem. It shows a per­haps bur­geon­ing com­mit­ment to high­er-mind­ed media. But let’s not get too car­ried away. When you go to YouTube, it’s not clear how users will find/navigate to these chan­nels. If you look under Cat­e­gories, “edu­ca­tion” is not an option (although I think it used to be). Per­haps YouTube has plans to tweak its nav­i­ga­tion. Or is this just a case of let­ting a tree fall in the woods? Let’s stay opti­mistic and we’ll check back soon.

Please vis­it our col­lec­tion of 250 Free Online Cours­es

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25 UC Berkeley Courses Available via Free Video

Not long ago, we wrote a pop­u­lar piece about UC-Berke­ley’s iTunes ini­tia­tive which, to sum it up,allows any­one, any­where, to down­load com­plete uni­ver­si­ty cours­es to their iPods for free. Amaz­ing. Today, we want to point out that Berke­ley also makes avail­able full-fledged cours­es via video/webcast. You can find the com­plete list of cours­es here, but below we have list­ed below 25 cours­es that fig­ure into a “core” under­grad­u­ate cur­ricu­lum. In short, this list includes many good nuts and bolts cours­es, which will teach you a lot and, even bet­ter, cost you noth­ing. Each of these cours­es, com­ing straight from the class­room, can be accessed with Real Play­er, and some can also be accessed as MP3s.

On a relat­ed note, our Uni­ver­si­ty Pod­cast Col­lec­tion and our col­lec­tion of Free Cours­es will give you access to many more uni­ver­si­ty lec­tures and cours­es, so be sure to give them a look. You may also want to check out our “playlist” of intel­li­gent videos on YouTube as well as our recent piece: 10 Signs of Intel­li­gent Life at YouTube.

UC Berke­ley Cours­es:

50+ Free Courses from UC Berkeley on iTunes

This is noth­ing short of impres­sive. Last April, UC Berke­ley, one of the pre­miere uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try, announced its plan to put com­plete aca­d­e­m­ic cours­es on iTunes. Fast for­ward nine months, and you can already find 59 full cours­es avail­able as pod­casts. Sim­ply click here to access Berke­ley’s iTunes site (or here for the Rss feed).No mat­ter where you live, you can access at no cost the very same cours­es attend­ed by stu­dents pay­ing full tuition. And, giv­en the crit­i­cal mass of cours­es being offered across a range of dis­ci­plines, you can put togeth­er your own per­son­al­ized cur­ricu­lum and expand your hori­zons on the fly.

If the human­i­ties are your thing, you can take US His­to­ry: From Civ­il War to Present, Exis­ten­tial­ism in Lit­er­a­ture & Film, or Euro­pean Civ­i­liza­tion from the Renais­sance to Present. If you’re into the social sci­ences, you may want to con­sid­er World Reli­gions, Peo­ples and States, US For­eign Pol­i­cy after 9/11, Human Emo­tions, or Intro­duc­tion to Sta­tis­tics. Turn­ing to the hard sci­ences, you can take your pick from Physics for Future Pres­i­dents, Intro­duc­tion to Chem­istry, Gen­er­al Astron­o­my, and Gen­er­al Biol­o­gy. Final­ly, for those with a tech­nol­o­gy bent, you can con­sid­er lis­ten­ing in on An Intro­duc­tion to Com­put­ers, The His­to­ry of Infor­ma­tion or even The Foun­da­tions of Amer­i­can Cyber­Cul­ture. But, if these par­tic­u­lar cours­es aren’t for you, there are many more to choose from.

Berke­ley’s col­lec­tion has gen­er­al­ly remained off of peo­ple’s radar screen, which is too bad. It’s an excel­lent pod­cast col­lec­tion, one of the best out there. Hope­ful­ly we can help read­ers find out what they are miss­ing.

For more, please see our col­lec­tion of Free Cours­es from top uni­ver­si­ties.

UC Berkeley & Google Team Up

Not long ago, we talked about UC Berke­ley’s ambi­tious pod­cast­ing ini­tia­tive, about how the uni­ver­si­ty is cur­rent­ly dis­trib­ut­ing a large num­ber of cours­es over iTunes. But there is noth­ing like giv­ing users some options, and so the uni­ver­si­ty has also decid­ed to make some cours­es, cam­pus events, and con­fer­ences avail­able over Google Video as well. (That’s Google’s ver­sion of Youtube, which, of course, Google just recent­ly bought.) To take a clos­er look, just click here to scan through the dif­fer­ent video offer­ings. Or, to sam­ple things, take a peek below at this inter­view with Michael Pol­lan, author of The Omni­vore’s Dilem­ma, a book that The New York Times just named one of the ten best books of 2006.


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.