Five Top Universities That Offer Free Courses Online

Want to get a college education for free? You may not get a diploma, but the knowledge is all yours from these top universities.

Maybe you sometimes find yourself wishing you’d spent a little more time with the books than jamming with the band back in your school days. Or, as the parent of an insatiably curious child, you’re just struggling to stay ahead of his constant questions about bugs and outer space. Is it time to head back to class?

If you need the actual degree for a better job, go for it. But if learning’s what you miss, there’s no shortage of places to find a wealth of knowledge online. In fact, with the magic of an Internet connection, you may even be able to score entry to the Ivy League for free.

Here are some of the best places to educate yourself without paying a single penny.

MIT Open Courseware. Whether you’re interested in engineering, architecture, or the arts, MIT’s instructors are some of the brightest minds in their fields. This comprehensive site offers lecture notes, audio recordings, and videotaped lectures to anyone with a computer.

Open Yale. If you’ve been to Rome and were enraptured by the ancient ruins, try out Yale’s free lecture series on Roman Architecture with Professor Diana Kleiner, featuring her own collection of images. The site also hosts a wealth of courses in English, Art History, Philosophy, and many other fields.

Harvard Open Learning Initiative. Curious to know more about China and its rapidly growing economy? Get a primer from Harvard professor Peter K. Bol in a video lecture series. The site also offers courses in Math, English, the Classics, and Computer Science.

Stanford Courses on iTunes U. Want to get a graduate education while out for your morning jog? Download the free mp3 files from Stanford University’s lectures and courses on iTunes. The files can be played on computers and downloaded to your iPod for easy access any time.

UC Berkeley Webcast. UC Berkeley was an early adopter to the “access for all” education model, archiving many of its courses online since 2001. Hundreds of classes in subjects such as Astronomy, Chemistry, Philosophy, and Legal Studies are available in podcast and video formats. The school also provides videos of many guest lectures, including an inspiring speech about philanthropy by Bill Gates.

Need even more of an education fix? Find more links to absolutely free online resources here.