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Bryan Alexander / CC BY 2.0

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June 27, 2012

10 Great Sites for a Free Online Education

contributor: Rob Goodier

[Updated August 2016] – The cost of universities may be rising – it has more than doubled in the last two decades in the United States. But so is the number of high- quality courses available for free online. Ivy league and other respected institutions are offering full programs for certification and hundreds of courses in dozens of fields.

Those courses include specializations in engineering, programming, math, physics and other sciences. There are also courses in design, business management and marketing that could interest entrepreneurs and jumpstart a small business.

The new online education boom means that anyone in the world with an internet connection can give themselves world-class training without leaving home. To start your search, we’ve compiled ten of the top quality online programs that are free of charge.

Engineering for Change Online Academy

The E4C Online Academy features our Webinar Series including live webcasts every month giving you an opportunity to interact with some of the most compelling people working in sustainable development and technology. We announce upcoming webinars on the site, where you’ll also find an archive of past presentations. E4C Members receive invitations directly in their inbox. Participants can earn a Professional Development Hour (PDH) for each webinar they complete.

Our Online Academy also includes free, on-demand courses! Leading with Introduction to Engineering for Global Development a course helping novice development engineering practitioners understand how to deliver solutions that are fit for service and achieve lasting impact. Intro to EGD is comprised of 4 online modules that can be completed on-demand.

Open Courseware Consortium

The Open Courseware Consortium sets a new benchmark for online education and offers a peek at the potential power of the Internet. It is a vast network of hundreds of institutions worldwide, with courses in 20 languages, and all of it is free of charge. Its members include MIT, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Tufts University and many others.

There are dozens of subjects available, with admirable attention paid to studies in science, engineering and technology.  For those reasons, Open Courseware takes a deserved place near the top of our list.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative

A few of the names that are conspicuously absent from the Open Courseware Consortium have established their own online programs. Stay tuned for three in our list, starting with Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative. Their online course list is short, but heavy on the sciences, math and engineering.

Open Yale Courses

Yale offers dozens of courses in topics ranging from Faulkner to astrophysics.

Stanford on iTunes U

Stanford has put free courses on iTunes. (iTunes is available for free download on most devices, Apple or otherwise.) As you might have guessed from the platform Stanford chose, the course list emphasizes programming apps for Apple. There is also a variety of courses in subjects such as astrobiology, law, energy and writing.

The Open University

The UK-based Open University offers more than 600 courses with training from novice to advanced in 250 qualifications. Subjects include computing, technology, math and sciences among others.


Dynamic educators from renowned universities provide free online courses through Udemy. The offerings are light on engineering and technology, but there may be subjects of interest to small business owners. And who wouldn’t benefit from a deeper reading of Dostoyevsky? The course subjects include literature, history, economics, social and political sciences, business management and others.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy has provided more than 3200 videos that famously make it easy to learn tough concepts. The offerings are heavy on math and science, including computer science. Courses are at the Kindergarten through 12th-grade level.

Academic Earth

Academic Earth rounds up online courses from accredited universities and provides them free of charge. A reading of the first and second-to-the- last subjects might interest E4C members: They are Art & Architecture and Technology & Innovation.


Wikiversity is a collaborative online education project powered by professionals, students and anyone who wants to contribute. This project also hints at the awesome potential of the Internet, and with time it may become one of the Internet’s great resources. Now, some of the courses are works in progress, but the site has a pedigree as a member of Wikipedia’s family.

Our top 10 list couldn’t mention all of the hard-hitting online academic programs available now. We’re happy to say that there are many more, and more are surely on the way. To wrap up loose ends, here’s a short list of other noteworthy programs and resources. And please add your suggestions in the comments.

tags : education, free online education, online education, SDG4

Rob Goodier

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