Free online college suggestions please.
October 5, 2014 12:21 PM   Subscribe

So what are some of the best recommended colleges/universities that offer free online-only courses to the general public? Even better if you have experience with one and can tell me a little about it. Also, are there any colleges or universities that offer free online courses or enrollment and actually grant credits? Highly unlikely, but worth a shot.

I first heard about this years ago, but slacker that I am never really got around to looking into this super cool idea. Now there's a bunch that I've never heard of or look skeptical and I don't want to spend a lot of time filling out forms and signing up for random places. Any and all recommendations are appreciated.
posted by atinna to Education (7 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of university distance learning programs are using Coursera or EdX as their platform for free online classes (MOOCs). In general, I've found courses on these platforms to be better than those on a specific universities' distance learning platforms, including (or perhaps especially) those I've paid for, but that all depends on the type of class you're looking for, the quality of the instructor, and their familiarity with the online format for teaching. With MOOCs you can typically earn "certificates," but not credits.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:10 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, if you can let us know what kind of courses you're looking for, some folks may be able to point you towards specific free courses that are especially good.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:12 PM on October 5, 2014

My daughter did online courses from Utah State, Carnigie Mellon, and MIT. She took zero high school biology classes yet still got a 4 on the AP biology test after taking a couple of open coursewares classes from MIT.
posted by COD at 1:16 PM on October 5, 2014

A lot of university distance learning programs are using Coursera or EdX as their platform for free online classes (MOOCs).

I don't know if it's coincidence or what, but I've found the quality of many of the Coursera classes I've investigated to be quite low. Coursera seems to often use videos of someone shut in an office giving a really rehearsed-feeling lecture and they're just painful to watch in comparison to a recorded lecture (which seem to show up on EdX with slightly more frequency). It seems that unless course is in something technical (and sometimes even then), the level of the quiz/homework questions is often incredibly low--think middle school.

As far as I can tell, the big benefit of MOOCs over just finding lectures on iTunes U or YouTube (where universities tend to pick their good lecturers) is that there's a schedule and it'll send you emails reminding you that the week's material has been released. The actual "class" aspect of it is pretty worthless.
posted by hoyland at 2:52 PM on October 5, 2014

I've enjoyed checking out Saylor, which I first learned about here at MeFi. In particular, I've done tiny bits of Western Art History (part 2) and Intro to Statistics.

A fair amount of their stuff is sourced from Khan Academy, but there's also a lot of material from various decades-old universities - the statistics course integrates Khan Academy videos into a Rice University online textbook.

They also have some partner programs that grant credit.

I'm a huge, huge fan of MIT's OpenCourseWare, too, but I often find myself poking around their catalog dreamily without ever actually reading any of the materials in any depth.

Finally, don't forget about browsing iTunes U - there are a handful of really terrific video courses on there, like the Walter Lewin physics stuff.
posted by kristi at 6:00 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Open Culture has a list of MOOCs, some of them are free.
posted by goml at 10:20 PM on October 5, 2014

I'd recommend Future Learn - run by the Open University in the UK and featuring courses from lots of different UK and international universities.

There are no credits that I know of, the aim is definitely more "learning for fun". I did a course on Richard III which was extremely basic but I can't speak for their other courses. There's a lot of variety in the courses on offer, from cyber security to human psychology, maths, marketing, climate change....lots to explore!

I also recommend this series on human anatomy & physiology from Marian Diamond at UCBerkeley. It got me through a BTEC exam on the subject and and I still say "skel-eetal" like Marian does.
posted by cardamine at 1:06 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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