8 Ivy League Colleges That Offer Free Online Courses

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Happy woman studying online with laptop and headphones taking online class
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Universities and colleges traditionally have made room in some of their classes for learners who are not enrolled in the schools.

With demand growing for distance learning, this tradition of universities opening their doors to the community is evolving, too. Now, you can live anywhere and have access to college-level courses, often free of charge.

At the nation’s elite Ivy League schools, you can sign up to audit certain courses for free, online. These are called “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs. The Community for Accredited Online Schools explains:

“In most cases, MOOCs are entirely free. While some MOOC providers do charge a fee, it’s usually a small fee in exchange for a certificate of completion or some other non-degree credential earned upon successful MOOC completion.”

Some universities offer MOOCs through their websites. Others use third-party platforms. Many of these classes are free. But each school labels its free classes differently, so read course descriptions carefully to confirm.

Read on to learn about free online classes at Ivy League colleges and universities.

1. Brown University

Brown University
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In partnership with edX, Brown University has created BrownX, the hub for its free online courses.

The current BrownX catalog has a handful of courses, covering topics in engineering, ethics, literature and medicine.

2. Columbia University

Columbia University library
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Columbia University has offered MOOCs through Coursera since 2013. Today, the school’s Coursera subjects include construction project management, social policy, construction finance and economics of money and banking.

After its success with Coursera, Columbia partnered with edX, too. ColumbiaX offers a broad range of free classes on a wide variety of subjects, including titles such as:

  • Indian & Tibetan River of Buddhism
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning for Data Science and Analytics
  • Animation and CGI Motion
  • Robotics

3. Cornell University

Cornell University
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Cornell University offers MOOCs through CornellX, which uses the edX platform. Here you’ll find courses with such intriguing titles as:

  • Sharks! Global Diversity, Biology and Conservation
  • The Computing Technology Inside Your Smartphone
  • Wiretaps to Big Data: Privacy and Surveillance in the Age of Interconnection

CornellX courses can be audited free of charge or, in some cases, have an option to earn a verified certificate for a small fee.

4. Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College
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Dartmouth College offers free MOOCs on the popular edX platform.

The collaboration was born, edX says, to “enhance the Dartmouth liberal arts model of teaching and learning.” And so you’ll find a variety of free liberal arts classes, like Introduction to Italian Opera, alongside courses in computer science, like C Programming: Getting Started.

You can audit courses for no tuition charge or earn a verified certificate by paying a small fee.

5. Harvard University

Harvard Coop Bookstor
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EdX was founded by professors from Harvard University and MIT, and Harvard offers its free online courses through the platform.

Eager students anywhere can choose from among Harvard’s extensive collection of free online classes. For instance:

6. Princeton University

Princeton University
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Princeton University’s free online courses are listed at its PrincetonX site.

A couple of current examples of free classes include:

7. University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania
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The University of Pennsylvania’s Online Learning Initiative provides numerous online education options, but all of the university’s for-credit courses are tuition-based.

The school’s free, noncredit offerings are given through PennX’s free courses, aimed at a variety of professionals, including software and website programmers, business leaders and educators.

Currently listed courses include Introduction to Online and Blended Teaching and Hollywood: History, Industry, Art.

8. Yale University

Yale University
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At Yale University, many courses are free and open to the public through the university’s Open Yale Courses.

These classes include:

  • Introduction to Ancient Greek History
  • Fundamentals of Physics I and II
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Freshman Organic Chemistry I and II

To find more classes, browse free online Yale courses at Coursera. You can dive into topics like Everyday Parenting: The ABCs of Child Rearing; or Age of Cathedrals, where you’ll come to appreciate the role Gothic cathedrals played in the High Middle Ages.

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