College lectures used to be reserved for those who had paid the steep price of admission. Now, however, with the cost of attending college rising, universities are looking for ways to grant this knowledge to a wider audience without the exorbitant price tag. And the Web has proven to be the perfect place to do it.

In the last few years, dozens of major universities—international and in the U.S.—have begun providing whole courses worth of lectures and readings online for anyone to access. These are sometimes referred to as “open courseware.”

Keep in mind: those who take these free courses can’t earn a degree through them. But for those hungry to learn, free online classes are the perfect opportunity.
free online courses universities open courseware
Here is a list of the five biggest universities now providing free online courses. More complete lists can be found at the website for the Open Courseware Consortium and OpenCulture.com:

1. Harvard University

Harvard announced in April 2012 that they would be offering free courses online. Does “The Heroic and the Anti-Heroic in Classical Greek Civilization” strike your fancy? Maybe “Perspectives on China”? These courses and more are available right now via YouTube and on the prominent university’s website. This school is also moving rapidly toward offering credit to those who successfully complete these courses.

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Want to really impress your next date? How about a free course in “Philosophy in Film and Other Media” from this esteemed school? Or, maybe something a little more down to earth, like “Aircraft Systems Engineering”? You can find these courses and many others on iTunes, YouTube, and their own website.

3. Oxford University

You can start having your mind blown with “Growing Up in the Universe,” now available on YouTube. For aspiring artists, there is “The Elements of Drawing” and “Aesthetics & Philosophy of Art.” A host of literature and philosophy courses are also available. The entire list is available on iTunes.

4. Stanford University

Interested in Political Science, Religion, Astronomy, Archaeology, or Artificial Intelligence? Stanford has something for everyone. Access the full list of their free online courses here.

5. Yale University

Of course, one of the country’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning wouldn’t be left out of the fray. Yale offers such brain-expanding stuff as “Financial Theory” and “Epidemics in Western Society.”

What is your opinion on free online courses? Have you taken a free online course? Tell us in the comments below?

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