9 Websites to Get a Free Education in Higher Learning

by Michael Alarcon

If there are two things we can all agree on loving, it’s free stuff and becoming as awesome a person as possible. Dig around the Internet, and you can kill two birds with one stone: free higher education!

I’m not talking three-minute, lo-res YouTube clips either—I’m talking free semester-length courses from Ivy League schools, classes in sophisticated coding, access to mountains of standard textbooks—even elaborate foreign language studies. Read on and prepare to become incredibly smart—for free.


MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT professor Dick Yue says it best: “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” MIT OpenCourseWare is a web-based publication of all MIT course content. It’s open and available to the world, and it’s a permanent MIT activity. In short, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is giving you all 2,150 courses to you for free. Click here!


Open Culture
Open Culture is a lot like the MIT site except it’s more of a university aggregator. Currently, it’s rounded up 825 free online courses and 800 free certificate courses from top unis like UC Berkeley, Penn State, Oxford, Yale, Notre Dame, and a lot more. The site also cultivates a library of 550 classic books, 625 movies, and 160 textbooks—the numbers continually grow and they’re all yours. Click here!


Coursera
This is another great site with a beautiful, easy-to-navigate layout. It differs a bit from most of the sites on this list in that you actually enroll and learn at a structured classroom pace with other students like yourself (there are currently 4 million active users). Prestigious lectures, interactive quizzes, peer-graded assessments, and live interaction with your classmates and teachers—sweet! Click here!


Codeacademy The site’s home page puts it out there in bold black font: “Learn to code interactively, for free.” If you’re planning on working in the media industry, coding is steadily becoming a major jewel in the crown of one’s resume. I personally know a handful of writers who taught themselves how to code after work. After awhile, they got hired on to different companies as coders and engineers, then doubled (some tripled) their salaries. And, um… I’m still an editor. Click here!


DuoLingo
Why plop down up to $500 on Rosetta Stone to learn a foreign language when you can learn it on this site for free? Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese, and Italian with no fees, ads, gimmicks—a quality-level college education on language for free. Click here!


Khan Academy
I love this site because they have so much unique content to offer and they allow you to chart your progress with easy-to-analyze metrics, coach and teacher reports, and academy badges for levels of achievement. This one’s for everyone, but it’s great for home schoolers and overachieving kids who have flown way past their traditional class studies. Click here!


Tuts+
Another course aggregator of sorts, but the studies are much more refined, focusing on web development, graphic design and film making. You’re probably going to benefit most from Tuts+ if you already have a general understanding of the subject matter, but bookmark these guys anyway—there are some incredible courses within these pages. Click here!


edX
edX is also like Open Course which was mentioned above, and they’re also overseen by MIT and Harvard with courses from Cal Tech, Rice, Cornell, Wellesley and lots more. Cool tools, a great user interface, videos, and game-like labs on your schedule and pace. Click here!


Gutenberg Project
Books, books, books—lots of ‘em—over 42,000 to be exact, and all free. Everything from text books to classics, to Kindle titles. You’re not gonna find Jackie Collins’ latest cheesy romance novel, but if you’re into serious reading, you’ll never buy another book again. Click here!

OK, now go learn and be awesome.

Top photo: Bill Selak. All other images are owned by their accompanying sites.

About the Author

I'm a managing editor at Demand Media.