Posted by: Kash Farooq | April 3, 2012

Learning for Free: a collection of free education resources

Last updated 18 September 2013

Did you know that some of the best universities in the world (including MIT, Stanford and Yale) make undergraduate and graduate courses available to the public for free download? Or that you can download whole textbooks for free?

With the announcement that Open University course fees are about to increase massively, I’ve been gradually collecting alternatives using the excellent Evernote on-line tool. Every time I saw a link to a free course or other educational resource, I “evernoted it” (I believe “to evernote” is a verb now).

And here is what I’ve collected so far. All these resources are free and I’ve been trying to stick to “university level” for the courses section. Obviously you won’t get a qualification by studying these courses, or have a target exam date to aim for or assignment deadlines (Update: Coursera do have assignments, deadlines and certificates), but if you want to learn something for the sake of learning, you can.

Hopefully this list will grow over time.


All disciplines

  • Academic Earth: “Online courses from the world’s top scholars” – a good collection of courses in all disciplines.
  • Education: Over 1000 resources listed. “Open Education Resources library containing hundreds of free courses, video lectures, and supplemental materials from universities in the United States and China.”
  • Berkeley: Hundreds of  courses in all disciplines available to watch as webcasts at the Berkeley (University of California) website or via YouTube.
  • Connexions: Interesting idea – crowd sourced education materials. It is “a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc. Anyone may view or contribute”.
  • Coursera: Some really interesting courses from lots of different universities and in lots of different disciplines. You have to enrol on courses and each course is of fixed duration. There are even assignments with deadlines and final exams! Example course: Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation, an 8 week course that will require 5-12 hours of your time per week.
  • FutureLearn (starts October 2013): UK’s biggest online university project with more than 20 universities offering free courses in a variety of disciplines.
  • edX: Founded by MIT and Harvard University. A huge list of free courses in all disciplines on this website. “From Science to Art to Technology, edX offers simply the best classes from the best professors and universities.”
  • iTunes U: Apple provide a platform to allow educators to create and share complete courses.
  • OpenCulture: Hundreds of free on-line courses in all disciplines are linked to at the OpenCulture website. The listings link to various resources including iTunes University and YouTube. Where available, links to downloadable courses are also provided.
  • OpenCourseWare (MIT): The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a huge catalogue of courses in all disciplines (from languages to quantum physics to biomedical engineering), at graduate and undergraduate level. The programme is called MIT OpenCourseWare.
  • OpenCourseWare (Notre Dame): “University of Notre Dame, in its commitment to sharing freely with the worldwide community, has provided more than 40 distinctive, high quality courses”.
  • OpenCourseWare (Utah State): Another huge collection of downloadable courses in all disciplines.
  • OpenLearn (Open University): The Open University has over 600 free courses, across all disciplines, in its OpenLearn programme. Each courses is rated as Introductory, Intermediate or Advanced and varies in length from a few hours to 20+ hours.
  • Open Learning Initiative (Carnegie Mellon): “No instructors, no credits, no charge.” Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative has a limited number of interesting courses in a few disciplines.
  • Open Yale Courses: A handful of videos and downloadable course pages in all disciplines.
  • Udacity: “Udacity is a totally new kind of learning experience. You learn by solving challenging problems and pursuing udacious projects with world-renowned university instructors (not by watching long, boring lectures)”.
  • The University of Reddit: Not as extensive (yet) as the MIT or Open University offerings, but an interesting collection of courses is developing at the University of Reddit. “University of Reddit aims to become a community for anyone looking to teach or learn.”
  • Wikiversity: “A project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.”

Physics and Astronomy



  • OpenCourseWare (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health): Collections of recordings (e.g. MP3s) and PDFs.

Engineering (including Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence)

Lectures and Video Collections


  • OpenCulture: A list of over 100 free downloadable textbooks in all disciplines is available at the OpenCulture website.
  • Wikibooks: the open-content textbooks collection that anyone can edit.

Other Lists

Upcoming Developments

  • MITx: MIT are starting MITx – on-line courses that do give you a certificate at the end of study. The first course is “Circuits and Electronics” and is free to enroll. Eventually they say they will start charging a “small fee”.

H/T Paraskevi Oppio, who gave me the original idea to start compiling this list.



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  4. Here’s a similar list I’m compiling for high school courses, broken down by subject:

  5. […] Did you know that some of the best universities in the world (including MIT, Stanford and Yale) make undergraduate and graduate courses available to the public for free download? Or that you can do…  […]

  6. Many thanks for this list – it’s inspirational!

  7. […] A list of free educational materials […]

  8. This list is amazing….had a quick squiz through and there is sooooo much i wanna learn. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this.


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