Students looking for free online college courses may be surprised to discover options from Ivy League institutions. More and more universities are offering free college courses online, often in the form of massive open online courses (MOOCs). These classes cover a wide array of subjects in the arts, social sciences, STEM, and other fields.  While they typically don’t count towards a degree, MOOCs can provide learners with valuable, career-relevant knowledge. They also allow students to explore new interests and hobbies.

Ivy Leagues and online courses 

MOOCs allow anyone to enroll and can serve hundreds of learners simultaneously. These courses combine traditional learning materials, such as lectures, with innovative elements, such as social media threads. Students typically take online quizzes and interact in discussion boards.  Ivy League schools were among the first to offer MOOCs. Stanford hosted its first MOOCs in 2011. The following year, Stanford professors founded Coursera and Udacity, now two of the most popular MOOC platforms. Around the same time, Harvard and MIT partnered to create edX, another popular eLearning platform.  Ivy League schools offer MOOCs for a variety of reasons, including expanding public access to education, building their reputation, and conducting research on teaching and learning. MOOCs can also supplement classroom instruction.

Benefits of enrolling in free online courses from Ivy League schools

Free online college courses allow unprecedented access to high-quality Ivy League education. These classes also allow learners to explore interesting topics without the high expense and pressure of a traditional college course. Students who dislike a MOOC can simply quit without worrying about their GPA or enrollment record.  Sometimes, these classes open new career paths to students. Other times, learners take these classes for fun or to learn about a passion outside their chosen career. Learners who commit to a series of MOOCs can gain in-depth, focused knowledge from the best schools in the world. Sometimes they may receive a certificate of completion, often for a small fee.  However, most of the time, MOOCs do not lead to course credit, a degree, or formal credentials. For learners who need formal credentials, online degree or certificate programs are typically a better fit.  Some students have difficulty completing courses without the structure and accountability of formal education. Others strongly prefer in-person interaction and relationship-building offered by brick-and-mortar institutions. 

Free online courses from Ivy League schools

No matter their level of education or area of interest, learners can find a MOOC that suits their needs. These free online courses range from broad introductions to highly specialized, niche courses. A few examples include: