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135 Completely Free Distance Education Courses

Jul 25, 2007 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 7 Comments

Whether you’re studying online or at a traditional college, there’s no question that school is expensive.  But not everything has to cost an arm and a leg.  There are plenty of free distance education resources out there for cash-strapped students—if you know where to look.  Here are 135 free ways to enhance your education online.

Free Classes

Many of these schools and sites offer a large number of free courses and courseware.  These links to individual classes represent only a small sampling of what they have to offer, and the sites are worth exploring further.

Agriculture and Agricultural Engineering:

Tufts University: Agricultural Science and Policy Course I
Utah State University: Surface Irrigation Design Course
Utah State University: Wildland Fire Management and Planning


MIT: Medical Anthropology
Notre Dame: Islamic Societies of the Middle East and North Africa Studies
Utah State University: Cultural Anthropology Class

Art, History, and the Humanities:

Notre Dame: Jews and Christians Through History Courseware
Tufts University: Producing Films for Social Change
Utah State University: History of Utah
Utah State University: Understanding Theatre
Washington University: History of Jazz: New Orleans


Berkeley: General Biology Video & Podcasts

Tufts University: Tropical Ecology and Conservation

Tufts University: Biology of Water and Health

Utah State University: General Ecology, Spring 2007

MIT Open Courseware: Animal Behavior

UNU Open Courseware: Training Course on Mangroves and Biodiversity

Business: Principles of Modern Marketing
Hewlett Packard: Real Estate Marketing Made Easy
Small Business Association: How to Start a Business on a Shoestring Budget
MIT: Taxes and Business Strategy

Civil Engineering:

MIT: Introduction to Urban Design and Development
MIT: Introduction to Environmental Policy and Planning
MIT: Regional Energy/Environmental Economic Modeling

MIT: Sustainable Economic Development
The Open University: Managing Coastal Environments
Utah State University: Numerical Methods in Civil Engineering

Computer Studies:

Berkeley: Introduction to Computers Fundamentals of C++
Hewlett Packard: Introduction to Programming
Washington University: HTML Basics
IBM: New to Linux


MIT: Economics and E-Commerce
MIT: Principles of Macroeconomics
MIT: Economic Applications of Game Theory
MIT: Competition in Telecommunications

GED and College Prep
ASU: Telecommunications for Instruction
Indiana University: Developing Family Literacy Program
University of Kentucky: Online Physics for Teachers






 Environmental Studies:

Berkeley: Wildlife Ecology
Johns Hopkins University: Nutritional Health, Food Production, and the Environment
MIT: Chemicals in the Environment: Toxicology and Public Health
MIT: Sustainable Design and Technology Research Workshop
MIT: Introduction to Environmental History
MIT: Energy and Environment in American History
Utah State University: Avalanche and Snow Dynamics

Family Issues:

Brigham Young University: Building a Functional Family
Utah State University: Power of Positive Parenting
MIT: The Contemporary American Family


B.W. Smigel: Introduction to Gemology


Brigham Young University:  Finding Your Ancestors

Health and Medicine:

Berkeley: Introduction to Human Nutrition Introduction to Immunology
Johns Hopkins University: Social and Behavioral Foundations of Primary Health Care
Health U: Insomnia
Tufts University: Geriatric Dentistry
Tufts University: Human Growth and Development
Washington University: Energy, Diet, and Weight
Washington University School of Medicine: Learn CPR

Homeland Defense:

Johns Hopkins University: Case Studies in Terrorism Response
MIT: Nationalism
MIT: Technology in a Dangerous World
MIT: Human Rights in Theory and Practice

Language: Mandarin Chinese
Russian  Russian
Serbian School: Serbian
Sogang Korean Program: Basic Korean Dutch
Swedish Language Course: Swedish
Utah State University: First Year Chinese I


MIT: Calculus
MIT: Mathematics for Computer Science
MIT: Single Variable Calculus
Whatcom Community College: Abstract Algebra Online
Delft Open Courseware: Math Learning Space

Media and Journalism:

BBC: Interviewing For Radio
MIT: Video Game Theory and Analysis
MIT: Expository Writing


Brigham Young University: Leadership of the Mormon Church
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary: Dimensions of the Faith
Notre Dame: Foundations of Theology
Notre Dame: Faith and the African American Experience


MIT: Consumer Culture
MIT: Environmental Conflict and Social Change


Research Tools


Access to scholarly journals:

Google Scholar: Search scholarly articles with Google.
Resource Shelf: See the results of searches performed by professional researchers, scholars, professors, and reference librarians.
Directory of Open Access Journals: Online access to scholarly and scientific journals—all free.
Rutgers Library Online: Rutgers library archives on African American history, literature, and culture. Privately-run website where academic researchers can store online academic papers—a user-contributed web library.
Questia: Online library.  Searchable access to journals and books.
University of Houston Libraries: Directory of free-access scholarly journals online.
JournalSeek: Online access to scholarly journals.
Virginia Tech Electronic Journals: Free, open-access e-journals at the Digital Library at Virginia Tech.

Easy explanations, tutorials, and touch-ups:

How Stuff Works: Easily understandable explanations of how just about everything works, from plasma converters to antibiotics.
Wikipedia: Online encyclopedia; good for quick definitions of terms and concepts, but not considered a valid reference resource for papers.
Mathcasts: Math tutorials.
The Owl at Purdue: Online MLA style guide, plus advice on writing academic and scientific research papers.
Education Online for Computer Software: Tutorials for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other basic software useful in online learning.
Cliff Notes: Free online access to Cliff Notes literature summaries and analysis.
Physics Tutorials: Tutorials and explanations of basic physics concepts.
Biology Tutorials: Tutorials on a wide variety of biology subjects.
HTML Code Tutorial: Offers tutorials on HTML, applets, CSS, and other programming topics. Brush up on your typing skills—very useful preparation for online classes. Beginner’s guide to effective email.
5-Minute Guide to the Internet: Good resource for those just getting started with Internet basics.
Glossary of Internet Terms: Definitions to both basic and advanced online terms and acronyms.

News sources:

U.S. News Archives on the Web: News coverage of current and past events in all 50 states.
BBC Archives: News coverage on events all over the world.  Good for a non-American perspective on events.
The U.S. Library of Congress: Newspaper and current periodical reading room.  Links to on and offline news sources and archives. Immense directory of newspaper and magazine archives, browsable by country or region. American newspaper websites, listed by state.

Interactive research:

Yahoo! Answers: Ask questions for other users to answer. Free, searchable access to millions of published documents.  You can also ask and answer questions online.
Scientific American: Bring your science questions to professional scientists.
Ask an Expert: find an expert and ask questions in a wide variety of fields. Volunteer experts on a wide variety of subjects.  The net’s oldest Q&A website.
PointAsk: Ask and give answers to users online. Q&A forums with subject experts.
Experts Exchange: Mostly technology, computers, Internet, software and hardware experts.
Math Central Quandaries and Queries: Bring difficult math questions here for explanations.

References for specific topics:

Mayo Clinic: Database of diseases and conditions.  Type in symptoms to match with diseases, or study individual conditions.  Great resource for medical students.
Cornell Legal Information Institute: Comprehensive online resource on U.S. law code, Supreme Court decisions, and more.
National Human Genome Research Institute: A collection of resources on DNA science and genome research.
American Anthropological Association: Online resources for anthropology students.
ThomasNet: Online resources for industrial design and engineering students.
Erratic Impact: Resources for philosophy students.
Small Business Administration: Resources for students in on starting a new business
All Business Schools: Resources for students in business and accounting.
Firefly: Information about the disappearance of fireflies in urban and suburban areas
Public Library of Science: Open-access database of free scientific journals.
The Educator’s Reference Desk: Resources for education majors.
Social Science Research Network: Vast online library of social science research and data.
Astrophysics Data System Scanned Article Service: Scanned scholarly articles from Harvard’s astrophysics library.
Free Medical Journals: Database of important medical journals that offer free online access.
Artcyclopedia: Comprehensive online guide to all genres of visual art and artists.
Gray’s Anatomy Online:’s online edition of Gray’s Anatomy.  It’s a searchable database, complete with hand-drawn illustrations.

Social Support

Meetup: Start or join a face-to-face group of online learners in your area.
Yahoo! Groups: Find an online gathering of like-minded online students.
Craigslist: Immense online classifieds.  Advertise or find an advertisement for online students interested in starting a study group.
StudentCenter: Make connections with other college students.  Mainly aimed toward a younger crowd.




Mustafa Yavuz Over a year ago

Great job, special thanks for your efforts :))

Ron Brandenburger Over a year ago

Great list. Thank you... very interesting.

SarahRi Over a year ago

You can finally take that course in Geriatric Dentistry that you've always been interested in!

Ben Pfeiffer Over a year ago

Yes! Thats a great course!

eslconsult Over a year ago

Great resource for those wanting an online course of study!

Carla Over a year ago

I just wanted to know whether you get a certificate when you finish the course or not, please need answers

Khine Zar Chi Wint Over a year ago

Should we need to answer the exam to get certificate?

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