Often times, college students enroll in courses and take out sizable student loans for one reason alone: to get a diploma. But what if you’re more interested in receiving an education than you are in getting certification? If that’s the case, then it seems kind of silly to spend a $100,000 just to learn things that you could be getting out of books at your local library.
Fortunately, some schools have gotten wise to this fact and have instituted programs that allow users to access open courseware and other school software absolutely free of charge. Texts, lectures, notes, and even assignments are offered online without the cost of tuition. Don’t expect to get any one-on-one time with the professors and certainly don’t expect to be getting credit for these courses, but if knowledge is what you’re after, then it doesn’t get much better than this. Here are four organizations that offer free online courses that aim to reward students with knowledge, if not diplomas.
1. Open Courseware Consortium
If you’re not sure of the specifics of what you want to study, you can always go with OpenCourseWare Consortium. This database allows you to access hundreds of different courses from colleges from around the world. Just choose a language, pick a subject that interests you, and start learning. The vision behind this impressive collection of free classes is one in which the world of the future is filled not only with the desire to learn, but also the ability to do so.
If you’re more of a visual learner, then the open course-ware from UC Berkeley may be what you are looking for. The school offers an impressive selection of webcasts from actual lectures in subjects ranging from agriculture, to social studies, to psychology, and more. The website’s interface allows students to simply select and watch their desired lecture as easily as if they were enjoying a YouTube video. And unlike real lectures, these ones can be paused or rewound (in case you happen to nod off).
3. Harvard Medical School
Most people don’t have seven years and a small fortune to invest in medical school just to satiate their curiosity about modern medicine, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy some of the same materials and instruction that have produced world-class doctors for over 200 years. The Harvard Medical School site offers open course-ware that includes videos, notes, and other resources, including special simulations that can help users get a more accurate feel for what it means to be a student at the top ranked medical school in the country.
MIT was one of the first schools to begin offering open courseware, and it’s still one of best options available. Their goal is to make all of their course materials available to anyone who is interested in accessing them, be they students looking for additional resources, educators striving to perfect their own curriculum, or even laymen scholars just trying to satisfy their curiosity. With over 2,150 courses available, there’s sure to be something you’ll find worth learning.
All the materials for a specific course can be downloaded as a single package, making the course-ware not only useful, but also uncomplicated to access. MIT’s open courses offer everything from lectures and videos, to texts and assignments, to interactive programs. As such, it’s no wonder that many colleges and universities that have begun to adopt open courseware initiatives have attempted to imitate MIT’s program. So forget about student loans and 7:00 a.m. AM classes, with open courseware you can enjoy the thrill of learning, without all of the stress of college life. And hey, if you do decide that you want a diploma after all, at least you’ll have a nice head start on the material.
Michael Brinkley is a corporate trainer. He flies cross-country and gives seminars on topics such as employee motivation, career satisfaction, and advancement opportunities. He lives with his wife and daughter in the midwest.