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Free online courses offered by elite universities

COVID-19 has caused sweeping changes across the world. The U.S. Department of Labor announced that 20.5 million jobs were lost in April alone. Never has the United States seen such a rapid decline in employment opportunities.  Some experts think there will be a fairly rapid recovery in jobs as the economy opens back up.  But that remains to be seen.  In the meantime, it’s important to keep yourself productive as much as possible.

If you’re one of the many millions who have lost a job due to COVID-19, you may be struggling with ways to fill up your time. It’s challenging to apply for jobs right now as many companies have put a freeze on active hiring. With everyone social distancing and staying indoors, it’s hard to find ways to fill your time. Now is a great time to be productive and increase your skill set by taking free college courses. As you complete these free online courses, you’ll make significant additions to your resume that will help you get hired quickly post-COVID.

To help you take advantage of the opportunities out there, we’ve outlined some elite universities with free online courses. There is a wide range of subjects, so rest assured there’s something on the list for everyone.

Harvard University

Harvard is an Ivy League university known for its academic prestige. Harvard’s alumni include eight U.S. presidents, 188 billionaires, CEOs, Olympians, and Pulitzer Prize winners, to name a few. Typically, attending Harvard is a far-off dream for the average person based both on cost and grades.

You can now become a part of the Harvard class of 2020 by completing one of their free online courses on HarvardX. The courses are self-paced and include information about how many weeks it will take to complete if you commit a few hours per week. The courses cover many fields of study. Some examples of classes are:

  • Cell Biology: Mitochondria (Biology & Life Sciences)
  • Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster (Health & Safety)
  • 18th Century Opera: Handel and Mozart (Music)
  • Women Making History (History)
  • Contract Law: From Trust to Promise in Contract (Business & Management)
  • Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies (Business & Management)

The course is free to take, but to verify your completion, you can choose to purchase a certification for a small fee (usually ranging from $50 – $200 USD).

Stanford University

Stanford University is an elite university known for being one of the top American schools to produce graduates that become members of Congress. This prestigious school has been offering free college courses online since 2011 as an act of service for the public on the platform Stanford Online.

Stanford Online’s courses show the course schedule, equipment needed (if applicable), and the course instructor. Some example of the courses offered are:

  • Stanford’s Short Course on Breastfeeding (Stanford School of Medicine)
  • Online Jamming and Concert Technology (Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences)
  • Mining Massive Data Sets (Stanford School of Engineering)

Note that some of the courses available on Stanford Online are paid classes, so you will have to filter through for the free options.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a world-renowned school, especially for applied science, computer science, and engineering students. Among many of its accomplished alumni, MIT has produced 41 astronauts.

MIT has over 2,400 free college courses available online through a platform called OpenCourseWare (OCW). Students can search for classes by department, MIT course number, or topic. The courses can include lecture notes, lecture videos, assignments, and resources. Some of the courses offered are:

  • Learn Enterprise en Espanol (Business)
  • Ecology: The Earth System 1 (Engineering)
  • Computation Structures (Mathematics)

Many of MIT’s courses are available in other languages.


Yale University, located in Connecticut, is an Ivy League school known for its liberal arts programs. It’s mainly known for its fantastic music and drama programs.

Through its platform Open Yale Courses (OYC), anyone can take introductory courses for a wide range of topics. All of the lectures were recorded in the Yale Classroom college and are available in video, text, and audio formats. Some examples of available courses are:

  • Frontiers of Biomedical Engineering (Biomedical Engineering)
  • African American History: From Emancipation to the Present (African American Studies)
  • Financial Theory (Economics)
  • Introduction to Theory of Literature (English)

University of California, Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley, has been ranked by many education publications as being in the top ten schools in the world. Berkeley has many impressive statistics under its belt, including the university discovering or co-discovering the most chemical elements (a total of 16).

In September 2012, Berkeley released BerkeleyX, its online platform offering free college courses. The courses are self-paced and include instructor information, the level of the course (introductory, expert), and the estimated time commitment of the course. A few examples of the courses offered are:

  • The Science of Happiness (Social Sciences)
  • Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies (Computer Sciences)
  • Writing for Social Media (Communication)

Similar to the Harvard courses, while the classes are free to take, there is a fee to receive a verified certificate of completion. The prices can range from $70 – $200 and up.

Brown University

Brown University is a prestigious Ivy League school that is unconventional in many of its approaches to education. Students are in charge of their own education, thanks to an “open curriculum.” The open approach means there are no university course requirements other than those of a student’s major. So, students can explore a wider variety of subjects throughout their education.

Through BrownX, individuals can take free online courses from Brown University. Courses include instructor information, the level of difficulty, and the estimated time commitment. Some examples of courses offered through BrownX are:

  • The Ethics of Memory (Humanities)
  • Introduction to Engineering and Design (Engineering)
  • Beyond Medical Histories: Gaining Insight from Patient Stories (Medicine)

The courses are free to take, but there is a fee to receive a verified certificate of completion. The costs can range from $50 – $200.

Now is an opportune time to take advantage of universities with free online courses. You will learn valuable skills that you can utilize when you enter the workforce again. If you’ve been considering a career switch, taking classes in your desired field can give you insight if it’s the right fit for you. Or, you can just learn for the sake of expanding your knowledge. Whatever the reason, free online courses are a great tool available at your fingertips from some of the world’s most prestigious universities. Take advantage of this opportunity now!


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