Taking classes online has become the new normal. Even the top schools in the nation take advantage of the low overhead and broad reach of using the internet to connect with students and offer free online courses.
For many students, free online colleges offer an ideal situation. You get access to many of the same courses as on-campus students, but with the luxury of online delivery. Likewise, free online classes are often taught by the same faculty as on-campus classes.
In fact, colleges and universities have spent millions of dollars on their online learning platforms. Doing so allows them to deliver the highest-quality free online courses possible. This is the case for all kinds of classes, including:
- core courses and electives
- lower-division and upper-division courses undergraduate courses
- graduate-level courses
- accredited online courses
But, the cost of online learning can still be prohibitive. College is expensive whether you attend on-campus or online!
To get accredited courses that add to your knowledge and strengthen your portfolio, you might need to think outside the box. Luckily, there are many public, private, and online schools that offer free online courses. You just need to be willing to put forth the time and effort.
So, whether you’re just looking to expand your knowledge and skills, trying to get one step ahead, or advance your career, the following top 25 free online accredited courses will help you meet your goal.
Continue your search for free online courses by checking out our list of the top accredited online colleges.
1. Indiana University’s Introduction to Personal Financial Planning
This free accredited online course introduces you to critical topics in personal finance. You’ll learn how to build a strong financial future for yourself by learning about:
- Financial planning
- Money management
The course is offered in partnership with edX. As such, the course is readily available online for free. Though it’s estimated that the course will take 4-6 weeks to complete, it’s self-paced. If you need additional time to finish the coursework, you can take as long as you’d like.
Note that while this free online course is available for free, you’ll need to upgrade to the verified track to get the certificate.
2. The University of Michigan’s Introduction to HTML 5
Next on our list of accredited free online courses is this self-paced HTML course from the University of Michigan and Coursera.
If you’re interested in studying web design or web development, this is a nice introductory course. HTML is one of the foundations of our online world. Taking this course helps you understand what HTML 5 is and how to use it to build websites, mobile apps, and more.
This is a short course that requires about 13 hours of coursework. It should take about three weeks to complete. Topics you’ll study include:
- HTML 5
- DOM Structures
This free online course includes lecture videos and readings, which you can access immediately online upon your registration.
3. MIT’s Calculus IA
This is an excellent class if you need help with your calculus. It’s actually the first of three courses offered for free from MIT and edX.
As the name of this free online course indicates, this class focuses on derivative. You’ll learn what a derivative is. You’ll also learn how to compute it. This course also teaches you how to apply derivative to solve real-world problems.
This is one of the most intense free online courses in our rankings. It lasts six to ten weeks. It is instructor-paced, so there is a set schedule for completing the coursework. As with other courses offered through edX, the class is free, but a free applies if you want the online certificate.
Get more details about MIT’s Calculus IA Differentiation course.
4. The University of Minnesota’s Introduction to Integrative Nursing
This course from the University of Minnesota and Coursera introduces you to the practice of integrative nursing. The class helps you understand how to care for the whole patient – not just their physical well-being.
Key topics of discussion include:
- Principles of integrative nursing
- Integrative nursing assessments
- How to improve symptom management in patients
- How to apply integrative nursing principles in nursing practice
There are five course segments. It will take about 16 hours to complete the class. This is the first of five classes in an Integrative Nursing Specialization.
This is a beginner course. But, you should already be a practicing nurse to take the class. Continuing education credits might be available with this free online course.
5. University of Buffalo’s ADHD: Everyday Strategies for Elementary Students
Teachers who want to learn more about ADHD can take this beginner-level course from the University of Buffalo and Coursera.
The class provides a broad look at the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. You’ll learn about the symptoms of ADHD. You’ll also discover treatment approaches that have proven effective.
Likewise, you’ll gain skills that allow you to apply treatments to a classroom setting. Doing so will enable you to provide better help to students that have ADHD.
This course includes four lessons. You’ll need about eight hours to complete the entire class. There are flexible deadlines, so you can adjust the pace as needed. Once you complete the class, you will get an online certificate.
Want to get an online undergraduate degree quickly? Check out the easiest accredited online college programs!
6. University of Pennsylvania’s Understanding Classroom Interaction
The University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League school and one of the best colleges in the nation. This free online course, which is available on edX, is for teachers seeking to create a more robust classroom environment.
While this course is perhaps best for elementary teachers, it can benefit teachers at all grade levels. Course topics include:
- Classroom storytelling
- Types of classroom participation
- How question types influence class discussions
- How gestures and intonation influence class interactions
This is a five-part course. It’s self-paced and fully available online. It should take about five weeks to complete.
Like many other free online courses in this ranking, you can audit the course for free. Alternatively, you can take the verified course for a fee and get a certificate at the course’s end.
7. Johns Hopkins University’s Psychological First Aid
This psychological first aid course from Johns Hopkins and Coursera prepares you to address emergency situations. You’ll learn how to use the RAPID method: Reflective listening, Assessment of needs, Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition.
This type of training is applicable in many work settings. Mental health providers, medical workers, and teachers are among those most likely to benefit from psychological first aid training.
In addition to learning about psychological triage, you’ll gain skills related to:
- Reducing acute distress
- Practicing self-care
- Reflective listening
This is a short free online course with about seven hours required to complete the associated work. But, it’s a self-paced course, so you can take longer if needed.
You can begin the class immediately and access all course materials online. An online certificate is provided upon completion.
8. Stanford University’s Statistical Learning
Stanford University is one of the top schools in the nation. This free course, which is available on edX, gives you access to a Stanford education without spending any money.
This is a beginner course. The focus is on classification methods and regression. Though some math is involved, it is not a math-intensive course. What you will study, though, includes:
- Linear regression
- Tree-based methods
- Deep learning
- Multiple testing
- Survival modeling
Additionally, you’ll explore resampling methods, unsupervised learning, and support vector machines.
This is a lengthy free online course – about 11 weeks. But, you can proceed at your own pace and take longer if needed. Note that there are several prerequisites for this class, including basic courses in statistics, linear algebra, and computing.
9. University of Colorado’s Business Writing
Expand your business acumen with this business writing course from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Coursera.
Having effective written communication skills is imperative in the business world. You need to understand how to organize your writing, structure it, and select the appropriate verbiage for maximum impact.
This online course focuses on ten simple tools that can greatly enhance your written communication. Some of the topics you’ll study include:
- Common grammatical errors
- Writing clearly
- Writing for different business purposes
There are more than 50 videos that accompany this course to assist you in learning. There are multiple readings and quizzes to help you gauge your understanding.
If you want to expand your learning, you can continue with UC Boulder’s Effective Communication Specialization on Coursera. Its free online courses are structured much in the same way and are self-paced.
10. Georgia Tech’s Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is becoming a larger and larger part of computer science and our daily lives. This course from Georgia Tech and Udacity explores the basics of AI.
As part of your studies, you’ll explore topics related to:
- Artificial intelligence for conducting searches and game play
- Constraints and Bayes nets
- The basics of machine learning
Additionally, you’ll explore probability, logic, and planning, among other computer science topics.
This is a graduate-level course. You should have experience with the following information technology topics before enrolling:
- Computer algorithms
- Data structures
- Linear algebra
This computer science course is taught by experts in artificial intelligence. You’ll have access to instructional videos, hands-on exercises, and interactive quizzes, just as you do with most free online courses.
Your education doesn’t have to be expensive. These accredited online colleges with low tuition proves it!
11. Harvard University’s Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology
If you’re a history buff, this course from Harvard and edX will take you on a journey through Ancient Egypt. By examining the art from this period and archaeological remains, you’ll learn about the people, culture, and history of the Egyptian empire.
Online courses like this aren’t just about learning names and dates, though. Instead, you’ll learn valuable skills that are transferable to other courses.
For example, you’ll develop the ability to identify the significance of events and their long-lasting effects on humankind. As another example, you’ll learn how to use digital technologies to conduct research and explore ancient artificts.
Additionally, this course explores topics related to:
- Egyptian religious beliefs
- The cultural significance of the pyramids
- Egyptian burial practices
This is a self-paced online learning course, though it should take about eight weeks to complete. The course is free. But, if you want a certificate, you’ll have to pay a one-time fee.
12. Udacity’s Introduction to Data Analysis
This beginner course from Udacity introduces you to the basic concepts of data analysis. You’ll learn how to pose questions and wrangle data. You’ll also learn methods to explore data and find patterns within it.
The class also focuses on developing your ability to be more intuitive with data and draw conclusions about what the data says.
Other topics include:
Additionally, you’ll explore ways to communicate what you find as a result of your data analysis.
Learning for free online in this class takes about six weeks to finish. It includes rich learning content and interactive quizzes. Industry professionals teach the course, so you get practical insights about data analysis processes.
13. Stanford University’s Game Theory
You can enroll in this course from Stanford, the University of British Columbia, and Coursera for free. Once enrolled, you’ll learn about the mathematical modeling that underlies game theory.
Another focus of the course is on the interaction between rational and irrational agents. You’ll learn how to apply your knowledge to simple tasks, like games of chess. You’ll also learn how game theory is used to model real-life events, like the outcomes of political races or trading behavior of stock markets.
To do so, you’ll explore fundamental concepts like:
- Bayesian games
- Stochastic games
- Repeated games
- Game strategy
- The extensive form
This course offers flexible deadlines and self-paced learning. All learning materials are available 100 percent online. A shareable, free certificate is available upon completion of the course. This goes for other free courses on Coursera as well.
14. University of Queensland’s Introduction to Social Psychology
This course from the University of Queensland and edX takes a detailed look human behavior in social settings. This includes considering how our behavior changes depending on who we’re with and the context of our interactions with others.
There are several essential questions you’ll consider in this course:
- How do we influence one another?
- Why do we hurt people?
- What is our view of ourselves in relation to others?
Furthermore, you’ll explore non-verbal communication, pro-social behavior, and stereotyping.
This is an introductory free online course. There are no prerequisites. It’s free to enroll, and you can learn at your own pace.
Like the other edX courses for free on this list, you must pay a fee to get the online certificate associated with the course.
15. Udacity’s Website Performance Optimization
Udacity and Google developed this course. It’s an intermediate exploration of website performance tools. At just one week, this is a short course. But, the content includes many different topics that are important for website optimization.
For example, you’ll learn how to use Google Chrome’s Developer tools to find areas in which a website’s performance is lacking. You’ll also explore strategies to enhance deliver of websites to end-users in the most efficient manner.
Online courses like this also examines the concept of “critical rendering path.” This pathway includes the steps that browsers follow to change programming languages into rendered websites.
You can explore various learning tools throughout the course. Interactive quizzes help you gauge what you’ve learned and what topics you need to study further.
Why is accreditation so important for online courses? Learn all about it!
16. University of Pennsylvania’s Introduction to American Law
This introductory course from Penn and Coursera gives you a free, detailed look at the American legal system. The class dives into six primary areas of law:
- Contract law
- Criminal law
- Civil procedure
- Constitutional law
- Tort law
This course focuses about the development of the legal system. You’ll study concepts like common law. You’ll also study legal documents, like the Constitution. Case law is also part of your studies.
You can work at your own pace. But, the online learning course is broken into seven modules, with one study module per week. Deadlines are flexible, and the course is completely online. A free certificate is available upon completing the class.
17. Yale University’s Moral Foundations of Politics
This course explores one central question: when should governments have the loyalty of their citizens, and when should governments be denied it?
To answer this question, you’ll explore the theoretical and moral foundations of politics. This includes a survey of:
- The social contract
Additionally, you’ll study the historical context in which these theories emerged. Current affairs in politics are also discussed.
A significant portion of the class focuses on democratic politics. More specifically, you’ll examine democratic politics through the lens of the Enlightenment and the Anti-Enlightenment. Major players, including authors, philosophers, and politicians, are subject to study as well.
This Yale University course takes about 45 hours to complete. It’s self-paced, so you can take as much or as little time as you need.
18. University of Arizona’s Astronomy: Exploring Time and Space
For example, you’ll review astronomical discoveries that have added to our understanding of the universe. You’ll also explore the different tools astronomers use to investigate celestial bodies.
Other online learning topics include:
- Matter and radiation
- Space and time
You’ll also study galaxies, the lifespan of stars, and the solar system.
This course is broken into 11 individual lessons. Each lesson has videos, readings, and quizzes. You can move through the course at your own pace, but expect to spend around 43 hours to complete the course requirements.
19. University of North Texas’ College Math Prep
If you need to brush up on your math skills before heading to college, this free online course from the University of North Texas and Coursera is a good place to start.
Like the other online courses in our rankings, this course 100 percent online. It’s also self-paced. Additionally, you earn a free certificate once the course requirements are met.
The class offers a review of essential concepts, including:
- Algebraic Reasoning
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Probabilistic and Statistical Reasoning
- Geometric and Spacial Reasoning
This course is divided into four lessons. Each lesson has multiple readings that help refresh your memory about essential mathematics concepts.
20. University of Chicago’s Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday life
This is a free course from the University of Chicago and Coursera. It focuses on the nervous system’s role in human behavior.
More specifically, you’ll learn how people use their brains and how neuroscience helps answer questions we have about human behavior.
Likewise, you’ll examine:
- Neural communication
- Neurological disorders
Other topics include vision, hearing, and the vestibular system.
Like other beginner free courses, there are no prerequisites to enroll. Like most of the free courses on this list, it’s also self-paced, so you can work through the 10 lessons on your own time.
Learn more about the advantages of online degree programs.
21. University of Maryland’s Fundamentals of Digital Marketing
This business course comes from the University of Maryland and is available on edX free of charge.
The class focuses on business and management principles. It zeroes in on digital marketing and how the digital economy works.
You’ll take a look at elements like social media marketing and e-commerce. You’ll also explore:
- Online advertising
- Consumer behavior
- New media platforms
- Digital marketing apps
This course can be completed in about four weeks. It’s self-paced, though, so you can take more time, if necessary. You should plan to spend about three to five hours a week on studies for this class.
As with the other free courses on this list, all course materials are available online. edX support is also available. If you want to have graded assignments and quizzes and get a certificate for the course, a one-time fee applies.
22. University of Illinois’ Microeconomics Principles
The study of economics involves looking at the role of money in transactions. But, this course from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Coursera dives much deeper.
For example, you’ll study how economics and the environment are intertwined. You’ll also look at economic crimes, labor markets, and politics.
In fact, this course delves into various applications of economics, including:
- Personal relationships
Of course, you’ll also study topics like supply and demand, production, and elasticities.
This is an eight-lesson course. Each course is designed to take one week to complete. However, it’s a self-paced class, so you can work through each lesson faster if you like.
Since this is a beginner class, you don’t need prior experience in studying economics to enroll. Note that a fee applies if you want the certificate for the class, though.
23. Harvard University’s Shakespeare’s Life and Work
As the name of this free course states, the focus of your studies will be Shakespeare’s life and his work. The course is by Harvard and is available on edX.
There are various questions you’ll consider throughout the course. These include:
- How does one read Shakespeare’s work?
- Are Shakespeare’s play relevant to the modern world?
- What do Shakespeare’s plays really mean?
These questions will be answered in the context of what Shakespeare’s work meant during his time and in present day. Deep literary analyses reveal hidden meanings and help you decipher Shakespeare’s sometimes complicated texts.
An interesting element of this free online course is that some lesson videos were filmed on location in England. In addition to these videos, you get access to required readings.
The basic course is free and is done completely online. A fee is required for the course certification.
24. University of Washington’s Programming Languages
Computer programming can be a complex area of study. But, this intermediate computer science course from the University of Washington and Coursera helps you gain critical skills that make functional programming easier. It’s an excellent choice among free online computer courses!
You will learn about three programming languages: ML, Ruby, and Racket. What you learn while using these languages is transferable to other programming languages. This means your skills will be of use even if future projects are in Python, PHP, R, and so forth.
Because you’ll use three different languages, you’ll build skills that allow you to design programs on a variety of platforms. The code you write will be both composable and reusable in computer science applications.
You have five separate lessons in this computer science course. Each one is intended to retain your focus for a week’s worth of studies. But, since it’s self-paced, you can move more quickly through material if you are already familiar with it.
Being that this is an intermediate course, you should already have some computer programming experience. At the courses end, you’ll get a free online certification.
25. MIT’s Introduction to Biology: The Secret of Life
Rounding out our list of free certificate courses is this beginner class from MIT and edX. It introduces you to multiple topics in biology. You’ll study genetics, molecular biology, and genomics. You’ll also explore biochemistry and rational medicine.
Other topics include:
- Functions of macromolecules
- Human health and biology
You’ll learn about these topics in the context of a free, online course. There are many hours of lecture videos and problem sets that help you work through crucial questions about life sciences. There are also quizzes to help you monitor your progress.
The course is led by MIT professor Eric Lander. Professor Lander was instrumental in the Human Genome Project.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are free accredited online college classes worth it?
Some college students can greatly benefit from taking free accredited online college classes.
For example, free courses like those outlined in our rankings provide an opportunity to expand your learning without an output of money. If you’re interested in learning new things and gaining new skills, these free online courses are a good place to start.
Likewise, free online courses are a great way for high school students to brush up on topics before applying to college. Most of the courses in our rankings are self-paced, so there’s no pressure to get assignments done at a certain time. Instead, you’re free to explore the course content and take as much time as you need to master the areas you feel you have weakness.
Another benefit of free online college classes with certificates is that you might be able to use the certificates you earn to apply for academic programs or even jobs.
For example, if you’re applying to a competitive bachelor’s degree program, having a certificate in online courses might help you stand out from other applicants. If it’s a job you’re after, the expertise you demonstrate with a certificate from an accredited online course might impress hiring managers enough to put your name at the top of the list.
What’s the catch with free accredited online certificate programs?
Generally speaking, there are no catches with online accredited programs. But it’s important to know what to expect going into your free courses.
Usually, free online courses have certificates that are of the completion variety. In other words, all you have to do is finish the class to get the certificate. These types of certificates don’t hold as much weight as a professional certificate or a free online certification program from a university. There’s a good reason for this.
Professional online certifications are usually very in depth and last months. Likewise, the level of rigor and depth of study is much deeper than a free online certificate course.
Educational certificate programs at universities are also far more robust. You might take five or six different classes to get the certificate. The certificate is also noted on your transcripts.
Still, demonstrating that you’ve put in the time and effort to learn new things and having proof of your learning with a completion certificate can be a valuable asset for continuing your education or looking for a job.
In some cases, you can take accredited classes with a certificate for free. In other cases, the online courses might be free, but they might be a fee associated with getting a certificate. Again, just be aware of such caveats before enrolling free online certificate program, that way you know precisely what to expect.
Where can I take accredited courses online?
One of the benefits of taking accredited courses online is that they’re available from many sources.
As you read through the rankings above, you no doubt noticed that many of the free online courses are developed by well-known universities and delivered on a third-party platform. These platforms, like Coursera, edX, and Udacity, are popular storehouses for accredited courses with certificates.
Many colleges and universities offer free online courses on their own platforms, too. Usually, these free courses don’t include a certificate, though.
The key to finding accredited courses is looking at the developer of the course. The free online courses in our rankings are all from some of the most prestigious universities like Yale University, Harvard, and Stanford.
Want to learn more about online education and free online courses? Check out our list of the best accredited online associate’s degree programs!