For many students, free accredited online courses offer an ideal situation. You get access to many of the same courses as on-campus students, yet with the luxury of online delivery. Likewise, free online classes are often taught by the same faculty as on-campus classes.

25 Best Free Accredited Online Courses

Whether you’re just looking to expand your knowledge and skills, trying to get one step ahead, or advancing your career, the following top 25 free online accredited courses will help you meet your goal. There are many public, private, and online schools that offer free online courses.

Accredited free classes online

Jerome L. Rekart, Ph.D., who was the Vice President of Research and Insights at Southern New Hampshire University, thinks free accredited courses are great and recommends them:

“Free accredited online courses are a fantastic way to test drive new areas that may be interesting to you without having any financial or reputational risk. They offer a great way to see whether a particular area is something that excites you or grabs you in a way that your current career just doesn’t. They also provide a great way to supplement your existing skills without having to fork over any cash to do so.”

Colleges and universities have spent millions of dollars on their online learning platforms. Doing so allows them to deliver the highest-quality free 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

Continue your search for free online programs 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 from Indiana University introduces you to critical topics in personal finance. You’ll learn how to build a strong financial future for yourself by learning about:

  • Budgeting
  • Taxes
  • Financial planning
  • Money management
Indiana University-Bloomington

This online education course is offered in partnership with edX. As such, the course is readily available online for free. It’s estimated that the course will take four to six weeks to complete. 

You can take as long as you’d like if you need additional time to finish the coursework. 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 classes is this self-paced HTML course from the University of Michigan and Coursera. This is a nice introductory course in studying web design or web development. Topics you’ll study include:

  • HTML 5
  • Coding
  • DOM Structures
University of Michigan

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. This free online course includes lecture videos and readings, which you can access immediately online upon your registration.

3. MIT’s Calculus IA

MIT’s Calculus IA Differentiation course 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. The video lectures discuss:

  • Mathematical notation
  • Geometric interpretation
  • Graph sketching
  • Linear and quadratic approximations of functions

As the name of this free online course indicates, this class focuses on derivatives. You’ll also learn how to compute it. This course also teaches you how to apply derivatives to solve real-world problems.

This is one of the most intense free online courses in our rankings, lasting 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, although a free applies if you want the online certificate.

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. Students learn 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
University of Minnesota

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. However, 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. This course includes four lessons:

  • What Is ADHD?
  • Methods of Assessment for Screening
  • School-Based Treatment Approaches and the Daily Report Card (DRC)
  • Parenting Strategies
University of Buffalo

You’ll learn about the symptoms of ADHD and gain skills that allow you to apply treatments to a classroom setting. The course materials will also help you learn treatment approaches that have proven effective. Doing so will enable you to provide better help to students with ADHD.

There are flexible deadlines, so you can adjust the pace as needed. You’ll need about eight hours to complete the entire class. Once you complete the class, you will get an online certificate.

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 on Understanding Classroom Interaction, which is available on edX, is for teachers seeking to create a more robust classroom environment. Course topics include:

  • Classroom storytelling
  • Turn-taking
  • Types of classroom participation
  • How question types influence class discussions
  • How gestures and intonation influence class interactions
University of Pennsylvania

While this course is perhaps best for elementary teachers, it can benefit teachers at all grade levels. The five-part course is self-paced and fully available online. It should take about five weeks to complete the individual courses.

Like many other free online classes 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.

Get more details about the University of Pennsylvania’s Understanding Classroom Interaction course.

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. In addition to learning about a basic understanding of psychological triage, you’ll gain skills related to:

  • Reducing acute distress
  • Practicing self-care
  • Reflective listening
Johns Hopkins University

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. An online certificate is provided upon completion.

This is a short free online course with about seven hours required to complete the associated work. 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. 

8. Stanford University’s Statistical Learning

Stanford University is one of the top schools in the nation. This free course on Statistical Learning, which is available on edX, gives you access to a Stanford education without spending any money. The courses cover:

  • Linear regression
  • Tree-based methods
  • Deep learning
  • Multiple testing
  • Classification
  • Survival modeling
Stanford University

This is a beginner course that focuses on classification methods and regression. Though some math is involved, it is not a math-intensive course. Additionally, you’ll explore resampling methods, unsupervised learning, and support vector machines.

This is a lengthy free online course – about 11 weeks. 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. This online course focuses on ten simple tools that can greatly enhance your written communication. Some of the topics you’ll study include:

  • Scaffolding
  • Common grammatical errors
  • Writing clearly
  • Writing for different business purposes
University of Colorado Boulder

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. There are more than 50 videos that accompany this course to assist you in learning. 

You also get unlimited access to multiple readings and quizzes to help you gauge your understanding. You can continue with UC Boulder’s Effective Communication Specialization on Coursera if you want to expand your learning. 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 artificial intelligence 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 gameplay
  • Constraints and Bayes nets
  • The basics of machine learning
Georgia tech

Additionally, you’ll explore probability, logic, and planning, among other computer science topics. This is a graduate-level course. Before enrolling, you should have experience with the following information technology, including computer algorithms, data structures, calculus, probability, linear algebra, and Python programming.

Industry experts teach this computer science course in artificial intelligence. You’ll have access to instructional videos, hands-on exercises, and interactive quizzes, just as you do with most free online programs.

11. Harvard University’s Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology

This course from Harvard and edX will take you on a journey through Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology. By examining the art from this period and archaeological remains, you’ll learn about the people, culture, and history of the Egyptian empire. The video lectures from Harvard University explore topics related to:

  • Egyptian religious beliefs
  • Hieroglyphics
  • The cultural significance of the pyramids
  • Egyptian burial practices
Harvard University

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 artifacts. This is a self-paced online learning course, though it should take about eight weeks to complete. While the course is free, you’ll have to pay a one-time fee to get a certificate.

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 introductory course covers topics like:

  • Python programming
  • Matplotlib
  • Pandas

The class also focuses on developing your ability to be more intuitive with data and draw conclusions about what the data says. 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 experts teach the course, so you get practical insights into 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. To do so, you’ll explore fundamental concepts like:

  • Bayesian games
  • Stochastic games
  • Repeated games
  • Game strategy
  • The extensive form
Stanford University

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. The video lectures also discuss how game theory is used to model real-life events, like the outcomes of political races or trading behavior of stock markets.

This course offers flexible deadlines and self-paced learning for busy students. Learning materials are available 100% 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 Introduction to Social Psychology course from the University of Queensland and edX takes a detailed look at 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?
University of Queensland

Furthermore, you’ll explore basic skills in non-verbal communication, pro-social behavior, and stereotyping. Like the other edX courses for free on this list, you must pay a fee to get the online certificate associated with the course.

Still, this is an introductory free online course. There are no prerequisites. It’s free to enroll, and you can learn at your own pace.

15. Udacity’s Website Performance Optimization

Udacity and Google developed this course on Front End Web Developer. It’s an intermediate exploration of website performance tools for career advancement. The content includes many different topics that are important for website optimization.

  • CSS, Website Layout, Website Components
  • JavaScript & the DOM
  • Web APIs and Asynchronous Applications
  • Build Tools and Single Page Web Apps
  • Capstone
  • Career Services

Online courses like this also examine the concept of critical rendering path. You’ll learn how to use Google Chrome’s Developer tools to find areas in which a website’s performance is lacking. To improve your professional skills, you’ll also explore strategies to enhance the delivery of websites to end-users in the most efficient manner.

This pathway includes the steps that browsers follow to change programming languages into rendered websites. Interactive quizzes help you gauge what you’ve learned and what topics you need to study further. This is a short course that you can finish in one week.

16. University of Pennsylvania’s Introduction to American Law

This introductory course from Penn and Coursera gives you a free, quality education about the American legal system. The Introduction to American Law class dives into six primary areas of law:

  • Contract law
  • Property
  • Criminal law
  • Civil procedure
  • Constitutional law
  • Tort law
University of Pennsylvania

This course focuses on the development of the legal system, so case law is part of your studies. You’ll study concepts like common law. You’ll also study legal documents, like the Constitution. 

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

Yale University, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, offers a free course on the Moral Foundations of Politics. This course explores 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.

  • Social contract
  • Utilitarianism
  • Marxism
Yale University

Additionally, you’ll study current affairs in politics and the historical context in which these theories emerged. 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 individual 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

The University of Arizona’s Exploring Time and Space course is available on Coursera. Since it’s a beginner course, you’ll learn about foundational topics in astronomy. Learning topics include:

  • Matter and radiation
  • Space and time
  • Exoplanets
  • Cosmology

University of Arizona

This distance learning course also discusses galaxies, the lifespan of stars, and the solar system. You’ll review astronomical discoveries that have added to our understanding of the universe. Gain new skills in using different tools astronomers use to investigate celestial bodies.

This course consists of 11 individual lessons. Each lesson has videos, readings, and quizzes. You can move through the course at your own speed, but expect to spend around 43 hours to complete the course requirements.

19. University of North Texas’ College Math Prep

This free course on math prep from the University of North Texas and Coursera is a good place to start if you need to brush up on basic skills before heading to college. The class offers a review of essential concepts, including:

  • Algebraic Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Probabilistic and Statistical Reasoning
  • Geometric and Spacial Reasoning
University of North Texas

Like many courses in our rankings, this course is 100% online and self-paced. Additionally, you earn a free certificate once the course requirements are met.

This course is divided into four lessons. The individual courses contain multiple readings that help refresh your memory about essential mathematics concepts.

20. University of Chicago’s Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday life

The Neurobiology of Everyday Life 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 by examining:

  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neural communication
  • Perception
  • Neurological disorders
University of Chicago

Other topics include vision, hearing, and the vestibular system. Like other beginner free courses, there are no prerequisites to enroll. 

There are graded assignments and unlimited access to video lectures. Like most of the courses on this list, it’s also self-paced, so you can work through the 10 lessons on your own time.

21. University of Maryland’s Fundamentals of Digital Marketing

The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing 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
University of Maryland

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. A one-time fee applies if you want to have graded assignments and quizzes and get a certificate for the course.

22. University of Illinois’ Microeconomics Principles

The study of economics involves looking at the role of money in transactions. But, this Microeconomics Principles 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 goes into various applications of economics, including:

  • Sports
  • Business
  • Education
  • Personal relationships
University of Illinois

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. However, a fee applies if you want the certificate for the class.

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 plays relevant to the modern world?
  • What do Shakespeare’s plays really mean?
Harvard University

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 entirely online. A fee is required for the course certification.

Get more details about Harvard University’s Shakespeare’s Life and Work

24. University of Washington’s Programming Languages

Computer programming can be a complex area of study. But, this intermediate Programming Languages 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 useful even if future projects are in Python, PHP, R, or another language.

University of Washington

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.

This course is actually part one of a three-part series. The second course and third course build on the knowledge and skills you gain in this course.

You have five separate lessons in this computer science course. Each 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.

Since this is an intermediate course, you should already have computer programming experience. At the course’s 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. The Secret of Life 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:

  • DNA
  • RNA
  • Functions of macromolecules
  • Human health and biology

You’ll learn about these topics in the context of a free, online course. Many hours of lecture videos and problem sets 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.

Are Free Accredited Online College Courses Worth It?

College students can greatly benefit from taking free accredited online college classes. 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 classes.

  • Free courses like those outlined in our rankings provide an opportunity to expand your learning without an output of money. 
  • These free online classes are a good place to start if you want to learn new things and gain new skills.
  • Free 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.
  • You’re free to explore the course content and take as much time as you need to master the areas you feel you have weaknesses.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
Closeup of a laptop

Want to get an online undergraduate degree quickly? Check out the easiest accredited online college programs!

What Is the Catch With a Free Online Course?

Generally speaking, there are no catches with online accredited programs. However, it’s important to know what to expect. While all you have to do is finish the class to get the certificate, these certificates don’t hold as much weight as a professional certificate or a free online certification program from a university.

Dr. Jerome Rekart agrees that there aren’t many catches or things to be concerned about:

“There really aren’t too many red flags with free online courses other than knowing that unlike courses that are within degree programs (which one must pay for) you won’t gain any college credit for completion. 

Also, though the name attached to the course might be an Ivy League, employers and other schools are not fooled into thinking that these are anything other than what they seem: a free offering in service of the public good.”

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. In some cases, online courses might be free, yet might have a fee associated with getting a certificate.

Your education doesn’t have to be expensive. These accredited online colleges with low tuition prove it!

Person viewing a statistical report on a laptop

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a MOOC?

MOOCs (massive open online courses) are free online courses offered by top universities like Harvard and Stanford University. MOOCs provide open access to online versions of college courses. This type of distance learning enables anyone with an internet connection to take classes from prestigious schools and gain skills without paying tuition.

Learn more about the advantages of online degree programs.

Where Can I Take Accredited Free Courses?

You can take free online courses developed by well-known universities and delivered on a third-party platform, including Coursera, edX, and Udacity. Many colleges and universities offer free online courses on their own platforms, too.

Why is accreditation so important for online courses? Learn all about it!


Accredited online courses provide an affordable, flexible way for anyone to advance their education. These free online learning platforms allow students to gain valuable skills and knowledge without accruing burdensome debt. Widespread access to free accredited courses has the potential to make education more equitable and empower countless individuals.

Want to learn more about online education and free online courses? Check out our list of the best accredited online associate’s degree programs!