It’s back to school time.  But not just for my kids.  Like hundreds of thousands of people around the world, I’m considering taking one of the free online college courses I’ve seen advertised on the web.

 

In the past, when I saw an advertisement for a “free online course,” my skeptical radar flashed red.  After all, you get what you pay for.  So if it’s free, it’s probably worthless.  But that’s no longer the case.  More and more top universities are offering “free online courses” in everything from Ancient Greek History at Yale to Core Concepts in Chemistry at Duke.

 

Free online web classes have been around for years, but now that top universities from Harvard to Stanford are joining in the fun, any student with an Internet connection can study their subject of choice from world-renowned scholars and scientists.

 

The only catch is that you can’t yet earn college credit for the courses, but that hasn’t made these courses any less desirable.  MIT’s first online course “Circuits and Electronics” attracted 154,000 students from more than 160 countries.  Only about 7,100 students passed the course, but that's still way more students than MIT could have accommodated on campus.

 

So what will it be?  Climate Change: Law and Policy from Stanford or Buddhist Psychology at UC Berkeley?  Or maybe Marketing 321 from Texas A&M.  For a complete list of online offerings, check the website of your favorite university.  Or browse this list of 500 free online classes that I found over at Open Culture.  See you on the web! 

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