Best Free Online Open Universities (Updated-2020)

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It’s the digital revolution. The internet has intensified connections across communities and cultures. Barriers are crashing down.

Today, someone who truly wants to learn something new has so many options which were unimaginable even thirty years ago. Education has been revolutionized.

This has spread to even the higher educational institutions, which previously required cumbersome application procedures and more investment of time than a student could afford.

Some of the most prestigious universities in the world today offer a digital platform to most of their courses, which a student can access at anytime from anywhere in the world.

Let us explore some of the best free online open universities in the world. The list has been compiled keeping in mind factors like:

  1. Credibility of the teacher/institution
  2. Levels – laymen to expert
  3. Resources available to the student – study materials, after course updates, interaction with teachers/fellow students.
  4. Reviews of previous students
  5. Financial aid (whether available)
  6. Whether the course if credit or non credit
  7. Certificate/degree (whether provided)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT OpenCourseWare

Salient features are:

  • It is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and an Ivy League School to boot.
  • Some of the schools which offer free courses on various topics are – architecture and planning, engineering, humanities, arts and social sciences, science and management.
  • There are also a number of cross disciplinary topics offered such as – life sciences, energy, transportation, environment and entrepreneurship.
  • Each course offers resources such as online textbooks and audio/video lectures.
  • A standout features is the OCW Scholar, which provides the same resources as used on campus lectures. Students are able to conduct independent studies at their own pace.
  • Visit –

Yale University – Open Yale courses

Salient features are:

  • Open Yale courses provides a gateway to those wishing to gain more knowledge on certain subjects.
  • Only introductory courses are offered with free and open access.
  • All courses are offered by teachers and scholar of Yale University.
  • No registration is required for any of these courses.
  • The classroom lectures are actual recorded videos of the campus classes.
  • Resources are available in text, audio and video formats.
  • Important note: Open Yale Courses website does not provide course credits, degrees or certificates. However, Yale Summer Online offers courses for Yale college credit.
  • The courses are offered on the Coursera platform.
  • Some of the most popular courses are provided by the following departments – biomedical engineering, chemistry, economics, history, environmental studies, political science, and psychology.
  • Visit –

Carnegie Mellon University – Open Learning Initiative

Salient features are:

  • OLI offers resources to both students and teachers.
  • All OLI course materials are online and free.
  • Students are encouraged to work at their own pace.
  • The OLI platform is unique in the sense that it provides consistent feedback to students on their progress, and whether more improvement is required.
  • Some of the courses on offer are – biochemistry, causal and statistical reasoning, introductory Chinese, introductory French, general chemistry, logic and proofs and introduction to psychology.
  • Important note: OLI does not grant verification or certification on the completion of a course, and does not grant credits either.
  • Visit –

University of California (Berkeley) – BerkeleyX on edX

Salient features are:

  • BerkeleyX offers both self paced courses and courses which must be followed at the instructor’s pace.
  • Students are required to register on the edX platform to access courses.
  • All the courses are verified.
  • Some of the departments which offer courses are – biology and life sciences, business and management, computer science, communication, economics and finance and many more.
  • Moving forward from the traditional degrees and topics, BerkeleyX offers courses in cutting edge disciplines such as – The Science of Happiness, Solving Public Policy Problems, Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain Technology, Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work, Marketing Analytics, Foundations of Data Science, The Beauty and Joy of Computing and many more.
  • Courses offered in earlier periods are provided in the archives.
  • Visit

University of Michigan – openmichigan

Salient features are:

  • Openmichigan offers the products of its research, teaching and creative work to both students and teachers off campus.
  • Materials are offered as part of open educational resources, open data and open publications platforms.
  • Open education resources are categorized based on the specific school – architecture and urban planning, chemistry, education, engineering, global health, history, law, mathematics, pharmacy and statistics, to name a few. The formats are course materials, lectures, student work, videos etc.
  • Open Publications platform offers a wide range of content which authors have made available to be used online. These books are journals are vital for research students and teachers who cannot afford costly subscription journals.
  • Important note: Openmichigan does not offer credit courses.
  • Visit –

These are the top free online open universities in the world which offer online courses. Some other notable examples which offer courses at very reasonable rates are given below.

Students must carefully study the prerequisites, financial requirements and time investment of each course.

  • University of Phoenix
  • Indiana University
  • Arizona State University
  • Drexel University
  • Kansas State University
  • American Public University System
  • University of Maryland
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • University of Alabama
  • Pennsylvania State University

Other examples of universities which offer non credit courses online are:

  • Duke University
  • Harvard University
  • John Hopkins University
  • Vanderbilt University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Tel Aviv University
  • UC Irvine
  • Dartmouth College
  • University of Virginia
  • Northwestern University
  • Georgetown University
  • University of Florida
  • Utah State University
  • Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • Wageningen University, the Netherlands
  • Online Business School, Spain
  • The Open University, United Kingdom

So this concludes the collection of universities worldwide which offer online courses. Students must be very clear on why they are interested in a particular course.

They must also keep in mind what future course of action or career they are contemplating. Since most free online courses are non credit, they will not contribute towards being a degree or certificate awarded on completion.

Free courses are mostly intended to expand horizons and increase knowledge. Students must research on whether these free online courses will be accepted by potential employers.

As for the paid online courses, they usually provide graduate or post graduate degrees on completion.

In such cases students must be clear on the financial options, and pace of the course. Today, most of the prestigious universities worldwide offer online courses in some form or another. Students will be spoilt for choice.