50 Best Sources of Free Liberal Arts Learning Online
Quote:Jun 13, 2012
The 50 Best Sources of Free Liberal Arts Learning Online
by Staff Writers

A liberal arts education can be the foundation for a career in just about any field, from politics to business, not just those directly related to liberal arts majors. Through these courses, students learn how to solve problems, think critically, write well, and gain a whole host of important facts about history and culture. That’s what makes these kinds of courses so essential in a well-rounded college degree program, and why so many colleges require students to take them, regardless of major.

Even if you’ve already signed up to take the basic liberal arts courses at your school, whether for your major or to fulfill general education requirements, it never hurts to take a few more or to expand your knowledge beyond the material covered in a course. We previously compiled a list of the best free STEM resources and now it’s the liberal arts’ turn, with loads of courses, lectures, reading material, and more on this list for you to look at and learn from in your free time.


These universities offer a wide range of liberal arts courses that students can access for free.

1 MIT OpenCourseWare:
MIT offers one of the largest collections of open courses anywhere on the web. While you might think they would just be STEM-related, there are actually a good number of liberal arts courses to choose from as well.

2 The Open University:
There are so many liberal arts courses to choose from on the Open University, from Art in Venice to the French Revolution, that you could take one every week and still not tackle them all.

3 Open Yale Courses:
Yale offers free courses in diverse fields, including African American Studies, Classics, English, History, and Art History, among many more.

4 UC Berkeley Webcasts:
Choose from courses in great liberal arts fields like anthropology and psychology when you head to UC Berkeley’s open learning site.

5 Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative:
The bulk of the material on the OLI is technology-focused, but you can also find courses on French, speech, and soon, psychology.

6 University of Notre Dame OCW:
Notre Dame boasts an impressive collection of OCW in the liberal arts, with something to meet almost any students’ needs.

7 UCI OpenCourseWare:
Head to the University of California-Irvine’s OCW page to get access to courses in the social sciences, education, and the humanities.

8 OpenUW:
The University of Washington offers a limited number of courses for free, but some are on really great topics like the Civil War, Greek mythology, Hamlet, Shakespeare, and even JRR Tolkien.

9 Columbia Interactive:
While this site is no longer being updated with new material, the existing courses that are offered here are well worth your time to check out, covering everything from poli sci to literature.

10 Open Oxford University:
You don’t have to get accepted to this prestigious British school to take courses there. Instead, head to their iTunes U site and start learning about literature, nature, and much more.

11 Stanford University on iTunes U:
Stanford is another school with a standout collection of courses on iTunes U. Students can find everything from history to fine arts through the California school’s free offerings.

12 UMass Boston OCW:
Don’t miss out on the free resources offered by the University of Massachusetts-Boston. There’s a great mix of science, tech, and liberal arts courses to take advantage of.

13 Cornell University:
Architecture, communication, business, and music are just a few of the topics courses and lectures from Cornell focus on through their iTunes U site.

14 Cambridge University:
Find news, lectures, and even course material on this prestigious school’s iTunes U site.

15 Capilano University OCW:
Capilano offers free courses in liberal arts topics like art history, anthropology, English, geography, and philosophy.

16 University of Wisconsin-Madison:
Leading professors at UWM share their expertise through courses and lectures featured on this site.

17 King’s College London Podcasts:
Through free resources at King’s College, you can take a course in the history of philosophy or engage yourself in a humanities audio tour.

18 NYU on iTunes U:
Listen to lectures on subjects like French, Spanish, sustainability, architecture, and philosophy through NYU’s iTunes U portal.

19 Arizona State University OCW:
ASU provides a mix of OCW and lectures through iTunes U that can help you learn about a diverse selection of subjects, from geography to culture.

20 World Lecture Hall:
Use the World Lecture Hall site to help you find courses from leading universities around the world. Search by course, topic, or university.


You can also find great courses offered outside of universities, like those listed here.

21 Connexions:
On Connexions, you can search for free educational material on just about any liberal arts subject you can think of.

22 Wikiversity:
Whether you want to learn about architecture, ethnology, or history, head to Wikiversity for free course materials.

23 BBC Learning:
BBC Learning offers courses in topics like history, English, and religious studies, but some of their most popular courses can help you learn one of dozens of languages.

24 Fathom:
Find free seminars from around the world in liberal arts subjects when you use Fathom.

25 Saylor.org: This free collection of college-level courses offers students the chance to learn about everything from art history to English lit.


If you are more interested in a short lecture than a whole course, there are plenty of options out there. Here are some that draw on professors, scholars, experts, and other high-quality sources.

26 Harvard @ Home:
Even if you live thousands of miles from Harvard you can get access to their lectures through the resources offered on their Harvard @ Home site.

27 Forum Network:
The Forum Network collects great lectures from authors, scholars, and public figures on just about every subject imaginable.

28 TED:
Some of the most brilliant minds in the world have lectured at TED events, and you can see what they have to say by visiting the organization’s website.

29 Princeton WebMedia:
Princeton is home to some seriously amazing lectures, a collection of which you’ll find here.

30 Academic Earth:
Use Academic Earth to find high-quality lectures from top universities in subjects like religious studies, art, history, literature, and political science.

31 MIT Video:
Check out the liberal arts-related channels on MIT’s great lecture site to explore the cutting edge of the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

32 Boston College Front Row:
You can score yourself a front-row seat to some of the best lectures at BC when you visit their website.

33 Conversations with History:
The University of California Berkeley sponsors and shares this seriously amazing series on history.

34 London School of Economics Podcasts:
Give yourself a free economic education by listening to a few of the hundreds of podcasts uploaded to the London School of Economics’ website.

35 Public Radio International:
Here you’ll find some great stories from public radio stations, covering topics like history, culture, and language.

36 Museum of Modern Art:
You can learn more about art history by listening to the resources offered by the MOMA, exploring the works of great artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman.

37 UCLA OID Webcasts:
The Office of Instructional Development at UCLA shares free video lectures of important campus events featuring great speakers and faculty research here.

38 Duke University:
Get a free education from Duke when you head to iTunes. Currently, the only full course they offer is in chemistry, but there is an amazing collection of free lectures that can be great learning tools.

Educational Resources

Do research, learn, and collaborate using these great educational resources in the liberal arts.

39 Bio Network: The Bio Channel is a great place to read more about some of the most important figures in world history.

40 Library of Congress American Memory:
On the Library of Congress site you’ll find documents, photographs, music, and more from some of the most pivotal events in American history.

41 National Archives:
Whether you’re doing research or just browsing, the National Archives are a great place to learn more about American history and life in other eras.

42 Federal Resources for Educational Excellence:
The U.S. Department of Education offers some great learning materials here on a wide range of liberal arts subjects.

43 Smarthistory:
Created by the Khan Academy, this online history learning tool puts standard history textbooks to shame.

44 Livemocha:
If you’re trying to learn a new language, give this interactive social learning site a try.

45 Smithsonian Folkways:
The Smithsonian shares its collection of traditional music from around the world on this iTunes U archive. It’s a great way to broaden your understanding of world cultures.

Reading Material

Pair your free courses and lectures with some free reading material offered through these sites.

46 Wikibooks:
Wikibooks offers access to a number of free textbooks and reading materials, which can often be a great supplement for other free courses.

47 Google Scholar:
Use Google Scholar to find academic articles on just about anything, including the social sciences and psychology.

48 Project Gutenberg:
When books reach a certain age, their copyrights expire and they’re free to share. You’ll find hundreds of these books, some great works of literature, on the Project Gutenberg site.

49 Bibliomania:
Bibliomania is another great place to look for free books, from fiction to drama to poetry.

50 FlatWorld Knowledge:
FlatWorld develops open source textbooks. Currently, you can access great reads on writing, college life, job hunting, geography, history, and psychology.
Good stuff, WmW. The neat thing is that online learning is progressing so quickly that in 6 months you could do another list and have 50 new names. Once the turd Obama has been flushed in November private enterprise will be rejuvenated and online learning will grow even faster.
I do wonder if its possible to actually get class credit for free.
I did check Open University, for example, and you can autit any class but if you are to get credit then you will need to pay tuition.

MIT has something similar to that as well.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Actually Virtual, it's even more than a first amendment right...much more. The individual states have the "legal authority" to determine the issuing of degree programs from schools that have "state oversight". A good example are "state approved" schools in California. From a constitutional standpoint, the 10th amendment grants "executive powers" for education, to the individual states. This is "binding", for "ALL" states in the union...states that pass laws, that reject "state approved" degrees and define the use of them as a "criminal act" are in fact in violation of the constitution and attempting to enforce these absurd laws may in fact be a CRIME. "Jim Crow laws" were "legalized racism"...federal law trumped state law...Always will
(07-08-2012, 12:51 PM)bigfoot Wrote: Actually Virtual, it's even more than a first amendment right...much more. The individual states have the "legal authority" to determine the issuing of degree programs from schools that have "state oversight". A good example are "state approved" schools in California. From a constitutional standpoint, the 10th amendment grants "executive powers" for education, to the individual states. This is "binding", for "ALL" states in the union...states that pass laws, that reject "state approved" degrees and define the use of them as a "criminal act" are in fact in violation of the constitution and attempting to enforce these absurd laws may in fact be a CRIME. "Jim Crow laws" were "legalized racism"...federal law trumped state law...Always will

Thats why the accreditation nazis piss me off. They want to force their bullshit down our throats. Individual freedom and individual responsibility needs nothing!
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Capella?!? Who knew?

Quote:Jack Hidary
The Revolution: Top Ten Disruptors of Education
Posted: 07/06/2012 6:40 pm

New online learning models are bursting from startups and top universities, bridging the educational divide.

We are in the midst of a revolution that will bring high-quality education to hundreds of millions of people who have never had access to this level of learning before.

These tools will reach those in developing cities and countries but also foment a revolution in the U.S. classroom as they change our perception of what learning can be.

Here are the leading new platfoms disupting the education world:

1. Udacity

Sebastian Thurn and his colleagues hit on wild success with their Stanford computer science courses when they opened them up to the online public.The team has left Stanford to start Udacity with venture backing and a new slate of courses. They have hit 150,000+ students in each course, signaling the demand for great online education. Thurn admits that there is no firm business model as yet, but will use the next year to experiment with different approaches.

CNN highlights Udacity's new model.

2. Coursera

Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng founded Coursera to bring high-quality university courses to the masses. They are working with Princeton, Michigan, Penn, Stanford and others to fashion online courses which include video, online testing and peer support. In a recent Forbes article, Koller expressed the hope that "maybe the next Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs is living in a remote village in Africa" Bringing top professors to a global audience can certainly change the game in the education divide.

3. EdX -- MIT and Harvard

MIT has been a pioneer in online education with its Open Courseware (OCW) program. Now it teams up with Harvard to launch EdX (by the way -- have you noticed how many brands use x these days? SpaceX, UberX, X Prize, TEDx -- it gives that hint of mystery to a brand.) OCW boasts more than 2,000 online courses, but these are all archived. EdX will specialize in courses that students can take together with supervision and interaction.

4. iTunes U

I still meet people who own iPads, iPhones and every other Apple device and yet do not know about iTunes U. How can this be?!

Want to understand what in the world a Higgs boson is? Download a physics course from U.

5. Khan

Sal Khan hit on education gold when he started making videos for his young cousins on science and math. Now the site offers more than 3,000 videos -- all in short form so they are easy to digest. Great for kids to watch at home and do more interactive work at school. Let's phase out boring class lectures and get kids moving and excited at school.

Many would benefit from watching the video on the Greek crisis:

6. 2Tor

John Katzman founded Princeton Review and now launched 2Tor. His new company teams up with top universities such as USC to offer fully accredited degrees online.

USC and 2tor offer a full masters in education. This is great for anyone who wants to change careers and still work while they are obtaining the degree necessary to become a teacher. 2tors's newest degree is from Wash U. and offers foreign lawyers a masters in U.S. Law

7. Altius Ed

Spark Capital, Maveron and others have invested in Altius Ed. Altius partners with universities to offer a two-year bridge program for those students who wish to attend a four-year college but may not have the requisite coursework.

8. Latimer Education

Latimer works with historically black colleges to extend their reach online. Investors include Maveron.

9. Capella University

Rather than partner with other universities, Capella itself is an accredited university offering its courses online. Capella counts Maveron and others as investors and offers bachelors, masters and doctoral programs. The jury is still out on how these pure play degrees will be accepted in the marketplace.

10. Minverva Project

This is an ambitious attempt to start a new university from whole cloth. Students will live in dorm buildings placed around the world and the professors will pipe in via video conferencing to each of the buildings. Ben Nelson, the former CEO of Snapfish, raised $25 million from Benchmark Capital for this new venture. We will have to wait to see on this one as it has yet to be launched.

11. (yes, we could not fit all the new platforms into a list of 10) Straighterline.com

This site offers online courses which earn real credits that can be transferred to many college degree programs. Straighterline aims to make college courses more affordable with both a la carte and subscription plans.

Bonus Disruptor:

Add to the pot the new University Venture Fund.

This new venture capital fund will invest in the kind of revolutionary startups that we described here. Bertelsmann and the University of Texas are two of the largest investors.


All in all, these disrupters will bring high-quality learning to millions of people in the U.S. and around the world who never had access to this material. Now the questions are:

a. Will it scale?

b. Will these models turn out to be sustainable?

c. How do we measure the intangibles of in-person learning and how can we replicate those online?

d. Who will disrupt these disupters?

Stay tuned.


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