Top 25 Colleges & Universities Offering Free Online Classes and Lectures

TBC Free Online Classes Lectures

With a computer and an internet connection, you can now access free classes online from some of the very best colleges and universities around the world, as well as free lectures. A growing number of schools are making video and audio materials available, either through their own websites, YouTube EDU, and/or iTunesU.

Course topics cover a variety of fields. For example, you can take a course on Ancient Greek History or The Fundamentals of Physics from faculty members of Yale University, or you could listen to an Oxford professor lecture on Shakespeare. Whether you are a prospective student looking to get a peek inside some of the world's most prestigious colleges and universities, an international student seeking ESL classes, or just feeling curious, you will likely find something that interests you in our list of the top 25 colleges and universities offering free online classes and lectures.


University of Cambridge Cambridge, England

A growing collection of free lectures and courses from the storied British university are available on iTunes U. These free classes online cover 16 academic categories, including art, architecture, philosophy, and science. Cambridge also offers access through their app for the iPhone and the Apple Watch. Popular lecture and course selections include:

  • Cambridge Judge Business School collection
  • Darwin College Lecture Series
  • 3CL Travers Smith Seminar Series


Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA

A number of free online lectures and courses are available on CMU's YouTube channel. Lectures focus on arts, business, technology, and science concepts and innovations. Each of the university's academic schools host their own respective channels, which can be accessed directly from the CMU YouTube homepage. Popular playlists and lectures include:

  • Summer pre-college programs
  • The Global Learning Council
  • Robotics and drones
  • Digital security


Columbia University New York, NY

A selection of free online college classes and lectures from scholars and dignitaries around the world are featured on Columbia's YouTube channel, which groups videos from within each of the school's academic departments into a unique playlist. There is also a collection of on-campus lectures, featuring each session of the latest keynote speaker conference and more. Highlights from Columbia are available through the university's multimedia page. Popular topics and series include:

  • Research
  • New York Stories
  • Climate research
  • Neuroscience


Cornell University Ithaca, NY

Cornell's free online lectures and course content are hosted through the university's digital depository, eCommons@Cornell. The site features 731 videos and 426 audio files, as well as digital downloads of theses and dissertations, research data, images, and more. This virtual library includes more than 38,000 resources for both students and faculty. The most downloaded lecture topics include:

  • Developing effective standard operating procedures
  • Antigone
  • Water resources systems planning and management


Duke University Durham, NC

Both iTunes and YouTube host a variety of free online classes, lectures, panels, conversations, and campus news features from Duke. Each of Duke's individual academic schools, as well as its Graduate School and Divinity School, have their own channel and playlist. Popular downloads include:

  • Hayek Lecture Series
  • The Week at Duke (in 60 seconds) featurettes
  • Weekly worship service
  • Gene therapy research at Duke School of Medicine


Emory University Atlanta, GA

Students attending Emory, and even those who do not, may download free online courses, speeches, lectures, music, and news on Emory's iTunes U page. The university features nearly 100 collections of video lectures, grouped by topic and academic field, such as religion, cultural studies, or scientific research. While the university's YouTube channel features a less comprehensive collection of videos, it does offer keynote lectures and other select on-campus series and seminars. Highlights of Emory's free online classes and lectures include:

  • Creative Writing Program readings
  • Mini Medical School- MD Lectures
  • Life of the Mind speaker series


Harvard University Cambridge, MA

The lecture halls of Harvard are now open to the public through its open access lectures, courses, and performances available on both YouTube and iTunes U. Harvard offers 24 online courses through iTunesU, in subjects ranging from statistics and probability, to public economics, to the Hebrew scriptures. On YouTube, the school has posted more than 2,000 videos of lectures, seminars, and other on-campus events. Popular lecture topics include:

  • The state of the nation's housing
  • Women and public policy programs
  • The "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?" series


Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA

Hundreds of free lectures, courses, notes, and exams across 11 academic departments available through MIT's OpenCourseWare project. The open courseware portal provides student access to exclusive content such as “Behind the Scenes with MIT Faculty” vignettes, as well as a wide variety of free online courses. The most frequently viewed include:

  • Linear algebra
  • Intro to computer science and programming
  • Intro to algorithms
  • Principles of microeconomics


Northwestern University Evanston, IL

Free online classes, lectures, concerts, news, and other university programs are available on NU's YouTube channel, where the school has organized content by area of interest and academic departments. In addition to maintaining popular playlists for law, research, journalism, and the arts, NU frequently adds to a collection of general news videos taken around campus, which discuss relevant cultural issues each week. Unique featured content include:

  • Guest speakers at the Kellogg School of Management
  • A full series of Ted Talks given at NU in 2014


Open University

The United Kingdom's "University of The Future" offers numerous free online courses and lectures on iTunes U. As its name suggests, Open University is among the most innovative and user-friendly providers of online college courseware today. Students can access courses and materials developed specifically for the online environment. Popular downloads and courses include:

  • The 60-Second Adventures in Thought series
  • The project management ebook
  • Beginner's French


Oxford University Oxford, England

Among the top contributors of online classes and lectures to iTunes U, Oxford maintains more than 5,360 hours of lectures, interviews, courses, and forums, all delivered in podcast form. The content is derived from Oxford's numerous academic schools, including politics, international studies, the environment, philosophy, and English. Prospective students can complete these free classes online. The school has worked with more than 6,000 academic speakers and contributors, and boasts more than 28 million downloads from its iTunes U site. Popular podcasts include:

  • Challenging the Canon
  • General Philosophy
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art


Penn State University University Park, PA

Free online lectures and a growing number of online courses are available through Penn State's iTunes U page, including a collection of podcasts specifically for Mac Admins at Penn State, as well as developers of the opencourseware program. In addition to its robust collection of free classes online, Penn State also offers entertainment with its iTunes U podcasts focused on Penn sports team news and updates. Popular courses and lectures include:

  • Smeal MBA Program
  • Dairy and Animal Science
  • Strategies for Managing the Online Workload


Pepperdine University Malibu, CA

Students can take advantage of the free online classes, performances, and events available on Pepperdine University's iTunes U site. The school offers comprehensive collections of lecture series from world-renowned speakers from diverse fields, including real estate, filmmaking, and screenwriting. Past guest lecturers have included two Supreme Court justices, as well as big name corporate CEOs. Popular series include:

  • Cruciformed: Pepperdine Bible Lectures 2016
  • Black History Month lecture series
  • Special Education Law Symposium: 2012
  • Steve Hodel (author) lecture


Princeton University Princeton, NJ

With one of higher education's most extensive historical media libraries, Princeton University offers numerous free audio and video lectures and seminars from top scholars dating back to the late 1990s. Today, the most popular collections of Princeton lectures on iTunes U include those focused on engineering and technology, law and public affairs, and religion. Highlights include:

  • The Combustion lecture series
  • International Forum with May Cheng
  • Leadership in a Technological World
  • Women in Theory


Seton Hall University South Orange, NJ

Free online college classes and lectures, organized by department of study and degree level, are available on Seton Hall's YouTube channel. The school features a variety of video topics, including in religion, theology, or those speficially aimed toward graduate students enrolled in the Stillman School of Business. The YouTube channel also features a video tour of the campus, tutorials for online learning, and a "meet our leaders" collection. Popular lectures include:

  • The Petersheim Academic Exposition
  • CAPS: What's Up Doc?
  • Counseling Skills Seminar 2014


Stanford University Stanford, CA

Stanford is the first university to make free online college classes and lectures available to the public through iTunes U. The university continues to build on this tradition, remaining among the largest contributors of open courseware on iTunes U, especially in the fields of technology, computer systems, programming, and software development. In addition to these tech-based courses, popular content is also drawn from Stanford Law School and the Graduate School of Business, among others. The most popular courses and lectures include:

  • The Startup Workshop
  • Music and the Brain Symposium
  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar


UCLA Los Angeles, CA

As part of its comprehensive online digital archive, UCLA has recorded and made available on its website all faculty research lectures since 1998. All UCLA-maintained video lectures are in mp4 format. Some course lectures are made accessible to the public though BruinCast as well. Most recently, lecture topics during the winter 2017 term included:

  • Afro-American Studies
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Urban Planning


University of California at Berkeley Berkeley, CA

Free lectures, classes, and special events from UC Berkeley are provided both on the university's website and through its partnership with EdX. Content posted before Spring 2015 remains accessible to the public via webcast at, while new content is open to the public only through open courseware at Recent popular lectures and courses include:

  • English for Journalists: Free Speech and Media Trends
  • Electronic Interfaces
  • The Science of Happiness


University of Chicago Chicago, IL

Free online lectures, interviews, student films, and performances are available on UC's iTunes U page, as well as on YouTube and MindOnline. The university's carefully managed multimedia distribution draws content from categories including arts and humanities, campus and community. and law and policy. Recent uploads include:

  • What Good Are the Humanities?
  • 2017 MLK Celebration with Bryan Stevenson
  • Workshop: Cities, Climate Forcing and Infectious Disease Dynamics


University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI

Free online content is available on the university's iTunes U page. There are 12 unique iTunes U courses, each comprised of dozens of individual podcasts and streaming course materials. These cover academic areas ranging from computer systems, to healthcare, to natural science. Popular topics include:

  • Statistics and data
  • Corporate finance for healthcare
  • Introduction to information studies
  • Laboratory methods for clinical microbiology


University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN

Free online lectures, courses, and university programs are available on UND's YouTube channel, featuring dedicated playlists for each of the university's distinct academic schools, colleges, and student areas of interest. Playlists containing the most content include the school's athletics department and courses from the business school. Unique offerings include:

  • TedTalks at UND
  • The ND Experts series
  • Saturdays with the Saints
  • Campus Crossroads Project


University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA

USC offers free lectures, courses, and panel discussions through iTunes U, giving students a chance to enjoy the USC experience. Three full courses are available, though students may also access individual courses offered as part of specialized programs through iTunes U.

  • Digital literacy
  • Hypnosis therapy
  • Technology in clinical practice


University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX

UT's signature University Lecture Series is available online through a dedicated subsite of the School of Undergraduate Studies. Here, students can access archived lectures as well as stay on top of upcoming events. The series may host up to three guest lecturers in a given month. Recent topics included:

  • The 2016 election
  • Research That Changes the World
  • Saving Nature: A Bipartisan Solution


Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN

Free lectures, news, and campus events and programs are available courtesy of Vanderbilt's YouTube channel, with dedicated playlists for research initiatives and projects, as well as for each academic school within the university. More free online content is available through the school's iTunes U page. Unique offerings include:

  • Vanderbilt's "MedTalks" series
  • Experts series
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute lecture series


Yale University New Haven , CT

Yale currently offers 40 different courses online in a variety of topics ranging from biomedical engineering to religious studies. The university's searchable database hosts high-quality video files of its lectures; downloadable audio-only recordings and accompanying transcripts are also available. Additional free lectures and programs can also be found on Yale's iTunes U site and YouTube channel. With a long list of renowned guest speakers each term, popular lecturers have included:

  • Gloria Steinem
  • Arthur Horwich: Protein Folding
  • Journalist E.J. Dionne's interview of former senator Gary Hart

To determine the best colleges and universities offering free online classes and lectures, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the top 25 colleges and universities offering free online classes and lectures. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.