54 free online courses from the best colleges in the US — including Princeton, Harvard, and Yale

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  • Online learning platforms Coursera and edX allow you to audit classes from top universities for free. Paid options give access to certificates of completion, full course access, feedback, and even final grades.
  • Course topics vary widely. From business management and structural engineering to social justice and food science, there's something for everyone.
  • As people continue to stay home during the pandemic, online courses are good opportunities to pass time, learn something new, or advance your career. 
  • Read more: Graduate certificate programs can be cheaper, faster alternatives to grad school — here's everything you need to know about how long they take to finish, how much they cost, and how they compare to master's degrees
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Every year, US News & Reports releases its ranking of the top universities in the country. These schools are renowned for their rigorous academic and research programs, professors and faculty members with resumes packed with accomplishments, and beautiful campuses. But they're not easy to get into, nor are they affordable without scholarships. 

Thankfully, online learning platforms like Coursera and edX are increasing access to high-quality education for everyone. Their free and low-priced courses are taught by instructors from the best universities and academic institutions around the world, allowing anyone to advance their education, pursue new professional goals, or audit a class for fun. 

Both Coursera and edX allow you to audit any course for free. You can access course materials and follow along with the class as it progresses. On edX, for an additional $40 to $160 (depending on the course), you receive a verified certificate that you can include on your resume or LinkedIn profile. If a course is listed as "archived" on the site, that means you can't get the certificate, access to the course staff on forums, or graded assignments, but you can still view the course.

Meanwhile, expanded access to Coursera courses includes assignments, tests, and a final grade, and costs can vary based on one-off classes or classes within a longer program, the latter of which charges a monthly fee to keep learning after the free seven-day trial ends.

Coursera and edX also each offer in-depth specializations that require more commitment and help learners develop the professional skills that are in demand in their industries today. 

A decade ago, you wouldn't have been able to easily take classes from these top-ranked schools. Now, you can. We rounded up the Coursera and edX courses from each of the schools so you can skip directly to your favorite university, or browse all that each has to offer. 

Note: The following list includes Archived courses on edX. They are designated with an asterisk (*). 

Take these online classes from the top 10 universities in the country:

1: Princeton University

Browse all courses from Princeton University at Coursera here

  • Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies, 23 hours, available at Coursera
  • Effective Altruism, 12 hours, available at Coursera
  • Imagining Other Earths, 26 hours, available at Coursera

Browse all courses from Princeton University at edX here

  • Making Government Work in Hard Places, 8 weeks, available at edX
  • The Art of Structural Engineering: Bridges, 8 weeks, available at edX

2: Harvard University

Browse all courses from Harvard University at edX here

  • CS50's Computer Science for Business Professionals, 6 weeks, available at edX
  • Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, 16 weeks, available at edX 
  • Masterpieces of World Literature, 12 weeks, available at edX
  • The Opioid Crisis in America, 10 weeks, available at edX
  • Contract Law: From Trust to Promise to Contract, 8 weeks, available at edX (available to start January 13, 2021)

3 (tie): Columbia University

Browse all courses from Columbia University at Coursera here

  • Construction Management Specialization, 5 months, available at Coursera
  • The Age of Sustainable Development, 30 hours, available at Coursera
  • Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part I, 18 hours, available at Coursera

Browse all courses from Columbia University at edX here

  • Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics, 5 weeks, available at edX
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI), 12 weeks, available at edX (available to start February 1, 2021)

3 (tie): MIT

Browse all courses from MIT at edX here

  • Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science, 9 weeks, available at edX (available to start March 24, 2021)
  • Just Money: Banking as if Society Mattered, 16 weeks, available at edX*
  • Supply Chain Analytics, 15 weeks, available at edX (available to start December 9, 2020)
  • Design Thinking for Leading and Learning, 6 weeks, available at edX*
  • Circuits and Electronics 1: Basic Circuit Analysis, 5 weeks, available at edX

3 (tie): Yale University

Browse all courses from Yale University at Coursera here

  • The Science of Well-Being, 19 hours, available at Coursera | Read our review of the course
  • Introduction to Negotiation, 31 hours, available at Coursera
  • The Global Financial Crisis, 64 hours, available at Coursera
  • Essentials of Global Health, 65 hours, available at Coursera

6 (tie): Stanford University

Browse all courses from Stanford University at Coursera here

  • Algorithms Specialization, 4 months, available at Coursera
  • Organizational Analysis, 25 hours, available at Coursera
  • International Women's Health and Human Rights, 58 hours, available at Coursera
  • Child Nutrition and Cooking, 11 hours, available at Coursera
  • Social and Economic Networks: Models and Analysis, 30 hours, available at Coursera (available to start November 30, 2020)

6 (tie): University of Chicago

Browse all courses from University of Chicago at Coursera here

  • Critical Issues in Urban Education, 21 hours, available at Coursera
  • Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life, 28 hours, available at Coursera
  • Internet Giants: The Law and Economics of Media Platforms, 60 hours, available at Coursera

Browse all courses from University of Chicago at edX here

  • Modeling Climate Change, 4 weeks, available at edX*
  • Critical Issues in Urban Education, 4 weeks, available at edX*

6 (tie): University of Pennsylvania

Browse all courses from University of Pennsylvania at Coursera here

  • Business Foundations Specialization, 7 months, available at Coursera
  • Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content, 4 hours, available at Coursera
  • Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society, 15 hours, available at Coursera

Browse all courses from University of Pennsylvania at edX here

  • Intellectual Property Law and Policy: Part 1, 6 weeks, available at edX
  • Hollywood: History, Industry, Art, 4 weeks, available at edX

9: Northwestern University

Browse all courses from Northwestern University at Coursera here

  • Content Strategy for Professionals Specialization, 4 months, available at Coursera
  • Social Media Marketing Specialization, 7 months, available at Coursera
  • Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare, 19 hours, available at Coursera
  • Scaling Operations: Linking Strategy and Execution, 11 hours, available at Coursera
  • Modern Robotics, Course 1: Foundations of Robot Motion, 24 hours, available at Coursera

10 (tie): Duke University

Browse all courses from Duke University at Coursera here

  • Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business Specialization, 7 months, available at Coursera
  • Behavioral Finance, 5 hours, available at Coursera
  • Think Again IV: How to Avoid Fallacies, 18 hours, available at Coursera
  • Dog Emotion and Cognition, 22 hours, available at Coursera
  • Sports and Society, 12 hours, available at Coursera

10 (tie): Johns Hopkins University

Browse all courses from Johns Hopkins University at Coursera here

  • Mastering Software Development in R Specialization, 6 months, available at Coursera
  • Systems Thinking In Public Health, 13 hours, available at Coursera
  • Major Depression in the Population: A Public Health Approach, 11 hours, available at Coursera
  • Health for All Through Primary Health Care, 11 hours, available at Coursera
  • Toxicology 21: Scientific Applications, 95 hours, available at Coursera

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