Free Online Courses for Nontraditional Students

 By Karen Schweitzer

In 2007, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began publishing educational materials from the school's courses online. This led to a great movement in open education. There are now dozens of colleges and universities that provide free course materials to learners around the world. Here are 15 free online courses to try today:

Physics I - MIT offers thousands of free online courses. This introductory physics course is the school's most popular offering. Course materials include video lectures, lecture notes, assignments and exams with solutions, and links to dozens of related resources. 

Virtual Chemistry Lab - Carnegie Mellon University offers an amazing virtual chemistry lab for self-learners. The lab includes tutorials and 35 lab assignments.

A Citizen's Guide to American Politics - This free online course from Brigham Young University provides eleven lessons on American politics. Lessons cover everything from civic life and the Constitution to the legislative process and the federal budget.

Academic Strategies for the Business Professional - Kaplan University provides this free course for business professionals who are interested in furthering their education. The course focus is on university education but would also work well for self-learners who are creating their own education plan. Course topics include time management, stress management, learning styles, goal setting, and career planning. 

Small Business Tax - Kutztown University's Small Business Development Center offers this free self-guided course to individuals who want to gain a better understanding of small business tax. The course includes ten lessons in all; each lesson is in English, but also includes Spanish subtitles. 

Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning - Everyone should take this free online course from the University of California-Irvine. The course covers a wide range of financial planning topics, including saving and investing.

The American Novel Since 1945 - This free online course from Yale University explores novels published between 1945 and present-day. The course includes video-taped class sessions, audio files, and chat transcripts.

Start Writing Fiction - The UK's Open University offers this free fiction writing course for beginner-level students. The course takes 12 hours to complete and includes several writing exercises. 

Flash - This free online course from Utah State University teaches students the ins and outs of Macromedia Flash. The course includes notes, assignments, resources, and other learning materials. 

HTML Basics - The University of Washington offers this free HTML courses to self-learners around the world. Course topics include HTML structure, tags, characters, lists, and hyperlinks.

Operating Systems and Systems Programming - This free computer science course from the University of California--Berkeley introduces learners to operating systems and programming. The course includes multiple lectures that can be enjoyed in audio or video form.

Chinese I - This Utah State University course is the first of two free online Chinese courses. The course focus is on pronunciation and simple character writing. 

Introduction to Spanish Culture - This free online course from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examines Spanish history, architecture, art, literature, and film through readings and assignments.
Introduction to Art History - The University of Utah introduces students to the history of art through this free online course. Students learn how to analyze art and gain insight into artistic expression and cultural context.
Health and Fitness - Western Governors University published this free course for self-learners who want to explore various aspects of health and fitness. The course includes instruction in nutrition, emotional and physical health, fitness, substance abuse, and eating disorders. 

This is a guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes for

Thanks, Karen!

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