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Ten Amazing Open Courseware Resources

One of the enduring beauties of the internet is the anarchist philosophy that shaped it in the early days. For many years and to a lesser degree still today, you can find things free on the internet that would cost you money in a more traditional marketplace. This open access concept has been picked up by a number of universities and other storehouses of knowledge, resulting in many websites that provide some remarkably extensive resources. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology puts the course material for every course taught at the university online. Other schools have followed suit to varying degrees.

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The course material from MIT or any other top tier university is not necessarily going to be easily learned once you open a file. For many of these courses you need certain academic background or the material won’t make much sense. You don’t get to ask questions of a lecture delivered in a MP3 file. You won’t receive credit for going through this course material, but you don’t have to enroll either. For students who are stalled in their own course material and who need another perspective, the websites listed below might be a welcome – and free – resource. To find these sites, go to the home page for each university and search for “open courseware.”

  1.  The Open Courseware Consortium is an organization that has catalogued open courseware courses from sources around the globe.  They also have a comprehensive list of open courseware websites offered by universities on every continent.
  2. Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health provides content from the school’s most popular courses.  There are twenty topic areas, each of which has material for multiple classes.  There are courses on fairly focused topics, but there are also introductory courses in such fields as demographics, epidemiology, and biostatistics.
  3. University of Notre Dame offers courses from a wide variety of departments and academic disciplines.  There are selected courses in history, political science, sociology, physics, mathematics, civil engineering, and several others.
  4. University of California at Berkeley has integrated 170 courses taken from many different departments into a webcast format.  Most have some video or graphics support for the lectures; the format of choice is Apples ubiquitous iPod software.  You can watch any of the lectures if you have the software on your computer by downloading from Berkeley’s iTunesU.
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the impetus for many of the open courseware projects instituted by other universities.  Material from 2,000 courses is available on their website.  The courses include the physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering programs that the school is known for as well as courses from the humanities, health sciences, and many other areas.  Depending on the course you may find lecture notes, multimedia content, online textbooks, exams and solutions, or some combination of these elements.
  6. Carnegie Mellon University has designed their open courseware project around a limited number of departments including biology, chemistry, French, statistics, and physics.  There is also a course in media programming.
  7. University of Michigan has launched its open courseware project with selected classes from eleven academic areas including architecture and urban planning; literature, science and the arts; education; engineering; public policy; social work; and five others.  There are not a large number of courses posted yet but more are added on a frequent basis.
  8. Stanford University has created Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) which offers extensive material for a limited number of classes from the engineering department.  Materials include complete video lectures, handouts, assignments, exams, and transcripts.  The available material includes an Introduction to Computer Science.
  9. University of California at Irvine has developed an open courseware program that offers lectures and materials from a variety of courses.  Participating departments include Social Science, Engineering, Humanities, Health Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Arts.   Some of the lectures are available in video.
  10. Yale University has a program called Open Yale Courses with an array of courses from twenty academic departments.  Some departments have just a single course in audio/video format, while others offer several.  Choices range from music to engineering to Spanish and Portuguese.
Have you ever used any of these free resources? What was your experience like? Leave a comment and let us know!

Bob Hartzell is a freelance writer who writes on a number of topics in education including the use of technology and distance learning for the advancement of learning. His most recent articles cover accredited masters degrees online featured on such sites as Master-Degree-Online.com.

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