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Watching free video lectures is easier to do than you might think. All around the world top-tier universities are offering videos of entire college courses for free.
Whether you’re a college-educated Westerner looking for a refresher, or a proud citizen of a developing country unable to afford university tuition, this is an amazing opportunity you should take advantage of. Watching these free video lectures won’t earn you a degree, but it will give you a great deal of knowledge and understanding – and that’s a powerful thing.
Best of all: finding these courses is easy, provided you know the proper places to look. Teaching you the proper places to look is what we’re all about here at MakeUseOf.
The OpenCourseWare Consortium
Simply put, the OpenCourseWare Consortium is the best place to begin looking for free online video lectures. The OpenCourseWare Consortium is made up of over worldwide, and seeks to provide free knowledge to the world via online video, audio and text.
The site lists all participants in the program, providing direct links to that school’s given online offerings. This can be overwhelming, however, because the Consortium doesn’t make any effort to sort all these offerings by subject or allow you to search all classes. As such, someone new to watching university courses online may wonder where to being looking for courses from top universities.
Let’s highlight a few of the top US offerings to get started.
The school synonymous with technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (or MIT), is certainly overachieving in terms of it’s online course offerings: visitors of the college’s website will find 1,900 entire courses indexed here. It can be a little overwhelming, but the offerings are sorted by subject. Spend enough time browsing this site and you can easily find courses that not only interest you, but can help you professionally as well.
Note that not all courses here have video supplements; some will feature class notes, audio and/or reading lists. If you’re specifically looking for video, find offerings with a film strip icon as seen above.
I’d highly recommend checking out MIT’s offerings of free video lectures first, if only because of the sheer number of courses. There’s a reason MIT’s OpenCourseWare site beats the consortium’s site on a standard Google search for “OpenCourseWare”.
While not OpenCourseWare members, as an Ivy-League school Yale is hard to leave off this list. Their offerings all feature videos and cover a range of subjects.
It’s certainly hard to overlook free education from one of the best schools on the planet, and these courses don’t disappoint. Yale’s free online courses are certainly worth a look.
Perhaps the best state college in the country, the University of California in Berkeley offers a respectable number of online courses across a number of departments.
This service varies from the others in that not all courses come with video, and the content is updated in real time – so updates will come as the course actually happens in Berkeley.
You can keep up with the lectures with an RSS reader, or by visiting the site on the dates indicated.
Check out Berkeley’s free online courses.
These schools are just the tip of the iceberg; there are hundreds of more schools offering access to free courses. Not up for browsing through the websites of hundreds of individual colleges? Aggregate service LectureFox aims to aggregate courses from a number of universities. Just search for your subject of choice and you’ll be presented with options from a number of top universities around the world.
Using this service can greatly simplify the process of finding the exact course you’re looking for.
Alternatively, DegreeDirectory offers an index of numerous free course sorted by category – very useful if you’ve got a particular subject in mind but don’t know which school to check out first.
The ultimate media center program for your TV isn’t out of this game: an OpenCourseWare app for the program makes watching entire courses a snap. While you won’t be able to browse MIT’s impressive 1,900 course catalog, you will find all of Yale’s offerings along with some from MIT and Berkeley. Check it out in Boxee’s App library.
While watching these videos can be quite enlightening in and of themselves, most students will tell you that listening alone doesn’t mean you’ll remember anything. It’s for this reason I recommend you take notes while watching the courses. We’ve profiled a number of digital tools for notetaking, but the trusty pen and paper works as well as anything.
You might feel silly sitting in front of your computer alone, taking notes, but trust me: you’ll learn better this way. Best of all, at the end of the course you’ll have created a useful resource for future reference; I constantly find myself refering to my college notes.
Another tip to keep in mind is to supplement your viewing with reading. Some schools offer reading lists with their free online courses, and these are worth looking into. Actual college students spend 3 hours doing homework for every hour they spend in class, so watching videos of courses can hardly be called an education in and of itself. While buying actual college textbooks can get expensive, there’s no reason you can’t supplement your online course taking with a few trips to the library to find relevant reading material.
The Internet’s changed the world, and the availability of free university courses on the Internet is one of the greatest examples of this I can think of. Not so long ago the knowledge imparted on students during university lectures was accessible only to those who could afford to pay tuition. Today information is increasingly free, and I for one think society is better for it.
Let’s keep that spirit of bettering the world alive in the comments below. If you have any favorite places to access free university courses online, or any study tips to help make use of such resources, please share them so that we all can benefit.
Want to learn some more? Use these sites to find the best massive open online course from top universities.