However, there is an alternative called "open courseware". This is a new movement among the academic communities where schools from around the world are providing free lectures, lessons and other learning materials at absolutely no cost.
9 Best Open Courseware Websites
If you're looking for the best websites to get free courseware and learning materials, look no further than the University of Washington
UW offers a website dedicated to open courseware called "OpenUW". It is a website that offers free courses on topics like the American Civil War, Greek Mythology and Shakespeare's Comedies.
University of Washington
The selection is part of the UW online learning program. You won't find a large selection of courses, but what you will find are great online courses in written form that will take you through a series of informative modules.
If you enjoy listening to lectures, another excellent resource comes from Caltech
. Caltech offers a website called "streaming theater" where you'll find a variety of talks by professionals from the Caltech staff and alumni.
Caltech Streaming Theater
If you visit the Caltech streaming theater, you'll discover talks about problem solving, chemistry, DNA and much more. To download any of the streaming videos, just click on the link for your download speed. When you do, the video will stream in Realplayer format in a pop-up window.
Another great resource for streaming courses on a variety of topics is Harvard University
, which offers a video archive page. There, you'll find a series of video talks covering all kinds of topics from the years spanning 2000 through 2008.
Harvard University Video Archive
Some of the videos are just commencement ceremonies, but you'll also find some talks on things like how to write a memo, ethics or management.
One of the most impressive Open Courseware websites is the one offered by MIT
. The courseware that you'll find on this site goes beyond the basic video content most other open courseware sites offer.
MIT Open Courseware
At the MIT Open Courseware site, you'll find a syllabus, various readings, lecture notes, assignments and more. You can download course materials at no cost. It's a fantastic service, with courses covering biology, political science, music, economics and much more.
Yale also offers coursework at its website known as "Open Yale
". On this site you can explore history, chemistry, Astronomy and many other subjects.
Open Yale Courses
At Open Yale, you can download course materials that include audio, video and course materials. You can work through these courses just like you were a student sitting in the classroom. There are few opportunities in the world where you can obtain a free education - and this is one of those.
It isn't only Ivy League schools that offer open courseware either. At the University of Michigan's website, you'll find Open Michigan
. Open Michigan is set up as a resource for students and faculty to share their own educational resources as well as the research they conduct at the University.
At Open Michigan, you'll not only find a whole collection of downloadable course materials, but you can also share your own research and materials, or connect with other academics and researchers at the "U-M Open Community".
Another University that offers open courseware is Utah State University
. Utah State offers listings for free courseware under Biology, Human Development, Physics, Psychology and much more. You will find an amazing variety of downloadable materials and learning opportunities here.
Utah State Open Courseware
This is also a good place to find other open courseware sites, since the Utah State page lists some of the top OCW resources at places like Johns Hopkins, Japan OCW Alliance, and Notre Dame.
In addition to the Universities and Colleges around the world offering open courseware, you can also find free educational materials at communities that are focused on the open courseware concept across the entire Internet. One example of this is Learning Space
, a UK based site offered the "The Open University".
At Learning Space, you'll find some impressive learning materials with dynamic content like images, diagrams and flash animation that all serve to help you learn the material at hand. Learning Space is a large library of educational materials and well worth the time to explore the site.
The final site that belongs on any list of open courseware is the Open Courseware Consortium
Open Courseware Consortium
OCW is impressive - search all courses in the library by title, language, source organization or website. The Consortium seeks to serve as a hub for all of the other OCW websites out there offered by Universities and Open Source communities throughout the Internet. By using the OCW site, you'll have access to just about all of the open courseware sites listed in this article, as well as many more.
Hopefully this list has helped you to appreciate the value of the free education that you can obtain online. Open Courseware is an important cause, built and promoted by people that believe educational and information is a right, not a privilege. So, enjoy that right by exploring and supporting the open courseware organizations listed here and elsewhere on the web.