General Education

Free Online Courses to Take Advantage of During COVID-19 Quarantine

Free Online Courses to Take Advantage of During COVID-19 Quarantine
Don't judge online learning from the ad hoc courses your college has to throw together in a matter of days or weeks in order to complete this term. Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly April 10, 2020

From information technology and public health to art history and electrical engineering, these online courses provide college students the opportunity to engage in a wide range of intellectual pursuits while stuck at home. And best of all, they cost nothing.

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Over the past several weeks, thousands of U.S. colleges and universities have been impacted by COVID-19, the respiratory illness associated with the new coronavirus. In response to the outbreak, many have canceled in-person classes in favor of continuing courses exclusively online for the remainder of the school year.

As the number of cases and fatalities rise and people around the world are forced into isolation, the coming weeks and months bring uncertainty for everyone—especially as government guidelines continue to urge Americans to avoid nonessential travel, going to work, eating at bars and restaurants, or gathering in groups of more than ten until at least until the end of April and perhaps even until June.

Meanwhile, instructors are facing new technologies and ways of teaching that may leave them uncomfortable. In a statement to EdSource, Mia McIver, a professor at the University of California – Los Angeles, noted that—in at least some instances—the resulting online courses will suffer.

“I know that I will not be the teacher I want to be, and my students won’t get the education I want them to have if these discussions go online rather than face-to-face,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a class that can be picked up and plunked online without thought and care. It usually takes months to convert an in-person class to online.”

Don’t judge online learning from the ad hoc courses your college has to throw together in a matter of days or weeks in order to complete this term. To understand the potential of online instruction, consider courses that were developed prior to the coronavirus outbreak, courses that feature well-considered instructional design and carefully planned teaching techniques. Fortunately, some top schools offer a number of such online courses at no cost to students. We’ve listed some of our favorites below.

Art and Music

ART of the MOOC: Public Art and Pedagogy

Designed by artist and Duke University professor Pedro Lasch and co-taught by Creative Time artistic director Nato Thompson, this course touches on several controversial yet iconic works of public art, including Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial and Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc. Additionally, it explores the way artists use everyday social institutions—such as corporations, churches, and banks—as media for public works.

Berklee Online

Berklee College of Music allows students to test-drive its online learning platform with a sample course containing 12 real lessons from the school’s most popular courses. Each lesson offers content pulled straight from its course, including video and audio clips, discussion topics, and weekly assignments.

Psychology of Art and Creativity

What is creativity? And can it be measured? This course, which is hosted by the University of Central Florida, poses these questions by focusing on the intersection between art and psychology.

Yale Music Theory Course

Hosted on YouTube, this lecture series is given by Craig Wright, a Moses Professor of Music at Yale University, who stresses the importance of active listening.


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Math, Data Science, and Engineering

Cognitive Class

Created to address the skills shortage in emerging technologies, including data science, AI, big data, cloud computing, and blockchain, IBM’s Cognitive Class offers learning paths in data science 101, methodology, hands-on applications, programming in R, and open source tools.


There is no subject too big or too small for OpenLearn to tackle. In the realm of math, specifically, its free courses pick apart the broad subjects like math in science and technology. The platform also focuses on more specialized courses such as the kinematics of fluids, medical statistics, and even Egyptian mathematics.

Stanford Engineering Everywhere

Also known as SEE, this platform includes a course portfolio that includes the three-course Introduction to Computer Science, taken by the majority of undergraduates at Stanford University. Advanced courses in artificial intelligence, linear systems and optimization, and electrical engineering are also available.

Design and Web Development

Canva Design School

This platform offers lessons, tutorials, resources, and articles on a variety of topics that will be especially helpful to new graphic designers.


Codecademy offers a series of self-guided tutorials for beginners to learn the basics of web development programming. Its learning process focuses on an in-browser, self-contained development, allowing students to learn the basic structures of front-end code like HTML and CSS before moving on to back-end languages such as Ruby on Rails and Python.

Envato Tuts+

Envato has created a dense tutorial archive to support illustrators and designers with almost any type of software and design process. Courses cover topics in Illustrator, Photoshop, Cinema 4D, Rhino, and many more.

Ideas from the History of Graphic Design

From the first 19th-century mass-marketing campaigns to the radical, psychedelic imagery of the 1960s and ’70s, this California Institute of the Arts course traces the development of graphic design over the past hundred years.

Mozilla Developer Network

The team behind the popular Firefox web browser has created an incredible resource for developers of all skill levels and expertise. Its collection of articles, tutorials, and other resources covers a wide range of topics, from basic web introductions and front-end languages to common vocabulary and optimization and performance.

Business and Finance

All About Financial Management in Business

Offered by the Free Management Library, this course includes topics in planning and cash management, financial statements, cost-cutting, and financial analysis. While it does not offer assignments or tests, the course does serve as a source of related resources that students can use to deepen their learning experience.

Finance Foundations by LinkedIn Learning

Taught by two professors from Brigham Young University – Provo, this video series covers the fundamentals of finance, paying special attention to topics like risk and return, capital budgeting, and investing basics. Students receive a free month-long trial with signup.

Global Business in Practice

This course provides students with an overall view of the increasingly complex challenges of global business. Students walk away with the foundational knowledge of what it takes to be a “Global Ready Leader” and learn to exploig the workings of globalization to make more informed business decisions.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC offers courses in environmental public health that allow students to learn a variety of topics ranging from general environmental health and food protection to air quality and environmental noise.

Health Informatics Technology in Population Healthcare Analytics

Doane University – Arts & Sciences also offers a course in public health. This one focuses on health informatics technology. Students explore health informatics solutions that answer population health challenges, focusing on how to operationalize informatics to address important public health challenges impacting individuals, families, communities, and the environment in which they live.

The Global Health Learning Center

This organization offers healthcare courses in every subject from cancer prevention to antimicrobial resistance to family planning. Students can also pursue certification programs and “Mini-Courses,” which consist of study questions associated with popular articles from the Global Health: Science and Practice Journal as well as other resources.


American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice

This course helps students explore the history of U.S. education reform to discover the factors that shape how we talk about education and schools today. They’ll also learn about how the critical tensions embedded in U.S. education policy and practice apply to schools nationally, globally—and where they live.

Introduction to Data Wise: A Collaborative Process to Improve Learning & Teaching

Facilitated by the Open Learning Initiative from the Extension School at Harvard University, this course outlines an eight-step process for using a wide range of data sources to improve instruction. Students will see what this disciplined way of working with future colleagues can look and feel like in a school setting and have the opportunity to share insights and experiences about school improvement with students from around the world.

Multilingual Learning for a Globalised World

This course is one of the free options available from FutureLearn. In it, students explore multilingual education and how it can impact and improve education and our wider society.

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