Best Open Education Resources on the Web

By Jill Gordon

Going back to school requires a lot of time, energy, money and dedication. Before you start applying, you’ll need to make absolutely sure that your graduate degree is in the right field. One of the best ways to do that is to experiment with the best online courses and other university resources that are all free and available to the public.

  • MIT Open Courseware: One of the most popular and most extensive open courseware collections online, MIT offers 1900 courses in nearly every subject.
  • University of Utah: Also known as U Moodle, the University of Utah has courses in art, English, economics, education, history and the sciences.
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health: Learn more about epidemics, refugee health, aging, the environment and more from the JHSPH open courseware site.
  • Kaplan University: Take classes in criminal justice, health sciences, IT, legal studies and more from educational pioneer Kaplan.
  • Utah State: Take entry-level classes in the humanities, computer science, science and the arts.
  • Tufts Open Courseware: Tufts University allows the public to browse classes and lectures from their Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Arts and Sciences, and more.
  • UC Berkeley: The webcast courses and events from UC Berkeley are offered in a range of subjects.
  • UMass Boston: The University of Massachusetts – Boston offers free, not-for-credit classes in everything from creative thinking to math to the performing arts to counseling and school psychology.
  • UC Irvine: Find classes primarily in math and computer science from UC Irvine’s open collection.
  • Notre Dame: Notre Dame’s classes in African American culture, English Latino Studies, Asian Studies, anthropology and Arabic and Middle East Studies make for a unique online collection.
  • Rice University: Connexions is Rice University’s extensive collection of searchable online education resources.
  • Carnegie Mellon: Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative has courses, learning materials and activities in physics, logic and proofs, French, statistical reasoning, and other fields.
  • University of Oxford: The Oxford Internet Institute holds webcasts of lectures at Oxford.
  • Princeton University: Find event streaming lectures, podcasts and more.
  • Stanford: Access Stanford’s Humanities Center archive by playing videos, downloading podcasts, and listening to them on iTunes.
  • Georgetown Law: Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute has opened up articles, reports and presentations for public access here.


Check out these museum websites to study American history, science and more.

  • National Science Foundation: Find multimedia resources, speeches and lectures dealing with science, nature and technology.
  • Latino Virtual Museum: This Smithsonian web 3.0 project involves a 3D avatar-based learning environment for exploring Latino exhibitions.
  • Online Photography Exhibitions: View Smithsonian Museum photos from the Folklife Festival, National Air and Space Museum, and more.


Learn more about a particular field by listening to or watching lectures from special university events, class presentations, and more.

  • TED: Find inspiring, innovative talks from the world’s movers and shakers in technology, business and government.
  • Lecture Fox: Lecture Fox organizes free university lectures in literature, technology, science and more.
  • Free Science and Video Lectures Online: This blog links to free lectures in physics, computer science, electrical engineering and beyond.
  • Free Video Lectures: Pick a subject category and find links to university lectures.
  • Categories on this lecture site include architecture, biology, chemistry, business, art and more.
  • Varsity Notes: Varsity Notes claims to hold “the world’s largest directory of free lecture notes” in categories like environmental studies, communications, astronomy, journalism, history, geology, business administration, and a lot more.

Podcasts and Videos

This collection of podcasts and videos comes from universities, museums and other important organizations.

  • Open Culture: This website provides videos, podcasts and other open education videos in literature, finance and beyond.
  • Nobel Prize Media Player: Watch documentaries, interviews, lectures and speeches from Nobel Prize winners and more.
  • NASA Multimedia: Check out NASA TV, plus image galleries, podcasts, 3D resources and more materials to learn about space exploration.
  • Global Voices: Watch videos and listen to podcasts about global events and news.
  • Open Source with Christopher Lydon: The Watson Institute and Brown University hosts this open source radio show that covers political elections, the military, global warming, and more.
  • Public Radio International: On PRI’s site, you can stream shows, listen podcasts, watch videos, discuss news stories and learn about the people and issues changing the world.
  • “Shakespeare” by Another Name: Mark Anderson’s Shakespeare site broadcasts mp3 files.


If a certain TV show, magazine article or book intrigued you, head online to these sites to learn more about the people, events, cultures, and laws that rule our world.

  • National Geographic: National Geographic’s website supports learning materials for the environment, animals, world cultures, music, space, and a lot more.
  • Discovery Channel: Get free learning sources about health, space, the military, the ocean and more.
  • Nature: This science journal has lots of free web resources, too.
  • Book TV: On the Book TV website, you can watch videos of author lectures and interviews.
  • Biography: Find videos, photo galleries and biographies about historical figures and pop culture icons.
  • New York Times: The article archive on the New York Times site has PDFs and links to over 13 million articles, spanning 150+ years.
  • PBS: Kids and adults will find lots of helpful videos and learning resources on
  • The History Channel: Check out the online magazine, watch videos, and research categories like the military, science and technology, U.S. presidents, and more.
  • NPR: NPR’s website is a great resource for studying books, culture, current events, world history, and more.
  • BBC Languages: BBC’s collection of video language courses includes tutelage in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese and more.

Online Networks and Institutes

These online networks and open education groups have made it easier for you to explore subjects and find the information you need to supplement your traditional education.

  • dgCommunities: The Development Gateway Foundation hosts communities, projects and information related to development issues on this site.
  • Open Learn: The Open University’s open education site online features a collection of courses in study skills, technology, business, art and history, law, and more.
  • Wikiversity: Wikiversity currently holds nearly 11,000 open education resources.
  • Sofia: Sofia offers a solid collection of courses in science and technology from various colleges.
  • PEOI: Find courses in law, the sciences, health care, humanities and more from the Professional Educational Organization International.
  • Digital History: Look up primary sources, multimedia materials and more relating to American history and ethnic groups.
  • Exploratorium: This open education site for younger kids includes materials about science, climate change, sport science, the ancient world, and a lot more.
  • Find web design and development tutorials here.
  • HighWire Press: Browse over 1,200 journals and over 6 million full-text articles at HighWire Press, by Stanford University.
  • Open Courseware Consortium: Look up course materials in this open education directory.
  • OER Commons: This large open education site and community has over 12,000 learning resources in science and technology alone.

Libraries and Archives

Make use of the resources from the Library of Congress, World Digital Library, Smithsonian and other archives and libraries.

  • The Fathom Archive: Columbia University’s archive collection is full of learning resources from the University of Chicago, New York Public Library, and a lot more.
  • Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive: The University of Virginia Library has posted electronic texts, The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, and other resources.
  • American Memory from the Library of Congress: View collections from the Library of Congress in areas like religion, music, maps, advertising, African American history, and more.
  • World Digital Library: This project, which involves the support of the Library of Congress and other organizations, has thousands of learning materials from all over the world.
  • Primary Sources on American Art and Artists: The Smithsonian Archives of American Art supports this online collection.
  • Internet Archive: The Internet Archive boasts texts, audio, posts and more for exploring history, pop culture and beyond.
  • Russian Archives Online: This site links to film, photo and other archives and exhibitions at state museums and other organizations.
  • The National Archives: is an immense resource for learning about U.S. history.
  • Library of Congress Digital Collections: The LoC also provides public access to historic newspapers, American history collections, poetry and literature, and more.
  • OSA Archivum: Look up archived materials about the Cold War and Eastern European culture, politics and society.
  • The Rosetta Project: The Rosetta Project holds archives of every human language in the world.
  • U.S. Census Bureau: Here you can look up maps, economic census reports, projections, and a lot more to analyze U.S. history and society.


Check out these international colleges and universities that have also made available learning resources for free.


When you need an overview of a specific subject or field, use these free references from Stanford, the Mayo Clinic, and more.

  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Stanford University’s encyclopedia has online archives dating back to 1997.
  • Creative Commons: This online project of free, open, shareable information features a science community and more.
  • Mayo Clinic: Look up drug information, symptoms, diseases and more health information at the Mayo Clinic’s site.
  • Episteme Links: Find course materials, e-texts, encyclopedia entries and all kinds of educational resources dealing with philosophy.
  • SparkNotes: This popular online handbook has analyses and summaries of historical events, novels, poetry, film, science and more.
  • Wikipedia: Wikipedia serves as a good starting point for any research project or subject of study.
  • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Library: Look up reports and information about education, social issues and anthropology, and more.
  • CIA World Factbook: Find anything you want to know about other countries, including demographics, maps, flags, histories and more.
  • Encyclopedia Smithsonian: This immense resource categorizes material into three main categories — art and design, history and culture, and science and technology — with lots of subcategories.
  • Open-Site: This “free Internet encyclopedia” is edited by volunteers.
  • U.S. Government Manual: Main Page: Learn all about the U.S. government and how it operates.
  • Open Content: Use this open education search and reference tool to find the courses and materials you want.
  • iBerry: iBerry is a network of open education students, teachers and organizations that can help you connect to the resources you need.