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Free Online Courses from Top Universities (openculture.com)
392 points by happy-go-lucky on Nov 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 46 comments





https://online.stanford.edu/courses (This one is kind of but not entirely just an edX front-end now.)

Berkeley used to have a treasure trove of free lectures, but then they got sued because they didn't have subtitles, and so took them down. lbry archived most of them:





"but then they got sued because they didn't have subtitles, and so took them down"

If you, like me, are wondering what happened: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13768856

You missed Coursera and Udacity

I know there are dozens more but I think of Coursera - Udacity - EdX as the big 3.

Does Udacity even have free courses anymore? When looking at the website, I see only nano degrees for which one has to pay. If they still offer the free courses, they've buried them quite effectively under all their non-free stuff.

(Also, I thought the quality of the Udacity courses was mixed - there was one on robotics that had quite nice content, but horrible Python implementations one had to work with.)

yes they do, and you can filter by the free courses in their engine:


https://www.futurelearn.com/ is probably also up there, making it the big 4

edit It seems like most of these started with quality free courses, but later more and more the courses are changed to be a teaser trying to sell an expensive university course (at least expensive compared to the cost of many European universities)


I was not familiar with futurelearn so I will check it out.

I like to see materials you simply could not learn anywhere else like this: "Intellectual Property Management in the Food Sector: Safeguarding Your Trademarks in the Global Marketplace"

Futurelearn is worth checking out, I'm happy with all the courses I have taken there. It is so cool with all the different types of courses you find when using several platforms, I want to learn something about everything and everything about something.

I also found a link to https://www.mooc-list.com/ in my bookmarks for courses, not sure how updated it is

I find them to be substantially lower quality, so I left them out.


Okay, counter-point: in my experience Udacity has the highest quality content on the toughest technical subjects. To me, it is evident that an enormous amount of work has gone into making the lectures and exercises effective.

Coursera has more courses, and the quality varies more but some of them are excellent. In any case, Coursera lectures come from university partners we are all familiar with, so people can decide if they like the Andrew Ng Machine Learning Class or Geoff Hinton on Neural Networks.

I am not affiliated with either of them.

I've sampled courses from several and found the quality varying. Each will have one or more super high quality courses, then a swarm of forgettable ones. Which is only to say, don't rule out any particular source but instead consider the subject you are interested in, then do a little research (or sampling) to find the best offering wherever its hosted.

>Geoff Hinton on Neural Networks.

Brilliant as a researcher, not so brilliant as a teacher.

I loved his NN course. He explained everything very clearly, with occasional dry humor.

Berkeley has some of the lectures available online.


I use that to navigate to whatever course I want in EECS. Personally I found them higher in quality compared to most of edX.

We recently imported around 10,000 free MOOCs and categorized them with topics at https://learnawesome.org/

Looks interesting. You may want to make the "Browse by Topic" view the default, instead of the blank grey screen.

I found a dead course link: https://learnawesome.org/items/e03a9b40-d16c-424b-98a0-55c7b...

And a course duplicated 3 times on https://learnawesome.org/topics/8ae28f64-31d9-448f-9d94-b9d0...: Computers, Waves, Simulations: A Practical Introduction to Numerical Methods using Python

Thank you. Fixed all of this. We do have an open issue for this: https://github.com/learn-awesome/learn/issues/118

Hopefully, some fellow HNers might find this an interesting project to hack on and make it better. :-)

Wow that's a nice list! It would be even nicer to have some clear indicator for each course whether it is free as in beer, or free as in freedom (openly licensed and downloadable).

For example all the iTunes audio courses say "This course material is only available in the iTunes U app on iPhone or iPad" so limited as to whom can access.

That some of these courses are only available over iTunes really makes me wonder what the institutions that make this content available only over iTunes are thinking.

Surely they realize that not everyone uses iTunes, and putting the content in a walled garden would not make it as available as putting it in a downloadable, open format on archive.org? Or do they just not care?

You are absolutely right. There is far more content on YouTube that should really go on archive.org.

Here is an unfortunate example from not too long ago. http://aduni.org/courses/sicp/index.php?view=cw

I don't think these videos can be played any more.

Well the video plays for me with SMPlayer, but not the audio. Some .rm files play audio fine. The video quality of these is pretty low though, so hopefully they have a higher resolution master to work from.

Tell me uni won’t be different in 20 years. Why would we push our kids to maximise test scores to get a high score on their last year of secondary school (like internet points) instead of teaching them to learn anything? Food for thought and something I have been struggling with lately

I fully agree and something that I have been internally debating for around a year now. My son will (potentially) be going to University in two years, but I have heard, from friends, that the amount of contact hours is dramatically reducing. One friend has a son on a 'foundation' course and he has 4 hours of teaching a week. Another, doing a full-time business degree has 9 hours. My own opinion is that with the advances in technology, the old educational system is outmoded; that of learning from a person at the front and then regurgitating what they have told you in order to prove you know it. That, coupled with nearly 50% of school leavers going to university now in the UK, makes me feel that the quality is being eroded.

Unfortunately, my concern is that if my son doesn't follow the status quo then that will leave him at a disadvantage in the job market. As an employer myself though, I interview a huge number of people who have degrees and who aren't really that capable, so it is very difficult to determine quality.

"The old educational system is outmoded; that of learning from a person at the front and then regurgitating what they have told you in order to prove you know it."

I think most university tutors would find this an insulting caricature of what they and their students do. Is this what you actually think happens at university?

I've attended seven colleges/universities over 40 years, big and small, public and private, in-person and online.

In all in-person large schools, lecture to passive students runs 90% of classes. The essential problem is, any class with more than about 30 students is too big to enable interaction from students. That means only maybe 10% of senior / grad classes even might break the mold of "shut up and sit there while I talk".

In-person small colleges have it better. Few courses there exceed 50 students. But more and more courses there are taught by journeyman profs, which causes instructional quality to vary from year to year.

However MOOCs aren't necessarily any better. Due to their remote delivery and being recorded, all human contact is lost aside from a few text messages to TAs (if you pay). In many, even grading is often automated.

In short, I agree with the sentiment that post-secondary education MUST change. But as they stand now, MOOCs are not the answer. (Other than significantly reducing tuition, which is no small achievement of course.)

Yes, I teach at a small Liberal Arts school in the US and this is not a correct characterization of what happens here, either. (On the other hand, I went to a state university and there is some truth to it in that context, modified of course by the fact that individual instructors may take a different approach.)

I personally would love to do away with information based lectures and teach only tutorials in small low ratio settings. Online lecturing let's me do that and saves money (according to admin) and students are happier for it because they do the drier stuff at their own pace and have lots of quality one on one interactions.

Yes I agree the signaling mechanism of a standard uni degree. At least in IT I see this changing where employers, I have worked at at least, value experience and a portfolio of work more than a uni degree. Also as so many people have uni degrees the value is diminished compared to 50 years ago. What if you just learnt the skills you needed in say 1 year at 20% of the cost online instead and still had a “degree”?

If you’re an employer yourself why not just give him a job if he wants it? If he’s 16 now he could have five years work experience by the time his classmates graduate college. Alternatively skip sixth form college and just go straight to university. He can enroll with the Open University tomorrow, be done in three years and have his Bachelor’s by the time he’s 19.

People often frown upon hiring managers at their company who hire their own children.

Indeed but if one owns one’s own business one is probably not planning on being an employee again any time soon.

It's mostly about personal connections, network and nepotism.

> Why would we push our kids to maximise test scores to get a high score on their last year of secondary school (like internet points) instead of teaching them to learn anything?

Because the higher the score they get in a high stakes test that everyone cares about and everyone knows everyone cares about the higher the floor is on their ranking by some weighted (intelligence x conscientiousness) score. And that score can be conveyed unambiguously in seconds. The same cannot be said for a holistic evaluation of someone’s skills, talents and capabilities.

A test score gives you most of the value of a holistic evaluation in far less time.

Great list, well done! I can recommend Andrew Ng for everything on AI subject related. His video "Artificial Intelligence - Machine Learning" is nice introduction to Machine Learning.

edx.org is just awesome. When I decided to learn programming I found on it the CS50X course from Harvard, which gave me (4 years ago) a great foundation which then allowed me shortly after to land my first job as dev. I will be always grateful for the quality free content they put online.

I was excited to see a class on "Ancient and Medieval Philosophy", though i see it's just an archive of the course material -- lectures and readings.

Lectures and readings are great, but it's a far cry from learning what the material really means without the discussion section. MOOCs are good for learning facts-and-figures type things, and it's an OK way to learn the tools of the trade (including the trade of programming). But the thing that makes a top university really "top" is the interaction, challenging your thinking and learning to read and understand closely, not just study a craft.

I'm very excited by what they're doing at Signum University[1], which is working on college-level classes without the overhead of a campus. It's not free; you can't really teach an in-depth education for free. But the direction it's going, you'll be able to get all the things that we prize about a four-year college (the things that many employers consider more valuable than somebody who studied at a place like Devry).

[1] https://signumuniversity.org/

Is there a date of publication for this post and updates? This list may seem comprehensive to an outsider but it could be a drop in the bucket since the list was last updated-- possibly years ago.

I recommend checking out class-central.com, one of the first MOOC aggregators, for an updated collection.

Is there some organization that fact checks these online courses, so that we can know which contain actually valid, true information and which are just some professor's opinion on the subject?

> just some professor's opinion

A professor who is, say, in an economics department is a person whose opinions on economics have some value. Of course people build up different reputations over time so YMMV, but I'm personally interested in reflecting on what Schiller has to say about the subject.

"If all the economists were laid end to end, they'd never reach a conclusion."

George Bernard Shaw

Shiller is well known, but many of the courses in economics are by professors that are not well known from lesser universities.

But who will fact-check the organization, so that we know its checks are actually valid and true and not just some organisation's opinion on the subject? :-)

The majority of classes for Georgia Tech's computer science Masters degree are available online for free on Udacity. I highly recommend the ML and RL courses, as well as the CV course.


It's the top 7th ranked CS program in the world too.

Anyone have a favorite data structures and algorithms course?

I'm new to data structures and algorithms. Saw this fairly new course from UCSD+HSE mentioned in one of the comments here. I'm finding it pretty interesting.


There's also Academic Earth.

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