Unless you are one of those high-achieving students who has been fortunate enough to study at an Ivy League school, it may seem as is you have no access to the considerable resources of these institutions. However, these universities have been working to shed their “ivory tower” reputation of the past and make their coursework increasingly accessible to the world at large. Thanks to online learning tools (for instance, working through iTunes U), many Ivy League schools now offer lectures online that can be accessed anywhere, by anyone, for free. Whether you’re a new student looking to take in a few lectures or simply trying to learn about a subject you never took, these online courses are an incredible resource.
The most recognizable name in American academics, Harvard University has made a number of courses available that can be taken outside the confines of Cambridge. For example, many of these have been collected at Academic Earth and appeal to a wide variety of students. Some of these courses, such as the Leadership course, could serve as inspiration for people in almost any walk of life. Other courses offered by Harvard take a more technical perspective, such as the Introduction to Computer Science or Introduction to Computer Graphics and GPU Programming. Harvard also offers more niche courses, such as considering ancient Greek civilization. A university of Harvard’s caliber has plenty to offer in the form of online courses.
Freed from the confines of traditional university courses, online learners should feel welcome to sample the courses of any number of institutions. Thus, Harvard’s neighbor to the south and friendly rival, Yale, should also be considered by those looking for online college courses. Yale has placed dozens of its courses online and made them free to the public (http://academicearth.org/universities/yale/). Much like Harvard’s offerings, Yale’s online courses cover the full gamut from the Humanities (Dante’s Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise), to the Sciences (Atmosphere, Ocean and Environmental Change), to other fields, such as Psychology (Autism and Related Disorders). Many more open Yale courses can be found on Yale’s university website, which offers lectures that can be attained through iTunes U. Though working through one of theses lecture series won’t provide any college credit, it is an excellent opportunity to take a deep dive into a particularly interesting subject, or to get a background in a new field of study.
Though Harvard and Yale are almost certainly the most well-known names in education in the United States, their fellow Ivy League universities have also responded to the increasing interest in online courses. For instance, Columbia University offers online courses through the popular (and free) online learning service Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/columbia). If you are interested in taking online courses from an Ivy League school, it is probably worth your time to review all of Coursera’s offerings (https://www.coursera.org/about/partners) and see what might interest you. In fact, Coursera has courses from a number of elite schools that are not even part of the Ivy League; if your preferred Ivy does not have a course that interests you, consider reviewing the course offerings from schools such as Stanford or the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT). As mentioned above, don’t forget to go straight to the sources when looking for online learning courses. For instance, the University of Pennsylvania offers a bevy of online learning resources directly on its university website (http://www.upenn.edu/programs/distance.php). As online courses have become more widely available and free-of-charge, they have become an increasingly attractive method for those interested in a free Ivy League education.