While a year’s tuition at Harvard University will set you back nearly $50,000 (and that’s before room, board, and fees tack on another $20K), there’s a much cheaper option that doesn’t involve braving Massachusetts winters, or having to be admitted to the prestigious university at all. All you need is an internet connection to take certain Harvard courses for free in the comfort of your own home, thanks to the university’s fabulous online learning portal.
You have options. There are free courses as well as courses that are free to audit, which means you can take the course for free but there is a cost to upgrade for additional content and/or to receive a verified certificate from HarvardX.
We’ve handpicked a selection of some of the best free Harvard courses currently available, from the study of Shakespeare to a class that will help you better understand urban life. Our varied selection is like a wish list of courses we’re hoping to find the time to take in the near future.
Just think: Your Harvard learning journey could begin today for absolutely nada.
We’re starting our list with Justice, one of the most famous courses taught at Harvard, which includes the oldest continuously operating law school in the United States. This 12-week-long course taught by lauded professor Michael Sandel explores classical and contemporary theories of justice, including discussion of contemporary dilemmas and controversies and present-day applications.
This class invites you to “embark on a global journey to explore the past, present, and future of world literature.” This 12-week course requires a time commitment of up to seven hours a week. During those hours, you’ll study how great writers refract their world, looking at works from Goethe, Voltaire, and Rushdie, among others.
This course, taught by two female professors, takes the interesting approach of studying how American women created, confronted, and embraced change in the 20th century by considering “10 iconic objects” from the Harvard Schlesinger Library collection. This is a shorter, six-week course that requires a commitment of around three hours a week.
Tiny machine learning is one of the fastest-growing areas of deep learning, and it’s rapidly becoming more accessible to all. This free course provides a foundation for you to understand this emerging field and how it allows for the creation of more affordable smartphones, for example. You’ll get the basics of machine learning, deep learning, and embedded devices and systems, such as smartphones and other tiny devices. It’s taught by Harvard’s Vijay Janapa Reddi and Laurence Moroney, Lead AI Advocate at Google.
Harvard’s backyard meteorology course makes the epic promise that by taking it you’ll learn to forecast the weather just by looking out your window. This course could possibly save your life as well, as there’s a component that informs you how to avoid being struck by lightning. Other elements include cloud identification and how to estimate wind speed.
If you want to learn more about the Bard, this short, intensive course is the way to go. It’s a four-week course that you’ll study for up to seven hours per week. During that time you’ll learn about the cultural significance of Shakespeare’s plays and how to analyze them both on the page and in performance. This course includes videos and readings filmed on location in Stratford-upon-Avon and London.
Anyone who’s dreamed of studying mayonnaise should be in for a delicious treat with this scientific look at food. This 16-week course will have you carrying out experiments in your own kitchen, looking at how cooking changes food texture, understanding phase changes in cooking, and making emulsions and foams. If you enjoy this kind of physics-based study, you may want to continue your learning with the Science & Cooking course that focuses on chemistry.
This course offers an expert look at the past, present, and future of cities, with the aim of teaching you how to better understand, appreciate, and improve urban areas. As part of the course, you’ll look at case studies from around the world, such as London, Rio de Janiero, New York City, Shanghai, and Mumbai. This 11-week course includes interviews and insights from academics, policymakers, urban leaders, and city residents.
This mini-module is a good option for anyone wary of committing to a longer-term learning journey. It’s an introductory-level, one-week-long immersive course that examines “pre-scientific” prediction systems that range from ancient Chinese bone-burning to the Oracle of Delphi to modern astrology and tarot.
This course will, through the life and work of Albert Einstein, teach you all about the changing role of physics in the 20th and 21st centuries. There’s no science knowledge required for this history course, which considers Einstein’s engagement with relativity, quantum mechanics, Nazism, nuclear weapons, philosophy, the arts, and technology. This is a 17-lesson course that will require a commitment of up to three hours a week.