In recent years massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become a trend in online education. The term was coined in 2008 by David Cormier, manager of web communications and innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island. The first MOOC was created the previous year, at Utah State University. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of courses available online at no cost. You can study anything from business to zoology in your own home at no cost.
MOOCs are designed like college courses but are available to anyone anywhere in the world, at no cost. You do not receive a college credit, but you will receive a certificate of completion when you complete all coursework. The courses span dozens of subjects and are taught by some of the leaders in those fields. The courses are designed to be interesting, fun and rigorous; the courses are not just in science, and not just in English.
Coursera is perhaps the most well-known of the online education facilitators. Their latest numbers indicate that they have 17,000,000 enrollments from students representing 190 countries. There are 240,000 students in their most popular class. Coursera has over 400 courses in more than 20 categories, created by 85 Universities from 16 countries. Their courses are available in 12 different languages.
EdX is another non-profit course site created by founding partners Harvard and MIT and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. EdX offers MOOCs and interactive online classes in subjects including law, history, science, engineering, business, social sciences, computer science, public health, and artificial intelligence (AI). It has partnerships with tertiary institutions in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, China and Korea.
MIT has their own open courseware, where most of the materials used in the teaching of almost all of MIT's subjects are available on the Web, free of charge. They have more than 2,000 courses available. Stanford also has their own online and open courses. These are great options if you prefer to work at your own pace, as compared to structured classes like those offered at Coursera and EdX.
European institutions are also getting in on the act. Germany-based Iversity offers courses in both English and German and the first courses went online in October this year. Future Learn is a subsidiary of the British Open University and is currently in its beta stage. It already has partnerships with universities across Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. The courses will begin this coming November.
For those looking to learn a language Duolingo offers completely free language education. If you're interested in learning a valuable skill CodeAcademy teaches programming and coding in online, free and interactive lessons.
Other sites, like Open Culture, are not affiliated with tertiary institutions. On Open Culture, the editor finds the free courses and audio books on the web and hosts them on the site. The courses are audio & video and can be downloaded straight to a computer or mp3 player.
This is by no means a complete list of all site and institutions that offer free online courses. http://www.mooc-list.com/ has many more listed.