Coursera’s Free and Green Harvard, Princeton and Stanford University Courses

free online university studentGot internet access? Then you also have admission to university-level education, absolutely free and with fully flexible class times.

Been itching to up your game in an area of science or energy? Want to be more confident when jumping into the climate change debate?  Check out some of the excellent university courses offered free and on-line.

No more books to buy, no rigid class schedule; these campus-less classrooms could shake up higher learning.

Green Prophet’s Brian Nitz introduced me to wildly addictive Coursera (my unwalked dog and idle treadmill thank you, sir).  This self-described ‘social entrepreneurship company”  partners with top universities to offer free online courses, giving anyone anywhere access to world-class education.

Web-based technology enables preeminent professors to teach tens of thousands of students via video lectures, pdf course books you can drop onto your e-reader, links to articles and supplemental video.  (The videos – typically TedTalks or obscure YouTube uploads – are  brilliant).

Created by two Stanford University scientists, Coursera offer seminars from dozens of elite American and European universities including Princeton, Stanford, University of California,  and Johns Hopkins University, as well as Edinburgh University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne. (Last year, Caltech and the University of Pennsylvania announced a combined $3.7m investment in Coursera.)

Courses span a broad range of topics in the arts, sciences, health, mathematics, history, and literature.

There’s Energy 101 and an overview class on Climate Change. Check out Global Sustainable Energy: Past, Present and Future or Science from Superheroes to Global Warming. Maybe Climate literacy: Navigating Climate Conversations is more up your alley.

The classes, which typically run for a 4-6 week period, don’t count as credit towards degrees from the host universities, but online students do receive certificates for successfully meeting each course’s requirements.

Coursera isn’t your only vehicle to freely access (and for free) some of the world’s foremost subject-matter experts.  Both Stanford and Harvard universities offer comparable programs,  as do Carnegie Mellon and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The first major providers of what’s now known as “massive open online courses” (MOOCs) got their start in Silicon Valley (California), Cambridge (Massachusetts) and Canada. New MOOCs are spawning in other parts of the world, but OpenCulture seems to retain mothership status.

Visit these sites to improve your resume, advance your career, or just learn more: this is internet surfing with bona fide payback.

Image of student online by Shutterstock

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