"No instructors, no credits and no charge" are what set OpenCourseWare apart from traditional college courses. Since MIT kicked off the project in 2002, many other universities worldwide have started to participate in OCW, which refers to course materials created by universities and shared freely online. This material is posted for users to navigate at their own pace and preference, and it often includes syllabi, handouts, reading materials, and audio or video tracks. Though the approach is completely self-guided, the online material replicates the average college course pretty accurately -- without the pressure of grades, deadline or class participation. In some cases, OpenCourseWare taken under the guidance of an instructor may be accepted as credit toward a college degree. To help you decide what course to "take," we've outlined below some of the most noteworthy offerings in several subject areas.
- 14.02 - Principles of Macroeconomics (MIT) This course, taught by Veronica Guerrieri, covers classic macroeconomic issues including growth, inflation, unemployment, interest rates, exchange rates, technological progress and budget deficits. Questions addressed over the course include: How do countries grow over long periods of time? Why do some countries grow faster than others? Why has the U.S. grown so rapidly during the last decade? What are the role of labor markets in the economy? Full lecture notes/slides are available for this course.
- ECON 252 - Financial Markets, Spring 2008 (Yale University) Taught by Robert Shiller, this course focuses on the theory of finance and its relation to the history, strengths and imperfections of institutions such as banking, insurance, securities, futures, and other derivatives markets, and the future of these institutions over the next century. The course was designed to meet twice per week for 75 minutes. Sessions can be downloaded as videos or mp3s. Written transcripts of each lecture are also available, as are PowerPoint slides.
At a glance: 24 lecture sessions; six problem sets; three exams.
At a glance: 26 lecture sessions; select problem sets; two midterm exams; one final exam.
- Education 173: Cognition & Learning in Educational Settings (UC Irvine) Michael Martinez teaches this course, which looks at research on cognitive processes that is relevant to teaching and learning. The course introduces some of the many theories of learning and related topics useful to the design of instruction and to teaching practice.
- EDUC 403 - Individualized Reading Instruction in the Elementary Grades (University of Michigan) This course, taught by Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar, explores techniques for assessment of reading and writing skills and for development of individualized instruction in classroom settings. The course is intended to help students develop strategies for meeting the needs of individual students and produce effective teacher-prepared materials.
- EDUC4300 - Methods in Science (Dixie State College of Utah) Shirley Sung Davis leads this course, which seeks to raise an awareness of national, state and local standards in science education. It also discusses effective teaching strategies to help teachers meet the various needs of all learners in the public school setting.
At a glance: 18 class sessions; one midterm exam; one final exam.
At a glance: 13 lecture sessions; various workshops; two-phase text-based discussion project (teach from a text at two points in the course -- before and after instruction)
At a glance: 14 lecture sessions; science lesson plan; 10 science practice problems; weekly chapter assignments; one final exam.
- 6.00 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming (MIT) Eric Grimson and John Guttag lead this course, which is designed for students with little or no programming experience. It aims to provide students with an understanding of the role computation can play in solving problems and also seeks to help students, regardless of their major, feel confident of their ability to write small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals. Class uses Python programming language.
- Introduction to Biomedical Engineering (Yale University) Taught by W. Mark Saltzman, this course covers basic concepts of biomedical engineering, serving as an introduction to the fundamental science and engineering on which biomedical engineering is based. The class is designed for science and non-science majors. It relies on case studies of drugs and medical products to convey the product development-product testing cycle, patent protection and FDA approval.
- Biomedical Engineering Design (Delft University of Technology - Netherlands) This course, taught by D.H. Plettenburg, focuses on rehabilitation technology, and the role of biomedical engineering in this field. Students will explore the interaction between human and machines, ultimately designing, analyzing and solving a problem related to rehabilitation devices and structures.
At a glance: 24 lecture sessions; 12 problem sets; three exams.
At a glance: 25 lecture sessions; homework sets; research paper; one midterm exam; one final exam.
At a glance: 7 lecture sessions; final conceptual engineering design project.
- COM 351: Documentary Studies (New Jersey Institute of Technology) Taught by Norbert Elliot, this course considers the methods by which documentary work is conducted, and allows students to complete a documentary project of their own. The course combines social sciences with the arts by allowing students to study documentary subjects as captured by non-fiction, photography, film, tape recorder and the web. It emphasizes the roles of narrative and metaphor in documentary.
- THEA 1010 - Understanding Theatre, Fall 2005 (Utah State University) David Sidwell. The goal of this course is to understand the arts of theatre, their application to daily life and to the enjoyment of theatre as an art form.
- MUSI 112 - Listening to Music (Yale University) Craig Wright's class on listening to music is more challenging than the course title suggests, but it's also fun and insightful. Wright helps his students develop the aural skills that ultimately lead to an understanding of Western music, introducing them to the ways in which music is put together and guiding them through wide variety of musical styles, from Bach and Mozart, to Gregorian chant, to the blues.
At a glance: 10 lectures; one intellectual autobiography paper; various assignments on the lectures, and texts and their themes; documentary proposal and project.
At a glance: Students keep a running workbook to catalog course tasks, which include writing a play critique, reading a few plays, seeing several plays and crafting a play of their own.
At a glance: 23 class sessions; 30 listening exercises; one orchestra review; one paper; three exams.
Health & Medicine
- 180.620.81 - Food Production, Public Health, and the Environment (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) Bob Lawrence and Polly Walker teach this course on the public health issue of food security, grappling with the fact that one billion people are under-nourished while another billion are overweight. It explores the connections among diet, the current food and food animal production systems, and the environment and public health, considering factors such as economics, population and equity.
- PPM 121 - Nutrition and Medicine (Tufts University) This course, taught by Tufts faculty including Margo Woods and Joel Mason, introduces students to the functions of macro and micronutrients; the role of nutrition throughout the life cycle (pregnancy, lactation, infatns/children, adults and the elderly); and the clinical application of nutrition in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease (cardiovascular, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer). The course also examines the role of exercise and identifies behavioral skills from the perspective of the physician and the patient in order to successfully achieve a change in lifestyle for better health.
- 340.627.81 - Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) Kenrad Nelson leads this course, which seeks to help students describe and understand the main epidemiological characteristics of the major infectious diseases of humans. It covers the basic methods for infectious disease epidemiology and case studies of important disease syndromes and entities. Methods include definitions and nomenclature, outbreak investigations, disease surveillance, case-control studies, cohort studies, laboratory diagnosis, molecular epidemiology, dynamics of transmission, and assessment of vaccine field effectiveness.
At a glance: 27 lecture sessions; two projects/papers; four quizzes.
At a glance: 15 lecture sessions; six small-group assignments; final exam.
At a glance: 20 lectures; one peer review paper; one midterm exam; one final exam.
- CLAS 30205 - History of Ancient Rome (University of Notre Dame) Elizabeth Mazurek introduces students to the history of ancient Rome, from Romulus to Constantine. Course highlights include the spread of Roman rule in Italy and the ancient Mediterranean, the shift in government due to civil war and new leadership, and the threats to the empire by the rise of Christianity and outside invaders.
- 21H.346 - France 1660-1815: Enlightenment, Revolution, Napoleon (MIT) This course, taught by Jeffrey S. Ravel, examines the issues, trends and leaders that carried France through a period of growth and knowledge, to a period of terror in which thousands died and the monarchy was overthrown, to the establishment of a republic and the nation's first emperor. The class examines four aspects of French experience from the reign of Louis XIV to the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte: Absolutism, Enlightenment, Revolution, and Empire.
- HIST 30800 - African American History II (University of Notre Dame) In this class, led by Richard Pierce, students examine the range of experiences of African Americans from the end of the American Civil War to the 1980s, focusing both on the relationship of blacks to the larger society and the inner dynamic of the black community. Particular attention is paid to Reconstruction, the migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North, and the political machinations of the African American community.
At a glance: 26 lecture sessions; two essays; one midterm exam; one final exam.
At a glance: 27 lectures; four three-page papers; one research paper; one oral report.
At a glance: 19 lectures; one annotated bibliography; one midterm exam; one final exam.
- Elementary French 1 (Carnegie Mellon) (free reg.) This beginners course is an interactive video-based course intended for use by university students and independent learners on the Internet, with a time commitment of about 6 to 8 hours per week. The beginning of each lesson is always a set sequence, from simple recognition of language in a video dialogue to written and spoken production of variations on that language. After this ordered beginning, a number of activities are offered to the student in which the language learned is used in understanding new texts or videos or in creative production (conversation or writing).
- 21F.101 / 21F.151 Chinese I (Regular) (MIT) Julian K. Wheatley teaches this introductory course on Mandarin Chinese. The course assumes students have no prior background in the language, and it seeks to develop basic conversational abilities (pronunciation, fundamental grammatical patterns, common vocabulary and standard usage); basic reading and writing skills; and an understanding of the language learning process so that students are able to continue studying effectively on their own.
At a glance: 15 lessons.
At a glance: four one-hour class sessions per week; one oral interview; five tests.
- ENGL 300 - Introduction to Theory of Literature, Spring 2009 (Yale University) In this course, Paul Fry explores the main trends in 20th century literary theory, which focuses on the philosophy of literature. Fry covers everything from semiotics and structuralism to Freud to Jacques Lacan to the feminist tradition, getting to the bottom of what literature is, how it's produced, how it can be understood, and its purpose.
- Hamlet (University of Washington) (free reg.) Part of a full-length course at the University of Washington titled English Literary Culture 1600-1800, this short series covers one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, Hamlet. The material focuses on the complexity of Hamlet's character, the play's themes and symbolism, and the beauty of Shakespeare's language.
- ENGL 310 - Modern Poetry (Yale University) Langdon Hammer leads this course on modern poetry, its characteristic techniques, concerns, and major contributors. Poets discussed include Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Moore, Bishop, and Frost, and topics covered include World War I, Imagism and the Harlem Renaissance. Broad thematic concerns are also covered, such as the existence or non-existence of God, and the use and depiction of history.
At a glance: 26 lectures; two short papers; one final paper.
At a glance: Five sessions; one quiz.
At a glance: 25 lectures; 2 papers; 1 midterm exam; 1 final exam.
- Statistics 134, 002 - Concepts of Probability (UC Berkeley) Fletcher Hank Ibser introduces students to probability in this course, which emphasizes concepts and applications. Topics covered include conditional expectation, independence, laws of large numbers; discrete and continuous random variables; and the central limit theorem. "I think it's a really interesting class," Ibser says. "It's also a pretty hard class."
- Intro to Statistics (Carnegie Mellon) (free reg.) This course, which is not led by an instructor, introduces the basic concepts, logic, and issues involved in statistical reasoning. Topics include exploratory data analysis, producing data and study design, probability and statistical inference.
- Linear Algebra (University of Oxford) In this course, students will deepen their understanding of linear algebra. They will ultimately be able to define and obtain the minimal and characteristic polynomials of a linear map on a finite-dimensional vector space, and they will be able to prove and apply the Primary Decomposition Theorem. The second part of the course introduces students to some classic ring theory that is basic for other parts of abstract algebra, for linear algebra and for those parts of number theory that lead ultimately to applications in cryptography.
At a glance: 28 lectures; weekly homework; one mid-term exam; one final exam.
At a glance: 12 modules.
At a glance: 24 lectures; problem sets.
- PHIL 10100-1 - Introduction to Philosophy (University of Notre Dame) Paul Weithman introduces students to the basics of philosophy in the course, from key concepts to key figures. Topics include ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics and the theory of knowledge. The roles and ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes and Dostoevsky are also considered.
- 24.120 Moral Psychology (MIT) Taught by Richard Holton, this course examines the philosophical theories of action and motivation in the light of empirical findings from social psychology, sociology, and neuroscience. Topics include belief, desire, and moral motivation; sympathy and empathy; intentions and other committing states; strength of will and weakness of will; free will; addiction and compulsion; guilt, shame and regret; evil; self-knowledge and self-deception; and, virtues and character traits.
- PHIL 176 - Death (Yale University) Shelly Kagan discusses how the inevitabilty of death shapes human thought, action, life and society. The course examines a number of issues that arise once the concept of human mortality is considered. The possibility that death may not actually be the end is considered, and a clearer notion of what it is to die is examined as are different attitudes to death. Other topics include: Would immortality be desirable? What does it mean to say that a person has died? Is death an evil? Is suicide morally permissible? Is it rational? How should the knowledge that I am going to die affect the way I live my life?
At a glance: 25 lectures; nine short papers; mid-term exam; final exam.
At a glance: 25 lectures; three short papers; one class presentation;
At a glance: 26 lecture sessions; three papers.
- RLST 145 - Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (Yale University) Christine Hayes teaches this course on the Old Testament, which looks at the Bible against the backdrop of its historical and cultural setting in the Ancient Near East. The text is examined as an expression of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel, and a foundational document of Western civilization. A wide range of methodologies, including source criticism and the historical-critical school, tradition criticism, redaction criticism, and literary and canonical approaches are applied to the study and interpretation of the Bible.
- THEO 10001 - Foundations of Theology: Biblical and Historical (University of Notre Dame) This course, led by Gary Anderson, introduces students to the Bible and historical Christianity. It seeks to familiarize students with the contents of the Bible and the development of the early Church, with special emphasis on theological themes of perennial interest and the significance of the Bible for Christian thought and practice, as well as the relationship of Christianity to Judaism.
At a glance: 24 lecture sessions; one paper; one mid-term exam; one final exam.
At a glance: 27 lecture sessions; several homework assignments; periodic quizzes; one final exam.
- Physics I: Classical Mechanics (MIT) "I will show you, whether you like it or not, that physics is beautiful," Walter Lewin says in introducing this course. "And you may even start to like it." In addition to the basic concepts of Newtonian Mechanics, Fluid Mechanics, and Kinetic Gas Theory, other topics included in the course are binary stars, neutron stars, black holes, resonance phenomena and musical instruments.
- PHY-6 Physics for Humanists (Tufts University) Physics for Humanists, taught by Gary R. Goldstein, is intended for those who are intellectually and emotionally curious but do not intend to specialize in the natural sciences. The course covers facts and concepts of classical and modern physics; eminent scientists and the emotions that have impelled them; nuclear energy and nuclear bombs; and the interaction, both constructive and destructive, between science and society.
- CHEM 251 - Organic Chemistry I (UMass Boston) Marietta Schwartz leads this course, which analyzes the structure, reactions and synthesis of the main classes of organic compounds. Lecture topics include bonding and molecular structure; acids and bases; alkane nomenclature and conformational analysis; and ionic reactions. The laboratory component of the course illustrates the preparation, purification and identification of organic compounds by classical and instrumental methods.
At a glance: 35 lectures; 10 homework assignments; three exams; one final exam.
At a glance: 24 lecture sessions; five problem sets; two mid-term exams; one final exam.
At a glance: 38 lectures; four exams; final exam.
- PSYC 110 - Introduction to Psychology (Yale University) Taught by the energetic Paul Bloom, this course explores topics such as perception, communication, learning, memory, decision-making, religion, persuasion, love, lust, hunger, art, fiction and dreams. Bloom looks at how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wired-up in the brain, and how they break down due to illness and injury. Pioneers in the field, include Freud and Skinner, are also covered.
- ANTH 20040 - Islamic Societies of the Middle East and North Africa: Religion, History, and Culture, (University of Notre Dame) Asma Afsaruddin leads this course on the Islamic societies of the Middle East and North Africa from their origins to the present day. The course considers the history and expansion of Islam, both as a world religion and civilization, and it also explores issues of religious practices, political governance and movements, gender, social relations and cultural norms in relation to a number of Islamic societies in the region.
- Criminology, Law and Society C219: Hate Crimes (UC Irvine) This course, taight by Valerie Jenness, examines the causes and consequences of hate crimes as well as the larger soical land political context in which they occur. It considers the dynamics and politics of violence stemming from bigotry and discrimination, as well as the social policies designed to control it.
At a glance: 20 lecture sessions; one book review; one mid-term exam; one final exam.
At a glance: Nine lecture sessions; two response papers; one oral presentation; one final term paper.
At a glance: 10 lessons.