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The 50 Best Sources of Free Liberal Arts Learning Online

by Staff Writers

A liberal arts education can be the foundation for a career in just about any field, from politics to business, not just those directly related to liberal arts majors. Through these courses, students learn how to solve problems, think critically, write well, and gain a whole host of important facts about history and culture. That’s what makes these kinds of courses so essential in a well-rounded college degree program, and why so many colleges require students to take them, regardless of major.

Even if you’ve already signed up to take the basic liberal arts courses at your school, whether for your major or to fulfill general education requirements, it never hurts to take a few more or to expand your knowledge beyond the material covered in a course. We previously compiled a list of the best free STEM resources and now it’s the liberal arts’ turn, with loads of courses, lectures, reading material, and more on this list for you to look at and learn from in your free time.

Universities

These universities offer a wide range of liberal arts courses that students can access for free.

  1. MIT OpenCourseWare:

    MIT offers one of the largest collections of open courses anywhere on the web. While you might think they would just be STEM-related, there are actually a good number of liberal arts courses to choose from as well.

  2. The Open University:

    There are so many liberal arts courses to choose from on the Open University, from Art in Venice to the French Revolution, that you could take one every week and still not tackle them all.

  3. Open Yale Courses:

    Yale offers free courses in diverse fields, including African American Studies, Classics, English, History, and Art History, among many more.

  4. UC Berkeley Webcasts:

    Choose from courses in great liberal arts fields like anthropology and psychology when you head to UC Berkeley’s open learning site.

  5. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative:

    The bulk of the material on the OLI is technology-focused, but you can also find courses on French, speech, and soon, psychology.

  6. University of Notre Dame OCW:

    Notre Dame boasts an impressive collection of OCW in the liberal arts, with something to meet almost any students’ needs.

  7. UCI OpenCourseWare:

    Head to the University of California-Irvine’s OCW page to get access to courses in the social sciences, education, and the humanities.

  8. OpenUW:

    The University of Washington offers a limited number of courses for free, but some are on really great topics like the Civil War, Greek mythology, Hamlet, Shakespeare, and even JRR Tolkien.

  9. Columbia Interactive:

    While this site is no longer being updated with new material, the existing courses that are offered here are well worth your time to check out, covering everything from poli sci to literature.

  10. Open Oxford University:

    You don’t have to get accepted to this prestigious British school to take courses there. Instead, head to their iTunes U site and start learning about literature, nature, and much more.

  11. Stanford University on iTunes U:

    Stanford is another school with a standout collection of courses on iTunes U. Students can find everything from history to fine arts through the California school’s free offerings.

  12. UMass Boston OCW:

    Don’t miss out on the free resources offered by the University of Massachusetts-Boston. There’s a great mix of science, tech, and liberal arts courses to take advantage of.

  13. Cornell University:

    Architecture, communication, business, and music are just a few of the topics courses and lectures from Cornell focus on through their iTunes U site.

  14. Cambridge University:

    Find news, lectures, and even course material on this prestigious school’s iTunes U site.

  15. Capilano University OCW:

    Capilano offers free courses in liberal arts topics like art history, anthropology, English, geography, and philosophy.

  16. University of Wisconsin-Madison:

    Leading professors at UWM share their expertise through courses and lectures featured on this site.

  17. King’s College London Podcasts:

    Through free resources at King’s College, you can take a course in the history of philosophy or engage yourself in a humanities audio tour.

  18. NYU on iTunes U:

    Listen to lectures on subjects like French, Spanish, sustainability, architecture, and philosophy through NYU’s iTunes U portal.

  19. Arizona State University OCW:

    ASU provides a mix of OCW and lectures through iTunes U that can help you learn about a diverse selection of subjects, from geography to culture.

  20. World Lecture Hall:

    Use the World Lecture Hall site to help you find courses from leading universities around the world. Search by course, topic, or university.

Courses

You can also find great courses offered outside of universities, like those listed here.

  1. Connexions:

    On Connexions, you can search for free educational material on just about any liberal arts subject you can think of.

  2. Wikiversity:

    Whether you want to learn about architecture, ethnology, or history, head to Wikiversity for free course materials.

  3. BBC Learning:

    BBC Learning offers courses in topics like history, English, and religious studies, but some of their most popular courses can help you learn one of dozens of languages.

  4. Fathom:

    Find free seminars from around the world in liberal arts subjects when you use Fathom.

  5. Saylor.org: This free collection of college-level courses offers students the chance to learn about everything from art history to English lit.

     

Lectures

If you are more interested in a short lecture than a whole course, there are plenty of options out there. Here are some that draw on professors, scholars, experts, and other high-quality sources.

  1. Harvard @ Home:

    Even if you live thousands of miles from Harvard you can get access to their lectures through the resources offered on their Harvard @ Home site.

  2. Forum Network:

    The Forum Network collects great lectures from authors, scholars, and public figures on just about every subject imaginable.

  3. TED:

    Some of the most brilliant minds in the world have lectured at TED events, and you can see what they have to say by visiting the organization’s website.

  4. Princeton WebMedia:

    Princeton is home to some seriously amazing lectures, a collection of which you’ll find here.

  5. Academic Earth:

    Use Academic Earth to find high-quality lectures from top universities in subjects like religious studies, art, history, literature, and political science.

  6. MIT Video:

    Check out the liberal arts-related channels on MIT’s great lecture site to explore the cutting edge of the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

  7. Boston College Front Row:

    You can score yourself a front-row seat to some of the best lectures at BC when you visit their website.

  8. Conversations with History:

    The University of California Berkeley sponsors and shares this seriously amazing series on history.

  9. London School of Economics Podcasts:

    Give yourself a free economic education by listening to a few of the hundreds of podcasts uploaded to the London School of Economics’ website.

  10. Public Radio International:

    Here you’ll find some great stories from public radio stations, covering topics like history, culture, and language.

  11. Museum of Modern Art:

    You can learn more about art history by listening to the resources offered by the MOMA, exploring the works of great artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman.

  12. UCLA OID Webcasts:

    The Office of Instructional Development at UCLA shares free video lectures of important campus events featuring great speakers and faculty research here.

  13. Duke University:

    Get a free education from Duke when you head to iTunes. Currently, the only full course they offer is in chemistry, but there is an amazing collection of free lectures that can be great learning tools.

Educational Resources

Do research, learn, and collaborate using these great educational resources in the liberal arts.

  1. Bio Network: The Bio Channel is a great place to read more about some of the most important figures in world history.

     

  2. Library of Congress American Memory:

    On the Library of Congress site you’ll find documents, photographs, music, and more from some of the most pivotal events in American history.

  3. National Archives:

    Whether you’re doing research or just browsing, the National Archives are a great place to learn more about American history and life in other eras.

  4. Federal Resources for Educational Excellence:

    The U.S. Department of Education offers some great learning materials here on a wide range of liberal arts subjects.

  5. Smarthistory:

    Created by the Khan Academy, this online history learning tool puts standard history textbooks to shame.

  6. Livemocha:

    If you’re trying to learn a new language, give this interactive social learning site a try.

  7. Smithsonian Folkways:

    The Smithsonian shares its collection of traditional music from around the world on this iTunes U archive. It’s a great way to broaden your understanding of world cultures.

Reading Material

Pair your free courses and lectures with some free reading material offered through these sites.

  1. Wikibooks:

    Wikibooks offers access to a number of free textbooks and reading materials, which can often be a great supplement for other free courses.

  2. Google Scholar:

    Use Google Scholar to find academic articles on just about anything, including the social sciences and psychology.

  3. Project Gutenberg:

    When books reach a certain age, their copyrights expire and they’re free to share. You’ll find hundreds of these books, some great works of literature, on the Project Gutenberg site.

  4. Bibliomania:

    Bibliomania is another great place to look for free books, from fiction to drama to poetry.

  5. FlatWorld Knowledge:

    FlatWorld develops open source textbooks. Currently, you can access great reads on writing, college life, job hunting, geography, history, and psychology.