Harvard offers over 140 free online courses — here are 31 standout ones

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  • Harvard University has over 140 of its classes publicly available online through the e-learning platform edX.
  • We put together a list of the 31 most interesting Harvard online courses you can enroll in for free, spanning topics like computer science, public health, politics, history, poetry, and the science of cooking.
  • Browse all the Harvard online courses that are free to audit here. You can pay a fee (typically $50-$200 per course) if you'd like unlimited access to the instructional materials and a certificate to add to your CV, resume, or LinkedIn profile.

EdX, a popular online learning platform and nonprofit founded by Harvard and MIT, aims to democratize learning by "removing the barriers of cost, location, and access."

The site's over 2,500 online courses are free to audit, and edX counts many of the world's top universities — including Berkeley, MIT, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, Georgia Tech, and the University of Chicago — among its participating institutions. Courses cover virtually every topic and longer programs range from edX's MicroMasters to professional certificate programs to acquire the skills needed to change career fields. 

Of the site's course catalog, about 145 are from Harvard. Harvard's edX courses cover everything from public health and history to the science of cooking, computer programming, and poetry.

You can audit these classes for free, or you can opt to pay $50-$200 for a course. Paid users get access to graded assignments, a certificate that you can add to your CV, resume, and LinkedIn profile, and unlimited course access (even after the course ends). Both paid and free users get access to discussion forums, videos, readings, and ungraded practice problems.

Below, check out 31 of the most interesting Harvard courses available to audit online for free. The descriptions are provided by edX.

Masterpieces of World Literature

Free to audit

Embark on a global journey to explore the past, present, and future of World Literature.

CS50's Introduction to Artificial Intelligence with Python

Free to audit

Learn to use machine learning in Python in this introductory course on artificial intelligence.

CitiesX: The Past, Present, and Future of Urban Life

Free to audit

Explore what makes cities energizing, amazing, challenging, and perhaps humanity's greatest invention.

*This course begins on December 9, 2020, but it currently available to audit. 

The Opioid Crisis in America

Free to audit

Learn about the opioid epidemic in the United States, including information about treatment and recovery from opioid addiction.

Introduction to Family Engagement in Education

Free to audit

Learn about successful collaborations between families and educators and why they lead to improved outcomes for students and schools.

Improving Your Business Through a Culture of Health

Free to audit

Learn how a Culture of Health can transform your business to improve the well-being of your employees and company, while increasing revenue.

Statistics and R

Free to audit

An introduction to basic statistical concepts and R programming skills necessary for analyzing data in the life sciences.

Introduction to Probability

Free to audit

Learn probability, an essential language and set of tools for understanding data, randomness, and uncertainty.

Fat Chance: Probability from the Ground Up

Free to audit

Increase your quantitative reasoning skills through a deeper understanding of probability and statistics.

Data Science: Inference and Modeling

Free to audit

Learn inference and modeling, two of the most widely used statistical tools in data analysis.

Data Science: R Basics

Free to audit

Build a foundation in R and learn how to wrangle, analyze, and visualize data.

Using Python for Research

Free to audit

Take your introductory knowledge of Python programming to the next level and learn how to use Python 3 for your research.

The Health Effects of Climate Change

Free to audit

Learn how global warming impacts human health, and the ways we can diminish those impacts.

Justice

Free to audit

This introduction to moral and political philosophy is one of the most popular courses taught at Harvard College.

*This course begins on April 30, 2021, but it is currently available to audit.

Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster

Free to audit

Learn the principles guiding humanitarian response to modern emergencies, and the challenges faced in the field today.

Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking

Free to audit

Gain critical communication skills in writing and public speaking with this introduction to American political rhetoric.

Women Making History: Ten Objects, Many Stories

Free to audit

Learn how American women created, confronted, and embraced change in the 20th century while exploring ten objects from Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library.

MalariaX: Defeating Malaria from the Genes to the Globe

Free to audit

How can we eradicate malaria? Explore cutting-edge science and technology, and examine policies needed, to control and eliminate malaria.

Prescription Drug Regulation, Cost, and Access: Current Controversies in Context

Free to audit

Understand how the FDA regulates pharmaceuticals and explore debates on prescription drug costs, marketing, and testing.

Lessons from Ebola: Preventing the Next Pandemic

Free to audit

Understanding the context for the Ebola outbreak: What went right, what went wrong, and how we can all do better.

Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology

Free to audit

Explore the archaeology, history, art, and hieroglyphs surrounding the famous Egyptian Pyramids at Giza. Learn about Old Kingdom pharaohs and elites, tombs, temples, the Sphinx, and how new technology is unlocking their secrets.

American Government: Constitutional Foundations

Free to audit

Learn how early American politics informed the US Constitution and why its promise of liberty and equality has yet to be fully realized.

US Political Institutions: Congress, Presidency, Courts, and Bureaucracy

Free to audit

Examine the inner workings of the three branches of the US Federal Government.

Citizen Politics in America: Public Opinion, Elections, Interest Groups, and the Media

Free to audit

Learn about the forces in American politics that seek to influence the electorate and shift the political landscape.

Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science

Free to audit

Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how traditional and modernist cooking techniques can illuminate basic principles in chemistry, physics, and engineering. Learn about elasticity, viscosity, mayonnaise, baking, and more.

CS50's Understanding Technology

Free to audit

This is CS50's introduction to technology for students who don't (yet) consider themselves computer persons.

Practical Improvement Science in Health Care: A Roadmap for Getting Results

Free to audit

Learn the skills and tools of improvement science to make positive changes in health, healthcare, and your daily life.

*This course is currently archived, but it is still available to audit.

Health and Society

Free to audit

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the major social variables that affect population health.

*This course is currently archived, but it is still available to audit.

CS50's Mobile App Development with React Native

Free to audit

Learn about mobile app development with React Native, a popular framework maintained by Facebook that enables cross-platform native apps using JavaScript without Java or Swift.

*This course is currently archived, but it is still available to audit.

Saving Schools: Reforming the US Education System

Free to audit

An overview of the past, present, and future of the United States public K-12 education system.

*This course is currently archived, but it is still available to audit.

Poetry in America: Modernism

Free to audit

Reading works by Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens, among others, learn how American Modernist poetry departed from past traditions and past forms.

*This course is currently archived, but it is still available to audit.

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