MIT offers over 2,000 free online courses — here are 13 of the best ones

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  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is ranked the second best school in the world in 2021, according to US News.
  • Despite the exclusivity that comes with prestige, the institution offers accessibility to its educational resources. 
  • You can take thousands of free MIT courses online through edX or MIT OpenCourseWare.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be one of the most prestigious universities in the world — and, through the lenses of price, location, and a 7.3% acceptance rate —  could also be seen as one of the least accessible. But, for an institution that says “the soul of MIT is research” — it has made considerable efforts to remove barriers to its faculty and classes.

In 2012, the university co-founded edX, an education non-profit, with Harvard and currently offers more than 200+ courses that are free to audit. And since 2001, the university has been publishing all of the educational materials from its undergraduate- and graduate-level courses online for free, so anyone with access to the internet can experience over 2,000 MIT courses through MIT OpenCourseWare.

If you choose to learn through edX, many classes will give you a more traditional classroom experience, including video lectures, community engagement in discussion forums, and (in paid versions) graded assignments and a completion certificate  you can share on LinkedIn or on your resume. MIT OpenCourseWare has more course options, but is scrappier and less intuitive; you’ll be on your own aside from access to course materials like readings and lecture notes. 

Below, you’ll find a few of the most popular Massachusetts Institute of Technology courses you can take online for free. For more, we’d suggest browsing MIT Opencourseware and the whopping 200+ courses offered through edX — spanning topics from computer science to social policy.

13 MIT courses you can take online for free:

Machine Learning with Python: from Linear Models to Deep Learning

Time commitment: 15 weeks 

Cost: Free to audit; $300 for verified certificate

This course offers an in-depth introduction to the field of machine learning. Students will cover topics from linear models to deep learning and reinforcement learning through hands-on Python projects. It’s also the last course in the MITx MicroMasters program in Statistics and Data Science.

*Note: This course began on February 1, 2021, but enrollment is currently open.

Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python

Time commitment: 9 weeks 

Cost: Free to audit; $75 for verified certificate

This introductory course focuses on breadth rather than depth; You’ll learn about Python, simple algorithms, testing and debugging, and data structures. You’ll also get an informal introduction to algorithm complexity.

*Note: This course began on January 27, 2021, but enrollment is currently open.

Global Africa: Creative Cultures

Time commitment: N/A 

Cost: Free

Through MIT OpenCourseWare, students can learn about Africa’s material and visual culture through dynamic lenses (anthropology, history, and social theory), as well as examine how the continent’s literary, musical, and artistic productions intersect with global politics. Taught by M. Amah Edoh, the course interweaves ideas from intellectuals such as Princeton professor Chika Okeke-Agulu, Stanford professor Paulla A. Ebron, and acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to contextualize African visual culture. 

Art, Craft, Science

Time commitment: N/A

Cost: Free

Also through MIT OpenCourseWare, students can examine crafts — or, artworks that are created to be used as well as viewed — through historical, theoretical, and anthropological lenses. Professor Heather Paxson examines the historical and contemporary creation, consumption, commodification, and value of crafts. Ultimately, students should be able to apply the same tools to form and articulate their own ideas about crafts.

Shaping Work of the Future

Time commitment: 8 weeks

Cost: free to audit; $49 for a verified certificate

Study the relationship between new technologies, work, and society in order to develop action plans for improving the workforce. Students will approach class topics with a historical perspective of work and employment policy in the US and around the world, and learn how civic institutions can use the gains from emerging innovations to increase equality of opportunity, social inclusion, and shared prosperity.

COVID-19 in Slums & Informal Settlements: Guidelines & Responses

Time commitment: 4 weeks 

Cost: free to audit; $29 for a verified certificate

What’s happening during the COVID-19 pandemic in self-built, urban poor settlements in which guidelines such as social isolation, social distancing, and frequent hand washing are not feasible? And what guidelines are actually useful in informal settlements? In this course, experts from a variety of backgrounds (academics, community leaders, public officials, etc.) aim to answer that question.

Tools for Academic Engagement in Public Policy

Time commitment: 3 weeks

Cost: free to audit; $199 for a verified certificate

Public policies have grown increasingly complex and technical — and there’s a clear need for scientists and engineers to engage with policymakers on making scientifically informed solutions to public challenges. But, very few academics receive the necessary training on how to actually impact public policy. This course, taught by an MIT political science professor and Harvard’s executive director of the Scientific Citizenship Initiative, aims to close the gap.  

The Iterative Innovation Process

Time commitment: 8 weeks

Cost: free to audit; $99 for a verified certificate

Applicable to organizations or individuals, this course teaches the iterative innovation process. Students will learn about the interconnectedness of markets, implementation, and technology, and how to spot opportunities in each. Throughout the course, students will build an innovation process model with real examples and exercises. 

Evaluating Social Programs

Time commitment: 6 weeks 

Cost: free to audit; $99 for a verified certificate

Students learn why randomized evaluations matter and how to quality control and monitor them. Through lectures and case studies, they’ll learn about common pitfalls of evaluation designs, key components of a well-designed randomized evaluation, techniques for analyzing and interpreting results, and more. A familiarity with basic statistical concepts is useful, but not required. 

Becoming a More Equitable Educator: Mindsets and Practices

Time commitment: 10 weeks

Cost: free to audit; $49 for a verified certificate

In this education and teacher training course, students will learn about mindsets and practices that help create a more equitable learning environment and, in particular, help underserved students to thrive. Participants will examine dimensions of inequality in education, use case studies to imagine community change, and rehearse acting in difficult situations. First, the class will focus on individual interactions and later expand to cover the impact of bias on schools and communities.

Supply Chain Analytics

Time commitment: 15 weeks 

Cost: free to audit; $199 for a verified certificate

This hands-on business and management course focuses on the application of core supply chain analytics methodologies and modeling — including statistics, regression, optimization and probability — more than conceptual underpinnings. Students will be prepared for the common methods and tools they may encounter in their study or practice of supply chains. It’s also part of the MITx Supply Chain Management MicroMasters Credential.

*Note: This course began on December 9, 2020, but enrollment is currently open.

Supply Chain Fundamentals

Time commitment: 13 weeks 

Cost: free to audit; $299 for a verified certificate

This course helps students build the foundational skills required for supply chain management and logistics. Students will learn how to develop and apply analytic tools, approaches, and techniques — with an emphasis on where and how specific tools can be used to improve a supply chain’s overall performance or reduce the total cost. It’s also part of the MITx Supply Chain Management MicroMasters Credential.

*Note: This course begins on March 17, 2021, but enrollment is currently open.

Policy for Science, Technology and Innovation

Time commitment: 8 weeks 

Cost: free to audit; $149 for a verified certificate

Students will examine the science and technology innovation system with an emphasis on public policy and the federal government’s research and development role in that system. The class will use case studies as well as foundations of economic growth theory, innovation systems theory and innovation organization theory, and more. Students will build from basic approaches towards an advanced understanding. 

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