Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is just one of the organizations offering course material for free.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Feeling like your public school education was lacking? Wishing you hadn’t dropped physics in the 10th grade? Or maybe you just want to explore a new field?

There has never been a better time to be an autodidact, that is, someone who is self-taught. Below, I’ve compiled a huge list of places where you can get a science education for free. You’ll find a wide range of material here, everything from individual science courses, to complete programs, to quick lectures. Levels include high school, college, and graduate school.

Have I missed your favourite science education resource? Leave a comment and share with the rest of the class!

Start your science education now

Brightstorm: More than 600 videos at the high school level in biology, chemistry, and physics. (Free trial for three days)

Open Learning Initiative: College-level courses in 12+ areas, ranging from argument diagramming to statistical reasoning. By Carnegie Mellon University.

Connexions: A huge collection of small knowledge chunks called modules, in dozens of subjects.

CosmoLearning: A good science education aggregation site, which lists more than 515 courses from around the globe in every conceivable topic.

Johns Hopkins: The open courseware initiative for Johns Hopkins university, which focuses on medical science topics.

Learners TV: Videos, lecture notes, course descriptions on everything from biology to that dismal science, economics.

Open Learn: Eight pages of free science courses from Open University in the UK. Everything from everyday math to trigonometry, with a few fun math games thrown in for good measure. There’s also a store where you can buy books, CDs, software, etc.

Merlot: Where do teachers and professors swap their best stuff? At the Merlot repository. You can grab some learning goodies too.

MIT: More than 2100 courses available here, with the majority being science related. Undergraduate and graduate level material.

HippoCampus: A variety of high school and college level courses from the US National Repository of Courses Online.

Yale: This list includes videos, suggested readings, and practice problems, free from an Ivy League school.

University of Michigan: A good list of material focusing on health sciences at the college level.

University of California at Irvine: Here, you can learn about the physical sciences, engineering sciences, and computer sciences.

University of California at Berkeley: Everything from anthropology to robotics here.

Stanford Engineering: Stanford School of Engineering is offering some of its most popular courses online for free.

TED: Technology, education, and design talks from some of the most interesting people in the world.

Science NetLinks: For the children in your life, free K-12 science education from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Science media: Me, I prefer books over video. But which ones? Find top notch reviews of science books and films, also brought to you by the AAAS.

Udacity: If you’re looking for a different kind of learning experience, this one focuses on problem-solving, rather than lectures. Centered around computer science.

University of the People: A tuition-free university designed to democratize education. There are fees to apply and take exams, but these max out at $100. At posting time, they were offering an undergraduate computer science degree.

Coursera: A consortium of US universities offering video lecture-based courses online in several science-related areas.

EdX: MIT and Harvard will be joining forces to offer free courses to a global audience. No material available yet, but this will almost certainly be worth bookmarking for future reference.

Khan Academy: With more than 3200 videos, you could spend months on this site alone. There’s a smidgen of K-12 material, but the rest is high school and college level.

SciTable: Nature magazine brings you material on cell biology and genetics.

YouTube Edu: Believe it or not, there’s more to YouTube than cute kittens. Have a look at the Edu channel for a wide variety of lectures.

iTunes University: Carry your university-level education in your pocket. The link here points to the web page, but a search for iTunes University in the Apple App Store on your favourite device will get you there too.

BONUS: Check out this portal, called Online Courses.

Can you help make this longer? Post your favourite science education resource site below.


    • Russell Kovach

    • 12 years ago

    I find it quite appalling and offensive that the opening sentence of this introduction suggests that a ‘public school education’ is lacking. The vast majority of public schools do a great job (just as well, if not better than perhaps even most private / religious schools) of covering science. While I do not begin to suggest that we cannot do better (who couldn’t?), half of the private schools in our nation strive to disavow many of the central tenets of science. Furthermore if you compare public school students to those students who are in ‘premier’ private schools that do not discriminate against mainstream science, then you must remember to compare students across socioeconomic lines as the public schools are not rejecting those that lack money or grades. When you do so I suspect you would find that the public schools are doing just fine thank you; and I would put the science education we offer here in Maryland up against any school (public or private) any place any time. It is so disturbing that these inferiority myths continue to prevail about public education… we should be proud of and bolster our public schools, not tell a story suggesting that private education is better.

      • Seth

      • 12 years ago

      Read the first paragraph again, all those sentences are questions, not statements. I would also argue that the word “lacking” doesn’t necessarily mean lacking in scientific information.

      In my case, my California public high school had a variety of classes, quality scientific information, high test scores – but the classes were too large to be effective, and completely boring for anyone actually interested in science. They turned me off from pursuing science in university – and only now in my late 20’s am I considering what a mistake that was.

      We covered the basics well, but in a classroom with 30+ students the whole class was paced for the slowest learners, and there was little opportunity for extra-motivated, extra-interested or gifted students to go beyond the basic curriculum in a structured way.

  1. Hi Russell,

    Thanks for commenting! The post only asks the reader if his or her own education was lacking, and makes no blanket statements about public education, and says nothing at all about private education. It’s awesome though, that you’ve got a solid system in Maryland. I have a feeling you’ve had a hand in making it is what it is. Cheers!

    • World Citizen

    • 12 years ago

    Hi Chandra, – Would be a great add.

    • Margaret

    • 12 years ago

    This looks great. But, the first one on your list – Brightstorm – is only free for 3 days. Set aside a long weekend for that one!

    1. Thanks Margaret, I’ll update the post accordingly!

    • Some Citizen

    • 12 years ago

  2. Here’s another one courtesy of Professor Joe Wolfe of Australia:

    Free animations and clips to help you learn physics; aimed at the high school or intro university level.

  3. Incredible, this is truly a exceptional article.

    • salman khan

    • 11 years ago

    thanks a lot for your article . it really healped me . will stay tume for more 🙂 .

    • bakeca Chieti

    • 11 years ago

    nice tips….

    • barbz

    • 10 years ago

    Better an autodidact than a proud, ignorant numbskull, eh?

    Even with education quality in freefall in the US public school system, we can still have well-informed, educated citizens.

    Really, that’s all we need to turn everything around. Which is probably why education quality is in freefall.

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