30 Stanford Free Courses You Can Take Online | TUN

Updated April 20, 2022

Just over a decade ago, it seemed inconceivable that you’d be able to take college-level courses online for free. Now, they are everywhere. Stanford University alone offers dozens of free online courses, covering a wide range of subjects. Not only do the courses listed in this article take the stress out of learning by letting you work at your own pace, but they are also free. All of these courses will benefit you, no matter if your goal is to learn something new to advance your career or simply because you’re interested.

Here are 30 free courses taught by Stanford instructors.

Computer Science and Programming

This course will teach you effective machine learning techniques and give you practice implementing them. In addition to teaching the theories behind machine learning techniques, this course will prepare you to effectively apply the techniques you learn. By the end of the course, you will have a solid understanding of some of Silicon Valley’s best practices and be able to use learning algorithms to build smart robots, among other things. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 60 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

As indicated by its name, this course is an introduction to computer science. You don’t need any prior experience to take the course, and the course gives you time and space to play around and figure things out on your own. “Computers can appear very complicated, but in reality, computers work within just a few, simple patterns,” the course description states. This course “demystifies” computer science and will answer many fundamental questions, including what is a computer, what is hardware, what is software, what is the internet.

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 6 weeks (4-6 hours per week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English 
  • Vendor: edX

This course is an introduction to Cryptography. It dives into the inner workings of cryptographic systems and teaches you how to correctly use them in real-world applications. Throughout the course, you’ll develop an understanding of cryptographic history, technologies, techniques and more. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 23 hours
  • Difficulty level: Intermediate
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

As a follow-up to “Cryptography I,” this course dives deeper into cryptography. It further explains the inner workings of cryptographic systems and offers more detailed information on how to use them in real-world applications. The course comes with a free virtual textbook.

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 2 hours
  • Difficulty level: Intermediate
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

This is a four-course specialization that will teach you “how to think like a computer scientist” and make you an algorithm expert. The courses are not easy. They include exams and weekly quizzes and assignments. But by the time you finish, you’ll have all the knowledge and tools you need to “ace your technical interviews and speak fluently about algorithms with other programmers and computer scientists,” according to the course description.

Each course takes four weeks to complete, and you can take any one course or all of the courses for free.

The 4 Courses:

Course 1: Divide and Conquer, Sorting and Searching, and Randomized Algorithms 

Course 2: Graph Search, Shortest Paths, and Data Structures 

Course 3: Greedy Algorithms, Minimum Spanning Trees, and Dynamic Programming 

Course 4: Shortest Paths Revisited, NP-Complete Problems and What To Do About Them

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificates only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 4 months (4 hours/week)
  • Difficulty level: Intermediate
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

Arts and Humanities

This course is meant to highlight the power of practicing love and introduce it as a force for social justice. The course explores many different topics, including the kinds of love, non-violent communication, love and the biology of the brain, love as a concept of religious and ethical beliefs, love applied in action, and love as a social force. According to the course description, the curriculum, “aims to foster a sense of the importance of love as a key phenomenon in creating community, connection, and functional societies among humans.”

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 28 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English, French, Portuguese (European), Russian, and Spanish
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course is ideal for any current or aspiring philanthropist. You’ll learn how to assess nonprofits, develop high-impact philanthropic strategies, volunteer more effectively, and use technology to support your efforts. The course includes lectures and interviews with some experts in the field of philanthropy. Before the course ends, you’ll complete a formal nonprofit assessment and create an Individual Giving Action Plan to guide your future philanthropic efforts. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 12 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course is a deep dive into networks. By analyzing dozens of networks, including family networks, social networks, economic networks, and more, you’ll learn how to measure and explore the formation of networks, analyze why they exhibit certain patterns, and understand how their structures impact certain behaviors and outcomes. The course is geared towards advanced undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students.  

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 30 hours
  • Difficulty level: Advanced
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course is a dive into the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. It uses primary source documents, such as letters, sermons, speeches, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts, to look into Dr. King’s past and examine his hopes, fears, drive, and view of the world. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 11 weeks (2-4 hours per week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English 
  • Vendor: edX

Fitness, Health and Health Care

This course is a dive into food and health. Throughout the course, you’ll be given all the information you need to make informed decisions about which foods support your health and which damage it. You’ll be given all of the information and skills that you need to enhance the way you eat. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 7 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course will help you develop healthy eating, exercise, and sleeping habits. It is particularly designed for college students, as it aims to provide evidence-based, accessible, and affordable tools to help them establish and maintain a healthy, happy, and mindful lifestyle. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 10 weeks (1-2 hours per week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English 
  • Vendor: edX

This course covers the stories of six transgender students and their families to help you gain a better understanding of gender identity and the gender spectrum. Stanford physicians, K-12 teachers, and transgender faculty members offer tips on how anyone, including teachers, parents, and healthcare providers, can help to create a more gender-expansive environment. 

  • College credits: NO 
  • Price: FREE to audit — There is no course certificate upon completion
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 8 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Portuguese (European), Russian, and Spanish
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course dives into women’s health and human rights issues “from infancy to old age.” It touches on many different topics, including education, reproductive health, violence against women at home and in communities, women in poverty, aging, and more. You can expect to learn lots of valuable information about the issues, including how to positively intervene. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 58 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course dives into child nutrition and the impacts of certain dietary decisions made by families. You will learn the health risks associated with certain foods, what constitutes a healthy diet, and how to prepare simple, nutritious, and delicious home-cooked meals for yourself and/or your family. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 11 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified), Croatian, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese (European), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

This is a five-course specialization that covers the current state and potential for artificial intelligence (AI) in health care. The specialization is designed for both those in health care and those involved in computer science, as it offers insights to encourage collaboration between the fields. You’ll learn about the current and future applications of AI in health care and better understand how AI could “transform patient care and diagnosis.”

The first three courses take approximately 12 hours to complete, while the fourth and fifth courses take approximately 11 hours. You can take any one course or all of the courses for free.

The 5 Courses: 

Course 1: Introduction to Healthcare 

Course 2: Introduction to Clinical Data

Course 3: Fundamentals of Machine Learning for Healthcare

Course 4: Evaluations of AI Applications in Healthcare

Course 5: AI in Healthcare Capstone

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificates only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 9 months (2 hours/week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course introduces many different infectious diseases through a patient-centered, story-based approach. You’ll watch illustrated short videos that walk you through each step of patients’ illnesses, from contraction to resolution. This course will give you an introduction to microbiology, pathophysiology, and immunology and is meant to encourage you towards future studies in microbiology, immunology, and infectious diseases.

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 12 hours
  • Difficulty level: Intermediate
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English, French, Portuguese (European), Russian, and Spanish
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course is intended to help scientists become better writers. You’ll be introduced to exercises and examples that teach you principles of good writing, how to write faster with less anxiety, the format of a scientific manuscript, peer review, grant writing, ethical issues in scientific publication, and how to write for general audiences. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 30 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

Science and Engineering

As indicated by its name, this course is meant to help you “understand Einstein,” particularly his special theory of relativity. The course dives into Einstein as a person and the concepts, predictions, and paradoxes of his theory. The course seeks to address major questions attached to the theory, such as how Einstein developed his ideas, the meaning of relativity, what it means to say time is the “fourth dimension,” whether time can actually move more slowly for one person than another, and more. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 81 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

The purpose of this course is to teach quantum mechanics to anyone who has at least a college-level understanding of physical science or engineering. It is an introduction to the concepts and techniques of quantum mechanics and offers insights into how quantum mechanics is used across many areas of science and engineering. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 9 weeks (5-10 hours per week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English 
  • Vendor: edX

The same professor also teaches a more advanced course — Quantum Mechanics for Scientists and Engineers II — that you can audit for free.

This course will ultimately teach you how to build, program, and control haptic devices, which, according to the course description, are “mechatronic devices that allow users to feel virtual or remote environments.” Laboratory assignments in the course have participants building and programming a haptic device. You’ll gain hands-on experience assembling mechanical systems, making circuits, programming controllers, and testing your haptic creations. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 5 weeks (1-10 hours per week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English 
  • Vendor: edX

Social Sciences

This course is an overview of poverty and inequality in America. What differentiates it from some other courses or readings is that the information provided is coming directly from the experts researching it. Overall, the course provides comprehensive, up-to-date information about the state of poverty and inequality in the United States and provides insights into impactful policies. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 9 weeks (2-4 hours per week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English 
  • Vendor: edX

This course is an introduction to the study of economics. According to the course description, “participants will be exposed to the economic way of thinking and learn about the functioning of a modern market economy.” It covers both micro and macro concepts and incorporates many examples to give you a fundamental understanding of the field. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 8 weeks (5-10 hours per week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English 
  • Vendor: edX

This course is an introduction to Game Theory, which is “the mathematical modeling of strategic interaction among rational (and irrational) agents,” according to the course description. In addition to things like board games and sports, the theory is also applicable in conflict between nations, political campaigns, and trading behaviors in the stock exchange, among other things. This course uses examples to cover common games and strategies. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 18 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course is a follow-up to the introductory “Game Theory” course. According to the course description, this course “considers how to design interactions between agents in order to achieve good social outcomes.” It dives into more advanced Game Theory concepts, including mechanism design, auctions, and social choice theory, which is most commonly represented in our voting system. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 17 hours
  • Difficulty level: Advanced
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English, French, Portuguese (European), Russian, and Spanish
  • Vendor: Coursera

Mathematics

This course will teach you to “think the way mathematicians do.” According to the course description, “mathematical thinking is not the same as doing mathematics.” This course will teach you to think about mathematics from a problem-solving, out-of-the-box perspective. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 39 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course introduces the subject of logic from a computational perspective. You’ll learn how to encode information in the form of logical sentences and develop a better understanding of logic technology and how it applies in mathematics, science, engineering, business, law, and more. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 54 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

This course will introduce you to fundamental concepts in statistics that will help you effectively learn from data and communicate it. According to the course description, you’ll learn how to “perform exploratory data analysis, understand key principles of sampling, and select appropriate tests of significance for multiple contexts.” You’ll walk away from this course with foundational skills that you can build on. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 15 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

Business and Career

This course is designed to help you structure and kickstart your new career, whether you’ve picked out a job already or are still exploring all of your options. You’ll learn how to break into a new field that you’re interested in, how to approach networking, how to pursue professional opportunities, and how to develop genuine connections. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 5 weeks (2-5 hours per week)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English 
  • Vendor: edX

In essence, this course is a dive into how to effectively run and manage an organization, whether it be a company, a grocery store, a classroom, a nonprofit, or any other organized, goal-oriented group. It mixes theory and practice to help you create an effective structure for an organization and/or troubleshoot specific problems that could occur or that you may currently be dealing with. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 54 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • Vendor: Coursera

Software is changing the world in more ways than one. This course dives into how software has impacted and will continue to impact financial services. It provides information on the future of financial services and offers guidance for creating fintech businesses in and beyond the 2020s.

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Pace: Self-paced
  • Time needed for completion: 16 hours
  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

Conclusion

If you have a few free hours in your week, there are few better ways to spend them than by taking online courses taught by Stanford professors. There’s no money or serious time commitment attached to these courses. All you need to do is enroll.

For more online courses, check TUN’s list of curated classes, or use the online classes search engine to find the best online courses in any subject.