Open Learning at Harvard

At Harvard Extension School, free and open learning is hardly a new concept. In fact, the Extension School was founded with this mission in mind: to create an affordable way for any motivated student to take courses at Harvard. We stay true to this mission today, offering several free courses and nearly 800 for-credit courses at reasonable tuition rates.

Explore our series of free or low-cost courses below. In addition, you can also browse Harvard University's Digital Learning Portal, which features online learning content from across the University, both free and fee-based options.

Video accessibility. If you are unable to easily access any of the videos below, you may submit a request for accommodation, and we will work with you on your request. 

Open Learning Courses with Harvard Faculty

Abstract Algebra

In these free videotaped lectures, Professor Gross presents an array of algebraic concepts. To explore the lectures, visit the Abstract Algebra Open Learning Course page

The Ancient Greek Hero

A long-time offering at Harvard College and Harvard Extension School, Gregory Nagy's popular exploration of the hero motif in classic literature is offered as a course for credit at Harvard Extension School, as a course on edX, and as a series of free video lectures. See The Hero in Ancient Greek Civilization Open Learning Course

American Poetry from the Mayflower through Emerson

Discover how the United States developed its own national literature with Elisa New, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University. The course features conversations with public figures like writer Michael Pollan, economist Larry Summers, and Vice President Al Gore.

Watch a video, in which Elisa New discusses the design of the HarvardX course and the topics covered.

Read the course description for American Poetry from the Mayflower through Emerson 


Explore how digital technologies inform issues of public policy, regulation, and law in this series of course lecture videos featuring Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, Harvard. See Bits: The Computer Science of Digital Information Open Learning Course


Study the world’s largest and oldest government from its ancient beginnings to the twenty-first century. Using Harvard’s vast visual collection, Peter Bol, Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, and William C. Kirby, Chang Professor of China Studies at Harvard, show China in a new social and political light.

Watch the following video to get a sense of the tools used in the course, and visit the China: Traditions and Transformations Open Learning Course page

Intensive Introduction to Computer Science

In this course, taught by David Malan, you can learn programming languages like HTML, CSS, and SQL. Through real-world applications, you build computer science skills that can be applied in a variety of different job markets. Hear from students who have taken this course in the following video, and visit the Intensive Introduction to Computer Science Open Learning Course page

Masterpieces of World Literature

This course surveys world literature from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the present, with an emphasis on different cultures and writing traditions. Watch the course trailer below, and read the Masterpieces of World Literature course description

Saving Schools: History, Politics, and Policy in US Education

How did the American school system, which used to be the envy of the world, fall to a point where a majority of 15-year-old US students in math, science, and reading fall below the students in the majority of industrialized nations? Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard University, explores school politics and the pros and cons of various reform options. Peterson discusses the topics covered in the edX course in the video below. You may also read more in the Saving Schools course description

Science and Cooking

Calling all foodies! Deconstructing classic dishes made by famous chefs, learning the basics of gastronomy, and understanding the scientific basics of recipes are just some of the topics and lessons covered in the course. You get to work in the laboratory and examine the soft materials that make up food. Each week you get to hear a different chef lecture about food and feel your glands salivate.

Sets, Counting, and Probability

Join Paul Bamberg, a senior lecturer on mathematics at Harvard, in the exploration of probability models for situations drawn from everyday life. 

See the Sets, Counting, and Probability Open Learning Course page

Terms of Use

Please review our terms of use for all Open Learning Initiative content.