19 online Stanford courses that are completely free — topics range from engineering and medicine to humanities and career development

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  • Along with prestigious schools like Princeton and Yale, Stanford University offers online courses you can audit completely for free.
  • Classes are available in topics from COVID-19 training for healthcare workers to how technology shaped the 2020 election. All are available on e-learning platforms edX and Coursera.
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Just like Princeton and Yale, Stanford University offers a robust selection of online courses, many of which you can audit entirely for free. For some, you can also pay to get a certificate of completion to add to your resume or LinkedIn profile.

The free courses are available on e-learning platforms like edX and Coursera, and span across a wide variety of subjects, from game theory and algorithm design to COVID-19 and disaster medicine training for healthcare workers. There are also classes designed to broaden your thinking in your current profession, including a class on using love as a force for social justice and a course on designing your career. 

The 19 best online Stanford classes you can take for free:

America's Poverty and Inequality Course

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 9 Weeks

This is a crash course on the income inequality and poverty issues that face America today, and explores how they correlate with race and gender. One key feature of this course is that, while it brings in top scholars to discuss the issue, it breaks down the lectures into short, comprehensive videos. Each video is paired with readings and offers the most up-to-date findings and statistics.

COVID-19: Training for Healthcare Workers

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 2 Weeks

This short, self-paced course is designed for physicians, nurses, and healthcare professionals to gain a unified understanding of how to best assist COVID-19 patients. The evidence-backed information in this training can help better identify symptoms and stabilize patients earlier, and also includes tips on ventilator management. There are also written handouts and online resources included in the course for learners to continue to reference after they're done.

Giving 2.0

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 4 Weeks

For anyone and everyone interested in philanthropy, this course will help learners assess and beef up their non-profit strategy, use technology to their benefit, and volunteer more effectively. It also provides opportunities to meet up and discuss ideas with small virtual groups. 

Designing Your Career

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 5 Weeks

Put together by the Stanford Life Design Lab, this self-paced, non-linear course is perfect for those who are completely stuck as far as what they want to do in their careers. Learners will go over how to break into a completely new field, network efficiently, and keep up professional contacts that can genuinely pay off later. 

International Women's Health and Human Rights

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 10 Weeks

No matter your line of work, this course can help deepen your understanding of the obstacles women face all over the world — including poverty, food insecurity, gender discrimination, unequal access to education, and violence, among others. Students will cover topics such as HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, sex trafficking, war, refugee crises, and education, and participate in engaging discussions about these issues.

Love as a Force for Social Justice

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 6 Weeks

This class is designed to emphasize the importance of love not just in our personal lives, but as a force for good. In six weeks of classes, love will be explored through multiple lenses, including biology, religion, and ethical beliefs. It will also discuss the importance of non-violent communication and ways to strengthen a community, so you can leave the course with a greater idea of how to utilize love in fighting for different social justice causes.

Disaster Medicine Training

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 8 Weeks

This course was developed through SEMPER, Stanford Emergency Medicine Program for Emergency Response, and provides a foundation of knowledge for all healthcare professionals involved in disaster medicine. It provides guidance for teams to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours of a disaster, follow a consistent training curriculum, and pursue new research to strengthen their expertise in this area.

American Prophet: The Inner Life and Global Vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 11 weeks

While there have been countless books and movies made about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, few explore the deeper feelings of Dr. King himself. Using primary sources — including his unpublished manuscripts and sermons — and on-location videos of places King often visited, the course will provide students with a richer understanding of both MLK and his ideas. 

Quantum Mechanics for Scientists and Engineers

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 9 Weeks

This course is for students with a prerequisite college-level understanding of physical science or engineering. It covers the core concepts and measurements of quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, the hydrogen atom, and how to apply these ideas to solve problems in fields such as nanotechnology and photonics.

Language, Proof, and Logic

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 15 Weeks

Critical thinking skills are incredibly important, especially when combatting misinformation. This class breaks down the core of all reasoning — that one statement has to be the logical consequence of another. Beyond simply helping you debunk false claims or win arguments, these lessons can also help you navigate your life more efficiently by making more sound decisions.

How Technology Is Shaping Democracy and the 2020 Election

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: One week

Even though the 2020 election is coming to a close, there is so much to learn from how this historic time has been playing out. This fast course addresses the role social media plays in public discourse, how voters registered and cast their votes in a pandemic, how digital tools shape our convictions, and broader questions we must ask ourselves about content moderation.

How to Taper Patients Off of Chronic Opioid Therapy

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: One week

This course covers potentially life-altering ground in a very short amount of time. Healthcare providers will learn how to assess the risks and benefits of putting a patient on opioid therapy as well as methods for safely tapering them on or off the medication. They will also be provided with a guide on when to refer patients to addiction treatment. 

Game Theory

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 4 Weeks

Game theory is the "mathematical modeling of strategic interaction among rational (and irrational) agents," and beyond applying to literal games, it's used in fields such as economics and politics to make crucial (yet risky) decisions. This course covers the basics of game theory and strategies, applying them to real-life situations such as auctions or computer science problems.

Algorithms: Design and Analysis, Part 1

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 6 Weeks

Learners with even a little bit of programming or computer science experience can benefit from this crash-course in algorithms. Students will learn about "Big-oh" notation, sorting and searching, divide and conquer, randomized algorithms, data structures, and graph primitives. They'll also test their knowledge as they go along with programming assessments and quizzes.

How to Learn Math: For Students

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 6 Weeks

If you're someone who's always struggled with math, this course is for you. It covers easy strategies for learning math more effectively and helps learners challenge their own negative misconceptions about math and their math-learning abilities, so they can exit the course more empowered to use math in their daily lives and professions.

Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 4 Weeks

This course helps learners understand the famous theory of relativity by focusing on Albert Einstein himself. Students will explore how he came up with his ideas as well as the core elements of the theory, including answering some of the most commonly asked questions about it. 

Thinking Critically: Interpreting Randomized Clinical Trials (CME)

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: One week

This quick class goes over the possibilities of biases in clinical trials, and how to reduce them with techniques like randomization. Students will watch videos and read samples of clinical research papers to learn how to more critically evaluate them.

Defining the String Quartet: Haydn

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 10 weeks

Composer Joseph Haydn is considered the father of the string quartet, and this course aims to explore both the history and technique behind some of the earliest string quartets. Students will also do an in-depth study of the form, language, and gesture behind Haydn's String Quartet in F minor, opus 20, no. 5 from 1772, and will be supplied with musical notations so they can follow along.

Introduction to Probability Management

Free to enroll

Estimated time commitment: 10 Weeks

All you need prior to starting this course is some general knowledge of Excel. You'll go over concepts like the Flaw of Averages and the Arithmetic of Uncertainty, and learn how to create interactive simulation models in Excel.

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