The 30 Best Universities That Offer Online Classes

If you want to expand your mind, learn new skills, and get credentials to change your life and career, you don’t have to go anywhere. In some cases, you don’t even need to pay. All it requires is a steady internet connection.

More and more schools are offering certificates, courses, sequences, and degrees online. Of those offering online educational programs, a considerable quotient is offering free, or open enrollment courses. Sometimes these courses do require a small fee – especially if you want to get a certificate of completion – but many are entirely free. They’re often referred to as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. They can be accessed through platforms like edX, Coursera, Kadenze, and school websites themselves.

On this list, we’ve ranked 30 of the best universities offering online courses. We used graduation rates, the average salary of graduates, and national rankings to calculate a final score for each school. Let’s see who made the cut!

1

Harvard University

Graduation Rate

98%

Average Salary at Grad

$83000

Harvard is a private university headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1636, Ivy League. Harvard is known for its programs in education, government, business, medicine, engineering, and applied sciences, among many others. 8 U.S. presidents have graduated from Harvard, along with countless tycoons, educators, and other leaders in their respective fields. It holds the highest endowment of any school on the planet. Its Harvard Extension School offers online:

– Courses

– Bachelor’s Degrees

– Joint Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees

– Premedical Studies

Students can access over 900 open-enrollment courses, 20-plus degrees, and almost 40 certificates through the Harvard Extension School. Some of these may require on-campus participation, so check carefully to make sure your area of interest delivers its work online. Some of the areas you can study include Education, Global Studies, Business & Management, Arts, Literature & Media, Life Sciences, Technology, among many others.

2

Yale University

Graduation Rate

96%

Average Salary at Grad

$79500

Yale is a private university in New Haven, Connecticut. It was founded in 1701. It’s an elite Ivy League school known for programs in Law, Medicine, Art, Nursing, Management, Music, Drama, and much more. Its alumni include Meryl Streep, Bob Woodward, and Edward Norton. Its Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning offers a wide range of online courses in areas like:

– Economics

– English

– Engineering

– Music

– Philosophy

– And much more.

If you’ve wanted to access prestigious Yale courses but can’t afford the school’s tuition, you’ll likely find something that appeals to you. Yale offers its online courses through Youtube, Coursera, iTunes U, and its Open Yale Courses platform. Many of these courses are provided gratis.

3

University of Pennsylvania

Graduation Rate

96%

Average Salary at Grad

$127000

The University of Pennsylvania is a private institution in Philadelphia. It was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin. It’s divided into 12 schools. Five of them offer undergraduate and graduate programs, and seven offer graduate programs. The school boasts elite programs in medicine, business, law, and computer science, among others. Its alumni include Donald Trump, William Carlos Williams, and John Legend. Its online programs include offerings in:

– Dental Education

– Nursing Education

– Medical Education

– Arts & Sciences

– Engineering

There are several other areas students can pursue. Many of these programs are continuing education, to professionally develop working adults who are entrenched in a field they’d like to grow in. There are open-enrollment programs and courses. Students can also earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree through UPenn’s online wing.

4

Stanford University

Graduation Rate

96%

Average Salary at Grad

$75000

Stanford is a private university in Stanford, California. It was founded in 1885. It’s known for being widely coveted by students across the country. It boasts top-tier programs in business, law, medicine, education, and engineering. It also has incredible musical and theatrical groups and is a powerhouse for creative writing. Some of its most notable alumni include former John Elway, Tiger Woods, and Sigourney Weaver. Their online offerings include courses in:

– Computer Security

– Biomedical Informatics

– Genetics

– Statistics

– Mechanical Engineering

– And much more

Students can take courses, graduate certificates, Master’s degrees, professional programs, and more through Stanford’s online wing. You can access free courses in Education, Engineering, Health & Medicine, Arts & Humanities, among other options.

5

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$78500

MIT is a private university that began serving students in 1861. It’s based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT is known for its technological and scientific research. The school boasts peerless programs in math, physics, computer science, and much more. Its notable alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke. MIT’s Open Courseware includes offerings from its schools of:

– Engineering

– Management Science

– Architecture and Planning

– Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Professor Dick K.P. Yue summarizes the purpose of the MIT Open Courseware program succinctly: “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” There are materials from 2400 courses, and the site has attracted 500 million visitors. This free access to prestigious MIT coursework can prove instrumental for any autodidact.

6

Brown University

Graduation Rate

97%

Average Salary at Grad

$82500

Brown is a private university that was founded in 1764. It’s based in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown is a member of the prestigious Ivy League. It’s known for academic excellence in History, English, Engineering, Medicine, and much more. Its notable alumni include JFK Jr., Ted Turner, and John D. Rockefeller Jr. Its online offerings include:

– Pre-College Online Courses

– Open Online Courses

– Undergraduate Online Courses

– Executive Programs

The executive programs are aimed at mid-career professionals in many fields. They require online instruction and intense residential sessions. The undergraduate courses are fully online and asynchronous. Brown’s pre-college online courses are aimed at high school students, and the open online courses are free to everyone.

7

Princeton University

Graduation Rate

98%

Average Salary at Grad

$55500

Princeton is a private university that was founded in 1746. It’s located in Princeton, New Jersey. It’s in the Ivy League and currently ranked as the top National University in the country by USNR. Princeton is known for programs in engineering, applied sciences, public and international affairs, and much more. Its notable alumni include Woodrow Wilson, Michelle Obama, and Brooke Shields. Its online courses include:

– The Art of Structural Engineering: Vaults

– Writing Case Studies: Science of Delivery

– Networks Illustrated: Principles without Calculus

– Constitutional Interpretation

– Analysis of Algorithms

– Among many others

Princeton offers free courses through its website, with massive, open, online courses (MOOCs). Currently, there are 23 distinct courses students can opt to through the Princeton online site. Since Princeton Online began in 2012, its faculty have created approximately 30 courses and served 3 million people across the world. There are other Princeton offerings on Coursera, Kadenze, and edX.

8

Duke University

Graduation Rate

96%

Average Salary at Grad

$66000

Duke is a private university founded in 1838. It’s based in Durham, North Carolina. The school is known for its complex history, sports successes, lightning rod politics, and much more. It features incredible programs in law, engineering, business, public policy, medicine, nursing, and much more. Some of its notable alumni include Melinda Gates, Zion Williamson, and Ron Paul. Duke’s online offerings include:

– Courses

– Professional Certificates

– Master’s Degrees

– Doctoral Degrees

Duke offers credentialed programs online in nursing, engineering, business, environment, divinity, and integrative medicine. It also provides a wide array of free courses, like Civic Engagement in American Democracy, Intro to Machine Learning, Entrepreneurial Finance: Strategy and Innovation, Copyright for Multimedia, among dozens of others.

9

California Institute of Technology

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$153000

Caltech is a private school in Pasadena, California. It was established in 1891. It’s had fantastic success at placing its graduates in high-paying positions and has the highest average salary for graduates among schools on this list. It’s known for its research and programs in biology, math, chemistry, computer science, and engineering, among others. Its alumni have founded companies like Intel and Compaq. Its online offerings include:

– The Science of the Solar System

– The Evolving Universe

– Pricing Options with Mathematical Models

– Getting started with cryo-EM

– Learning from Data

Caltech’s online courses don’t provide Caltech course credit. They’re generally offered through platforms like edX and Coursera, among others. Students can expect to commit 5-10 hours a week to complete these courses.

10

Dartmouth College

Graduation Rate

96%

Average Salary at Grad

$70000

Dartmouth is a private college founded in 1769. It’s based in Hanover, New Hampshire. Dartmouth is known for its stellar academic reputation and programs in science, engineering, arts, medicine, business, among others. Its notable alumni include former U.S. Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner, Dr. Seuss, and Robert Frost. Its online learning offerings include:

– A Master of Health Care Delivery Science (with low-residency requirements)

– A Masters in Public Health (with low-residency requirements)

– MOOC courses

– Many blended and non-degree certificate programs

Some of the free courses Dartmouth offers include Libertarian Free Will: Neuroscientific & Philosophical Evidence, Leading Innovation, John Milton: Paradise Lost, Retail Fundamentals, among several others. These courses are offered through a partnership with MOOC-provider edX. This partnership created DartmouthX, which aims to expand access to Dartmouth, enhance its liberal arts model of learning and teaching, and elevate experimentation, research, and collaboration.

Why Should You Go to School Online?

There are many reasons to consider online learning. One of the most persuasive arguments for online education is how it seamlessly fits into your life and ongoing responsibilities. Many courses and programs were designed to allow the learner to decide when they participate. And obviously, you can do the work from home, or anywhere you have an internet connection.

Other great reasons to pursue an online education include:

  • Saving Money: You could opt for free courses, but if you’re paying for an online course, certificate, or degree program, you’re likely saving. That’s because in-person education requires travel time, gas or fare, and in many cases, residency. Online education doesn’t require any of this.
  • Save Time: Not only will you save travel time, but many online courses are accelerated, letting you get in and out at a faster pace than you would in-person. Plus, when you decide when and where you learn, you can make choices that boost efficiency and save time.
  • Access Programs You Couldn’t: By choosing online courses and programs, you can get an education from anywhere in the country or world! Having to relocate to where these programs are offered in-person would be prohibitive for many, but not so with online programs!

These are just a few of the reasons to consider an online school, course, or program. Let’s get back into the ranking:

11

Cornell University

Graduation Rate

95%

Average Salary at Grad

$71000

Cornell is a private university in Ithaca, NY. It was established in 1865. The school is a member in good standing in the Ivy League. It’s known for fantastic programs in engineering, law, engineering, management, veterinary medicine, and much more. Famous graduates include Bill Nye, E.B. White, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and many others. Its online offerings include courses in:

– Anthropology

– Asian Studies

– Applied Economics

– Classics

– Biology

– And much more.

Students can take Cornell courses online from its esteemed faculty and earn up to 15 credits in a session. Currently the school is working to add more of its traditional on-campus courses to its online roster. There’s also a host of Cornell online offerings that can be accessed through webinars and MOOCs, bringing you the quality of Cornell courses to your home for free. There are certificate options as well that can be accessed through Cornell Online and eCornell.

12

University of Chicago

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$59000

The University of Chicago is a private school that was founded in 1890. It’s based in Hyde Park. It’s known for programs in public policy, business, medicine, computer science, law, and more. 91 Nobel Prize winners have graduated from UChicago, and Obama taught at its Law School for 12 years. Its online offerings include:

– Core Curriculum Courses

– Alumni Sequences and Courses

– Open to All Courses

Open to all courses are offered each quarter on many different topics. They run from 1.5-3 hours once a week for ten weeks. They meet at the same time in a virtual classroom to stimulate discussion. Different rules apply for for-credit, paid courses, and sequences.

13

Wellesley College

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$60500

Wellesley College is a private liberal arts school for women in Wellesley, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1870. It’s one of the original Seven Sisters Colleges. Students can take classes at the other Sister schools, and also at MIT. It ranks 3rd on USNR’s National Liberal Arts Colleges list for 2020. Notable alumni include Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, and Madeleine Albright. Its online offerings include:

– Italian Language and Culture

– Global Sociology

– Global Social Change

– Personal Finance

– Global Inequality

These courses are MOOCs. They can be audited for free, or students can opt to receive a certificate of completion for a small fee. Over 2300 undergraduates from across America and 75 countries attend Wellesley.

14

Rice University

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$71000

Rice is a private university in Houston, Texas. It was founded in 1912. It’s known for programs in humanities, social sciences, business, engineering, and more. Notable alumni include Lance Berkman, Howard Hughes, and Alberto Gonzales. Its online offerings include:

– Degree Programs

– Professional Development 

– edX Courses 

Rice reports that 96% of its online learners say they achieved their learning goals. They are continually updating their efforts and methods to offer Rice University’s excellent courses to more students remotely. If you’re interested in pursuing a 100% online graduate degree, Rice offers two: a Master of Computer Science and an MBA.

15

Northwestern University

Graduation Rate

94%

Average Salary at Grad

55000

Northwestern is a private school in Evanston, Illinois. It was founded in 1851. It has improved in national rankings for decades. It’s known for superb law, medicine, education, engineering, management, and applied sciences programs. Notable alumni include Rahm Emanuel, Stephen Colbert, Zach Braff, among many others. Northwestern’s online offerings include:

– Undergraduate Courses

– Master’s Degrees

– Certificates

Undergraduate courses can be taken by admitted students or students-at-large. Some of the graduate degrees offered online at Northwestern include Global Health, Data Science, Sports Administration, Health Informatics, Health Analytics, and more. Certificates include Museum Studies, CPA Accounting, Leadership, Business Administration, Applied Project Management, and more.

16

Columbia University in the City of New York

Graduation Rate

92%

Average Salary at Grad

$58000

Columbia is a private school in Manhattan, New York. It was established in 1754. It’s an elite Ivy League university known for programs in education, law, business, journalism, medicine, among other applications. Notable alumni include John Jay, Barack Obama, and scores more people at the top of their respective fields. Columbia’s online offerings include:

– Certifications

– Degree Programs

– Non-Degree Programs

– MOOCs

Columbia offers degrees in Engineering & Applied Science, Social Work, Professional Studies, Business, Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Law, and more online. There may be in-person requirements for these programs. They also offer a host of free courses through platforms like Coursera, edX, and Kadenze.

17

Vanderbilt University

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$62500

Vanderbilt is a private school based in Nashville, Tennessee. It opened in 1873. Vanderbilt is known for coveted programs in medicine, engineering, nursing education, law, and an incredible school of music. Notable alumni include James Patterson, Jay Cutler, and Ann Moore. Its online offerings include:

– Graduate Degree Programs

– Doctoral Degree Programs

– MOOCs

– Business programs

Vanderbilt has several different URLs that store its online offerings. Its degree programs online include a Master and a Doctorate of Education. These are conveyed via its Peabody Online platform. Its MOOCs are offered through Coursera. 

18

Middlebury College

Graduation Rate

95%

Average Salary at Grad

$56000

Middlebury is a private college in Middlebury, Vermont. It was established in 1800. It’s known for programs in English, writing, and languages. Notable alumni include Jeff Lindsay, Eve Ensler, Ari Fletcher, and the band Dispatch. Its online offerings include:

– Years of Upheaval: Diplomacy, War & Social Change, 1919-1945

This course covers World War I, II, and the interwar years. It’s multidisciplinary and taught by Professor Russ Leng, an expert in political economy and international law. There are probably more online options at Middlebury that are either available now or in the works. 

19

Johns Hopkins University

Graduation Rate

92%

Average Salary at Grad

$56500

Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. It was founded in 1876. JHU is known for schools of Public Health, Education, Medicine, and Engineering. Notable alumni include Woodrow Wilson, Gertrude Stein, Rachel Carson, and many others. Its online offerings include:

– Certificates

– Masters’ Degrees

– Doctoral Degrees

– MOOCs

Some of the disciplines students can pursue at JHU online include degrees in public health, nursing, engineering, medicine, education, business, and much more. There are also courses students can take for credit, or not, depending on their interests and budget. Free courses are offered through a partnership with Coursera. 

20

University of California-Los Angeles

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$61500

UCLA is a public university established in 1919. It’s known for programs in management, engineering, law, medicine, and more. Over half of graduates leave with research experience in STEM, humanities, or social sciences. Notable alumni include Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Carol Burnett, James Dean, and many more. Its online offerings include:

– Courses

– Certificates & Specializations

Students can study areas like Education, Digital Technology, Business & Management, Accounting & Taxation, Architecture, Languages, Real Estate, and much, much more through UCLA online. These programs prize flexibility and convenience. Many of the options are open enrollment.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing an Online School

  • What area do you most want to improve in?
  • How does this desire to improve apply to your career and education so far?
  • Do you want to pursue a course, course sequence, certificate, or degree online?
  • It might make sense to start with a free course to decide how much you want to commit to a new discipline, or whether it’s right for you.
  • If you’re looking to expand your knowledge and experience in a discipline you’ve already studied or worked in, you might opt for a larger immediate commitment.
  • Would you want to attend classes at a set time, or asynchronously?
  • Different online programs have different delivery schedules and formats. Some will allow you to attend lectures and complete courses at your pacing within a timeframe like a week or so. Others will require you attend and turn in work at specific times.
  • What do you want to get out of an online school?
  • For some people, this may just mean learning, which is great! Others might be looking for credentials that can be leveraged for career advancement or to change careers.
  • By determining what you want from online education, it’ll be far easier to decide what type of program you should choose.
  • Does the prestige of a school matter?
  • Completing a program online from a renowned school can command the same respect as attending it in person, depending on what school and what program you opt for. Carefully consider where you attend the same way you would in person.

Answering these questions for yourself can go a long way towards making decisions about specific schools and programs. Now let’s get back to the ranking:

21

Washington University in St Louis

Graduation Rate

92%

Average Salary at Grad

$62000

Washington is a private university established in 1853. It’s known for highly-desired degrees in medicine, law, business, engineering, social work, design, and more. Outstanding graduates include Peter Sarsgaard and former FBI Director William H. Webster. Its online offerings include:

– Degrees

– Certificates

– Courses

Certificates offered include Marketing, Business, Human Resources Management, International Affairs, and more. There’s a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Studies and an Associate in Arts Degree. Courses (which cost money) are offered in disciplines like Anthropology, Art, Biology, Business, Communications, and more.

22

University of California-Berkeley

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$66500

UC-Berkeley is a public school in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868. It’s also called Cal. It’s known for excellent degrees in education, engineering, business, law, and more. Its notable alumni include Earl Warren, John Cho, Johnny Moseley. Robert Oppenheimer – who helped develop the atomic bomb – was a professor there during World War II. Online offerings include:

– Part and Full-Time Certificate Programs

– Post-Baccalaureate Programs

– Full-Time Academic Programs

– Courses

Courses are offered in areas like education, art and design, behavioral health sciences, business, writing, editing, and technical communication, among other disciplines. Full-Time programs are in areas like legal studies, entrepreneurship, and more. Check back to see updated offerings, as they often change semester to semester.

23

University of Notre Dame

Graduation Rate

96%

Average Salary at Grad

$51000

Notre Dame is a private university in South Bend, Indiana. It was founded in 1842. It’s known for its liberal arts, business, and law programs. Notable alumni include Joe Montana, Condoleeza Rice, Regis Philbin, among others. Its online programs include:

– Executive Education Certificates

– Nonprofit Education Certificates

Students can opt for programs in Management, Leadership, Negotiation, Business Administration, Nonprofit Fund Development, Transformational Nonprofit Leadership, among many others. Notre Dame’s programs prioritize interactive learning, and flexible secludes. You’ll attend live lectures, participate in discussion boards, a study in groups, and much more. 

24

Georgetown University

Graduation Rate

94%

Average Salary at Grad

$60000

Georgetown is a private university in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1789. Georgetown offers incomparable programs in medicine, nursing, business, law, public policy, and more. Notable alumni include Patrick Ewing, Bill Clinton, Maria Shriver, and Bradley Cooper. Online offerings include:

– Master’s Degrees

– Graduate Certificates

– Professional Certificates

Students can take Master’s degrees in larger areas like Technology Management, Real Estate, Sports Industry Management, and more. Within these areas, they can find more specific focuses. There are also a host of certificate options for qualified students.

25

University of Southern California

Graduation Rate

92%

Average Salary at Grad

$56000

USC is a private university in Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 1880. It’s one of the most popular schools in America. It’s known for programs in law, engineering, education, medicine, social work, and more. Notable alumni include George Lucas and Judd Apatow. Online offerings include:

– Master’s Degrees

– Certificates

– Doctorates

– Dual Degrees

USC offers a wide range of online degrees. Disciplines include psychology, law, library science, computer science, communications, business, dentistry, health and medicine, and much more. Some programs will likely require some in-person participation, so check requirements for any program you’re interested in closely.

26

Carnegie Mellon University

Graduation Rate

90%

Average Salary at Grad

$81500

Carnegie Mellon is a private university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1900 by businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. CMU is known for its dedication to technology and science, with peerless programs in business, engineering, computer science, and more. It’s also an excellent fine arts school. Notable alumni include Ted Danson, Judith Light, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and many others. Its online offerings include:

– Certificates

– Bachelor’s Degrees

– Master’s Degrees

– Doctoral Degrees

Disciplines include Information Technology Management, Information Security & Assurance, Medical Management, Business Intelligence & Data Analytics, among others. Some of these programs are fully online, and some are offered in a hybrid of online and in-person study. In some cases, you can choose between those options. Make sure to confirm the delivery format you desire is offered for your program of choice.

27

Tufts University

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$54500

Tufts is a private university in Medford, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1852. Tufts is known for its degrees in medicine, arts and sciences, medicine, engineering, and more. Notable alumni include Tracy Chapman, Jessica Biel, Pierre Omidyar, Jamie Dimon, among others. Its online offerings include:

– Courses

– Hybrid of Blended Programs

– Summer Sessions

– Certificates

– Master’s Degrees

Areas students can pursue include early childhood technology, nutrition, health informatics and analytics, urban justice and sustainability, and more.  Online students will enjoy consultation when they begin a program and throughout their use of it. There’s technology training and support, studio-quality video production, and a litany of other services provided to students by Tufts.

28

University of Virginia-Main Campus

Graduation Rate

93%

Average Salary at Grad

$56500

UVA is a public research school in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s the flagship school in the Virginia state system. It was founded in 1819. UVA is known for degrees in engineering and applied science, business, education, liberal arts, law, medicine, and more. Its notable alumni include RFK, Katie Couric, Tina Fey, Edgar Allen Poe, among others. UVA online offerings include:

– Courses

– Certificates

– Degrees

Students can take courses or programs in medicine and health sciences, engineering and science, education and human development, business, and arts and humanities. Within each of these areas, there are more specific options. UVA’s free courses are offered through Coursera, and there are other open educational resources students can access through the UVA website.

29

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Graduation Rate

92%

Average Salary at Grad

$53000

Michigan is a private university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was established in 1817. The school is known for degrees in medicine, engineering, law, business, and more. Its notable alumni include Gerald Ford, James Earl Jones, Tom Brady, Sanjay Gupta, and many others. Michigan’s online offerings include:

– Courses

– Series of Courses

– Degrees

– Short Online Learning Events Called Teach-Outs

Michigan’s online study areas include technology, education, data science, business, social sciences, science, health, and arts & culture. Courses take 4-6 weeks and are self-paced. Online degrees include an M.S. in Population and Health Sciences, and M.Eng. in Systems Engineering + Design, an M.Eng in Manufacturing, and several others. 

30

Emory University

Graduation Rate

91%

Average Salary at Grad

$48000

Emory is a private school in Atlanta, Georgia. It was founded in 1836. It’s known for programs in medicine, law, business, and more. Notable alumni include Leah Ward Sears, Newt Gingrich, Scooter Braun, and many others. Its online offerings include:

– Undergraduate Courses

– Certificates

– Undergraduate Degrees

– Graduate Degrees

– Doctoral Degrees

Some of its offerings include a Distance Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), and Executive MPH, arts and sciences undergraduate courses, and more. Services include advice and support for free courses delivered through Coursera. Faculty and students also work together with Emory staff to create digital projects.