Can’t go outside? At least you can go to Harvard.

EdX allows you to access free online classes from top universities.

A team working at edX. edX

By now, chances are that social distancing and a lack of structure to your day have you feeling more than a little bored. Besides scouring streaming services and eating all the take-out you can stomach, what if you put your time to use by learning something new? 

EdX, the Cambridge-based online learning institution founded at Harvard and MIT, offers more than 2,500 free online courses from partner universities all over the globe. Free, self-paced courses on a slew of topics mean you can learn the fundamentals of neuroscience from Harvard instructor David Cox or explore the pyramids of Giza while still in your bathrobe. 

It’s no surprise that with everyone stuck inside, Anant Agarwal, founder and co-CEO of EdX, has noticed an uptick in users, according to the platform’s traffic data.

“We hope that EdX can serve as a resource for learners during this time of uncertainty,” Agarwal said. “Whether they are coming to us to help them learn more about the information they are hearing on the news, or using their time at home to learn something new just because it’s a nice distraction.” 


Course resources include videos, reading materials, discussion forums, and — if you pursue a verified certificate in the class — graded assignments. The effort for each class varies from a few hours per week as you learn about the rise of superheroes in pop culture with instructors from the Smithsonian, to around 10 hours a week as professors from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid introduce you to the world of java programming.

Register for free before browsing the treasure trove of knowledge. Courses can be audited for free, or a fee will add an instructor-signed verified certificate upon the successful completion of a course.

Here are EdX’s most popular classes ever (or search for yourself here):  

EdX also offers online degree programs and professional certificates, and in January launched its MicroBachelors programs, which Agarwal said are aimed at the 36 million Americans who have completed some college but not a degree. The first MicroBachelors courses focus on computer science, and, along with the MicroMasters program, it counts toward real college credit and allows students to break degrees into shorter, less-expensive chunks.  

“We’re hopeful that EdX can help foster a sense of community, connectivity, and learning,” Agarwal said.

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