Open Learning at Harvard
We at Harvard Extension School began our foray into open learning during our centennial year in 2009, with the introduction of several free online courses (see our archived collection).
Since then, high-profile initiatives in open learning like edX and Coursera have given millions of people around the world access to noncredit college courses—often for free. For Harvard, a key promise of its edX partnership resides in its ability to experiment, to discover inventive techniques that can make learning experiences more effective—not only online but in the classroom as well.
In the spirit of this teaching and learning innovation, Harvard Extension School is offering several HarvardX courses, taught by Harvard faculty, for credit this year (see the list below). The Harvard Extension versions supplement the masterfully produced HarvardX videos with small section meetings that allow you to deeply explore the material with teaching assistants and fellow students. You also have access to resources like computer labs, tutoring, and online writing and study skills tools.
Dean Huntington Lambert has forecast that in time the most effective course formats will prove to be those that feature both online and in-person components (you can read his thoughts here). These and our active-learning courses show Harvard Extension School's commitment to that idea.
The following courses, originally designed for HarvardX, are offered for credit at Harvard Extension School. You can search the edX course listings to see if a free version of each is being offered soon.
In addition, you can also explore Harvard University's Digital Learning Portal, which features online learning content from across the University, both free and fee-based options.
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 as a course for credit at Harvard Extension School. Read The Ancient Greek Hero course description or watch a course teaser from the HarvardX series below.
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. Read the course description for American Poetry from the Mayflower through Emerson. And watch a video, in which Elisa New discusses the design of the HarvardX course and the topics covered.
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. See the course description.
Paul E. Peterson discusses the topics covered in the edX course in the video below:
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. Read the China course description.
Get a sense of the visual and educational tools that will be used in the course in the video:
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. Read the 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 Science and Cooking. 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.
Get a preview of the dishes and recipes that are covered in the course in the following video.
The American Jury: Deliberations for Social Change
This course is a call to reclaim the deliberative process as a means of generating social change. Explore the concept of jury in both theory and practice with Charles Nesson of Harvard Law School and Rebecca Nesson of the Harvard Division of Continuing Education. Read the The American July course description.
Explore the current law of copyright; the impact of that law on art, entertainment, and industry; and the ongoing debates concerning how the law should be reformed. Read the full Copyright course description.
Watch the welcome video with Professor William Fisher.
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. Read the course description.
Hear how students have enjoyed and used the course in this video:
We offer more than 700 courses, many online.