30 Stanford Free Online Courses You Can Take

30 Stanford Free Online Courses You Can Take

More than a decade ago, the idea of taking college-level courses online for free seemed unimaginable. Today, Stanford Free Online Courses are ubiquitous. Stanford University, for instance, offers dozens of free online courses across various subjects. The courses mentioned in this article allow you to learn at your own pace, alleviating the stress of traditional learning. Additionally, they are all free.

These courses can benefit you whether your goal is to advance your career by learning something new or simply to explore a topic of interest. Here are 30 free courses taught by Stanford instructors.

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Business and Career


Designing Your Career

This course is designed to help you structure and kickstart your new career, whether you’ve picked out a job already or are still exploring all of your options. You’ll learn how to break into a new field that you’re interested in, how to approach networking, how to pursue professional opportunities, and how to develop genuine connections.

Organizational Analysis

In essence, this course is a dive into how to effectively run and manage an organization, whether it be a company, a grocery store, a classroom, a nonprofit, or any other organized, goal-oriented group. It mixes theory and practice to help you create an effective structure for an organization and/or troubleshoot specific problems that could occur or that you may currently be dealing with.


How Software Ate Finance

Software is changing the world in more ways than one. This course dives into how software has impacted and will continue to impact financial services. It provides information on the future of financial services and offers guidance for creating fintech businesses in and beyond the 2020s.


Science and Engineering


Quantum Mechanics for Scientists and Engineers 1

The purpose of this course is to teach quantum mechanics to anyone who has at least a college-level understanding of physical science or engineering. It is an introduction to the concepts and techniques of quantum mechanics and offers insights into how quantum mechanics is used across many areas of science and engineering.

The same professor also teaches a more advanced course — Quantum Mechanics for Scientists and Engineers II — that you can enroll in for free.


Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

As indicated by its name, this course is meant to help you “understand Einstein,” particularly his special theory of relativity. The course dives into Einstein as a person and the concepts, predictions, and paradoxes of his theory. The course seeks to address major questions attached to the theory, such as how Einstein developed his ideas, the meaning of relativity, what it means to say time is the “fourth dimension,” and whether time can actually move more slowly for one person than another.


Introduction to Haptics

This course will ultimately teach you how to build, program, and control haptic devices, which, according to the course description, are “mechatronic devices that allow users to feel virtual or remote environments.” Laboratory assignments in the course have participants building and programming a haptic device. You’ll gain hands-on experience assembling mechanical systems, making circuits, programming controllers, and testing your haptic creations.


Social Sciences


Principles of Economics

This course is an introduction to the study of economics. According to the course description, “Participants will be exposed to the economic way of thinking and learn about the functioning of a modern market economy.” It covers both micro and macro concepts and incorporates many examples to give you a fundamental understanding of the field.


America’s Poverty and Inequality Course

This course is an overview of poverty and inequality in America. What differentiates it from some other courses or readings is that the information provided is coming directly from the experts researching it. Overall, the course provides comprehensive, up-to-date information about the state of poverty and inequality in the United States and provides insights into impactful policies.


Game Theory

This course is an introduction to Game Theory, which is “the mathematical modeling of strategic interaction among rational (and irrational) agents,” according to the course description. In addition to things like board games and sports, the theory is also applicable in conflict between nations, political campaigns, and trading behaviors in the stock exchange, among other things. This course uses examples to cover common games and strategies.


Game Theory II: Advanced Applications

This course is a follow-up to the introductory “Game Theory” course. According to the course description, this course “considers how to design interactions between agents in order to achieve good social outcomes.” It dives into more advanced Game Theory concepts, including mechanism design, auctions, and social choice theory, which is most commonly represented in our voting system.




Introduction to Mathematical Thinking

This course will teach you to “think the way mathematicians do.” According to the course description, “Mathematical thinking is not the same as doing mathematics.” This course will teach you to think about mathematics from a problem-solving, out-of-the-box perspective.


Introduction to Logic

This course introduces the subject of logic from a computational perspective. You’ll learn how to encode information in the form of logical sentences and develop a better understanding of logic technology and how it applies to mathematics, science, engineering, business, law, and more.


Introduction to Statistics

This course will introduce you to fundamental concepts in statistics that will help you effectively learn from data and communicate it. According to the course description, you’ll learn how to “perform exploratory data analysis, understand key principles of sampling, and select appropriate tests of significance for multiple contexts.” You’ll walk away from this course with foundational skills that you can build on.


Fitness, Health and Health Care


Stanford Introduction to Food and Health

This course is a dive into food and health. Throughout the course, you’ll be given all the information you need to make informed decisions about which foods support your health and which damage it. You’ll be given all of the information and skills that you need to enhance the way you eat.


Health Across the Gender Spectrum

This course covers the stories of six transgender students and their families to help you gain a better understanding of gender identity and the gender spectrum. Stanford physicians, K-12 teachers, and transgender faculty members offer tips on how anyone, including teachers, parents, and healthcare providers, can help to create a more gender-expansive environment.


International Women’s Health and Human Rights

This course dives into women’s health and human rights issues “from infancy to old age.” It touches on many different topics, including education, reproductive health, violence against women at home and in communities, women in poverty, aging, and more. You can expect to learn lots of valuable information about the issues, including how to positively intervene.


Child Nutrition and Cooking

This course dives into child nutrition and the impacts of certain dietary decisions made by families. You will learn the health risks associated with certain foods, what constitutes a healthy diet, and how to prepare simple, nutritious, and delicious home-cooked meals for yourself and/or your family.


AI in Healthcare Specialization

This is a five-course specialization that covers the current state and potential for artificial intelligence (AI) in health care. The specialization is designed for both those in health care and those involved in computer science, as it offers insights to encourage collaboration between the fields. You’ll learn about the current and future applications of AI in health care and better understand how AI could “transform patient care and diagnosis.”

The first three courses take approximately 12 hours to complete, while the fourth and fifth courses take approximately 11 hours. You can take any one course or all of the courses for free.

The 5 Courses: 

Course 1: Introduction to Healthcare

Course 2: Introduction to Clinical Data

Course 3: Fundamentals of Machine Learning for Healthcare

Course 4: Evaluations of AI Applications in Healthcare

Course 5: AI in Healthcare Capstone


Stories of Infection

This course introduces many different infectious diseases through a patient-centered, story-based approach. You’ll watch illustrated short videos that walk you through each step of patients’ illnesses, from contraction to resolution. This course will give you an introduction to microbiology, pathophysiology, and immunology and is meant to encourage you towards future studies in microbiology, immunology, and infectious diseases.


Writing in the Sciences

This course is intended to help scientists become better writers. You’ll be introduced to exercises and examples that teach you principles of good writing, how to write faster with less anxiety, the format of a scientific manuscript, peer review, grant writing, ethical issues in scientific publication, and how to write for general audiences.


Computer Science and Programming


Machine Learning

This course will teach you effective machine-learning techniques and give you practice implementing them. In addition to teaching the theories behind machine learning techniques, this course will prepare you to effectively apply the techniques you learn. By the end of the course, you will have a solid understanding of some of Silicon Valley’s best practices and be able to use learning algorithms to build smart robots, among other things.


Computer Science 101

As indicated by its name, this course is an introduction to computer science. You don’t need any prior experience to take the course, and the course gives you time and space to play around and figure things out on your own. “Computers can appear very complicated, but in reality, computers work within just a few, simple patterns,” the course description states. This course “demystifies” computer science and will answer many fundamental questions, including what is a computer, what is hardware, what is software, what is the internet.


Cryptography I

This course is an introduction to Cryptography. It dives into the inner workings of cryptographic systems and teaches you how to correctly use them in real-world applications. Throughout the course, you’ll develop an understanding of cryptographic history, technologies, techniques and more.


Cryptography II

As a follow-up to “Cryptography I,” this course dives deeper into cryptography. It further explains the inner workings of cryptographic systems and offers more detailed information on how to use them in real-world applications. The course comes with a free virtual textbook.


Algorithms Specialization

This is a four-course specialization that will teach you “how to think like a computer scientist” and make you an algorithm expert. The courses are not easy. They include exams and weekly quizzes and assignments. But by the time you finish, you’ll have all the knowledge and tools you need to “ace your technical interviews and speak fluently about algorithms with other programmers and computer scientists,” according to the course description.

Each course takes four weeks to complete, and you can take any one course or all of the courses for free.

The 4 Courses:

Course 1: Divide and Conquer, Sorting and Searching, and Randomized Algorithms

Course 2: Graph Search, Shortest Paths, and Data Structures

Course 3: Greedy Algorithms, Minimum Spanning Trees, and Dynamic Programming

Course 4: Shortest Paths Revisited, NP-Complete Problems and What To Do About Them


Arts and Humanities


Love as a Force for Social Justice

This course is meant to highlight the power of practicing love and introduce it as a force for social justice. The course explores many different topics, including the kinds of love, non-violent communication, love and the biology of the brain, love as a concept of religious and ethical beliefs, love applied in action, and love as a social force. According to the course description, the curriculum, “aims to foster a sense of the importance of love as a key phenomenon in creating community, connection, and functional societies among humans.”


Giving 2.0: The MOOC

This course is ideal for any current or aspiring philanthropist. You’ll learn how to assess nonprofits, develop high-impact philanthropic strategies, volunteer more effectively, and use technology to support your efforts. The course includes lectures and interviews with some experts in the field of philanthropy. Before the course ends, you’ll complete a formal nonprofit assessment and create an Individual Giving Action Plan to guide your future philanthropic efforts.


Social and Economic Networks: Models and Analysis

This course is a deep dive into networks. By analyzing dozens of networks, including family networks, social networks, economic networks, and more, you’ll learn how to measure and explore the formation of networks, analyze why they exhibit certain patterns and understand how their structures impact certain behaviors and outcomes. The course is geared towards advanced undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students.


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

This course is a dive into the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. It uses primary source documents, such as letters, sermons, speeches, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts, to look into Dr. King’s past and examine his hopes, fears, drive, and view of the world.



If you have free time each week, there are better ways to spend it by taking online courses given by Standford’s professors. These are some of the best free online courses accessible, and many even provide credentials. With the flexibility of online learning, you can improve your knowledge and abilities at your own speed, all from a reputable university. There’s no money or serious time commitment attached to these courses. All you need to do is enroll.





1. What types of free online courses does Stanford offer?

Stanford offers a variety of free online courses across different fields, including computer science, medicine, education, business, and the humanities. Courses cover topics such as data science, programming, child nutrition, and career design.

2. Do Stanford’s free online courses offer certificates?

Yes, many of Stanford’s free online courses offer certificates upon completion. These certificates can be a valuable addition to your resume and demonstrate your commitment to professional development.

3. How can I enroll in Stanford’s free online courses?

Enrollment for Stanford’s free online courses is straightforward. You can browse and enroll through platforms like Coursera and edX, or directly via Stanford Online. Simply create an account, select your course, and start learning.

4. Are there any prerequisites for enrolling in these courses?

Most of Stanford’s free online courses are designed to be accessible to a broad audience, though some courses, especially in technical fields like computer science and algorithms, may require prior knowledge or experience in the subject matter.

5. What is the duration of these courses?

The duration of Stanford’s free online courses varies depending on the course. They can range from a few weeks to several months. Each course page provides specific information about the duration and expected weekly effort.

6. How much time should I expect to dedicate to these courses weekly?

The time commitment for Stanford’s free online courses varies, typically ranging from 2 to 10 hours per week. Each course description includes an estimate of the weekly effort required​.

7. Can I take more than one course at a time?

Yes, you can enroll in multiple courses simultaneously. However, it’s important to consider your available time and the demands of each course to ensure you can effectively manage your learning.

8. What kind of support is available for students?

Students in Stanford’s free online courses can access various support resources, including discussion forums, course materials, and sometimes direct support from course instructors or teaching assistants.

9. Do these courses offer any interactive or hands-on learning opportunities?

Many of Stanford’s free online courses include interactive elements such as quizzes, assignments, and projects. Courses in areas like computer science and engineering often include hands-on exercises to reinforce learning.

10. How can these courses benefit my career?

Completing Stanford’s free online courses can enhance your skills and knowledge, making you more competitive in the job market. Certificates of completion can also help you demonstrate your expertise to potential employers. Courses like “Designing Your Career” and “Organizational Analysis” provide specific skills that can be directly applied to your professional development.

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