The Massachusetts Institute of Technology came up with the idea of offering free course materials on the Web back in 2001 when looking for new and more democratic ways to share information. Six years later, the school has more than 1,500 courses available online.
Other universities have followed. Harvard Law School offers free online courses, as do Johns Hopkins and Tufts University, among others.
While open courseware doesn't grant you access to professors or allow you to work towards a degree, it provides many of the other benefits available to paying students. Participating universities post everything from syllabuses to reading materials and exams online. Some even offer video Web casts of their lectures.
If you've been looking for an opportunity to upgrade your professional skills without going into debt, visit the Open Courseware Consortium, a collaboration of more than 100 higher education institutions dedicated to supporting open source education.
By Marshall Loeb