Free Online Courses from Top Schools

Last Updated Nov 3, 2010 5:42 PM EDT

In the current economic climate, many of us are considering going back to school or getting an advanced degree, with the hopes of becoming more employable. But it's not always necessary to go back to school full or even part-time and spend tens of thousands of dollars to earn a degree. Sometimes all you need is a couple courses or a few weeks of instruction to enhance your resume.

To that end, there are numerous ways you can advance your skills for free, via online courses offered by some of the top schools and institutions in the country. That's right - free. I rounded up some of the best courses and programs, smart ways to invest in yourself, learn something new and boost your bottom line.

Liberal Arts and Sciences

Whether you want to brush up on evolutionary biology, macroeconomics or international relations private, top-ranked universities from Harvard and Yale to Carnegie Mellon and MIT offer free online lectures - and, in some cases, full classes.

App Development

All the lectures from Stanford University's 2010 winter course on how to develop iPhone applications are available online for free. Stanford also posts several other courses and faculty lectures for free on iTunes.

Engineering

From chemical and biological engineering to electrical, mechanical and nuclear science, MIT posts undergraduate and graduate courses online for free. You can also download UC Berkeley's undergrad lectures on mechanical engineering design.

Writing

Got a novel that you're dying to write? The University of Utah has a free course on creative writing and MIT will teach you the basics of fiction. Aspiring journalists can also take advantage of Poynter's News University's free e-learning program that covers writing, editing, reporting and ethics.

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    Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter at @farnoosh.