100 Free Ivy-League Lectures You Shouldn’t Miss

Sep 22nd, 2009

Many top schools across the country are beginning to share their classes online free of charge. Luckily, that allows curious students to have access to a slice of an Ivy League education without paying a dime. Many of these courses provide video or audio lectures just waiting to be seen and heard. Whether you are looking to supplement your current education or just addicted to knowledge, these are sure to please.

Literature, Culture, and Philosophy

These Ivy League lectures explore literature, culture, and philosophy and range from Milton’s poetry to death to race and ethnicity to the philosophy of film.

  1. Milton. Examine Milton’s poetry and its influence over modern poetry with these lectures by John Rogers at Yale.
  2. The American Novel Since 1945. Explore such writers as Flannery O’Connor, JD Salinger, and Cormac McCarthy in this series of lectures lead by Amy Hungerford.
  3. The Film Experience. This literature class from MIT provides video lectures to help students learn about film as a narrative vehicle.
  4. Understanding Television. Learn about the evolution of television as a technology and as a system of representation for society with the video lectures here.
  5. Writing About Race. Listen to this audio recording that features the essays written by students as the culminating project of this class that explores race and ethnicity in modern society.
  6. Philosophy of Love in the Western World. The video lectures in this course from MIT cover the nature of love and sex from both a philosophical and literary perspective.
  7. Feeling and Imagination in Art, Science, and Technology. Philosophy, psychology, and literature meet in these lectures that explore feeling and imagination as they are expressed through science, technology, and art.
  8. Media, Education, and the Marketplace. Shigeru Miyagwa and guest lecturers discuss media and learning in the audio lectures for this class at MIT.
  9. Death. Explore philosophical questions of death and the possibility of immortality with the lectures from this class taught by Shelly Kagan.
  10. Introduction to Political Philosophy. Learn about major thinkers from the Western political tradition in this series of lectures from Yale.
  11. Philosophy in Film and Other Media. These four lectures discuss how philosophy is handled in film, literature, and opera.
  12. Philosophy of Film. A sister class to Philosophy in Film and Other Media, in this one students study how film techniques communicate philosophical meaning with these video lectures.
  13. The Nature of Creativity. Select audio or video versions of this lecture that explores human creativity and innovation.
  14. Film as Visual and Literary Mythmaking. Watch this video to learn how film can support myths surrounding character, life, death, and human nature.


From biology to chemistry, these science lectures showcase the brilliant teaching at top schools.

  1. Introduction to Biomedical Engineering. The lectures in this course are given by Professor Mark Saltzman at Yale.
  2. Fundamentals of Physics. From Newtonian mechanics to thermodynamics, Ramamurti Shankar provides lectures on all the basics of physics.
  3. Introduction to Astrophysics. Charles Bailyn lectures on planetary orbits, exoplanets, the problem of Pluto, and more.
  4. Astrobiology and Space Exploration. Lectures in this class at Stanford are given by NASA research scientist Lynn Rothschild and several other authorities in the field.
  5. General Human Anatomy. These lectures from popular Berkeley professor Marian Diamond bring an upbeat energy to anatomy lessons.
  6. General Biology I. Richard Malkin lectures on the basics of biology in this beginning class.
  7. General Biology II. Mary Power takes up with her lectures from the second part of this biology series.
  8. General Biology Laboratory. Don’t miss these lab lectures that accompany Richard Malkin’s General Biology I.
  9. Molecular Biology: Macromolecular Synthesis and Cellular Function. Learn about DNA, genome structures, RNA, and more with these lectures from Qiang Zhou.
  10. General Chemistry. The lectures from this class at Berkeley cover all the basics of chemistry including molecules, chemical reactions, acids and bases, and molecular orbitals.
  11. Organic Chemistry: Structure and Reactivity. Get your introduction to organic chemistry with these lectures given by Peter Vollhardt.


These lectures focus on medical topics including evidence-based medicine and hormone replacement therapy.

  1. Is Evidence-Based Medicine a Barrier to Cost-Effective Care?. Dr. Alan Garber weighs in on treatment effectiveness vs. value and what role evidence-based medicine should play in decisions on coverage.
  2. The Battle of the Diets: Is Anyone Winning (At Losing?). This lecture by Dr. Christopher Gardener explores the results of his study that examined the effectiveness of four popular diets.
  3. The Mismeasure of Man. Learn how society’s desire for measurable results can often overshadow the complexities of medicine.
  4. New Perspectives on Menopausal Hormones and Heart Disease. This lecture explores the results of an ongoing study at Stanford that indicates hormone replacement therapy carries health risks previously overlooked.
  5. Genomic Medicine. Listen to the audio lectures of this class at MIT that covers genomic technologies and computational approaches to diagnosing and treating patients.

Engineering and Technology

From robotics to understanding computers to more advanced computer programming lectures, these cover the gamut of engineering and technology.

  1. Introduction to Robotics. The lectures available in this class instruct on how to model, design, plan, and control robot design systems.
  2. Machine Learning. Get a broad introduction to machine learning and statistical pattern recognition.
  3. Introduction to Computer Science I. From a Harvard class for majors and non-majors alike, these computer science lectures deliver the basics.
  4. Computer Science I: Programming Methodology. Mehran Sahami’s lectures in this class, one of the largest courses taught at Stanford, cover an introduction to programming.
  5. Computer Science II: Programming Abstractions. Julie Zelenski carries on with lectures from this course that discuss advanced programming topics.
  6. Computer Science III: Programming Paradigms. Jerry Cain completes this series on computer science from Stanford.
  7. Introduction to Linear Dynamical Systems. Stephen Boyd lectures on the basics of linear algebra and linear dynamical systems as they pertain to circuits, signal processing, communications, and control systems.
  8. Convex Optimization I. The lectures here focus on recognizing and solving convex optimization problems that frequently occur in engineering.
  9. Convex Optimization II. Get 18 more lectures to follow up on the first part of convex optimization problems with this course.
  10. The Fourier Transform and its Applications. This Stanford course provides lectures by Brad G. Osgood on recognizing when and how to use the Fourier transform to solve problems.
  11. Understanding Computers and the Internet. For both newbies and computer veterans, the lectures in this course at Harvard covers everything from hardware to programming.

Business and Economics

See what these professors have to say about business and economics with these lectures.

  1. Game Theory. Learn about game theory and strategic thinking in the lectures from this class taught by Professor Ben Polak at Yale.
  2. Financial Markets. Professor Robert Shiller lectures in this course on the theory of finance and its history and place in modern and future society.
  3. Origins of the Financial Mess. Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton talks about the actions over the past several years that lead to the current state of affairs in the economy.
  4. Financial Crises. These five lectures feature different economists lecturing on the beginnings and results of financial crises.
  5. Introduction to Copyright Law. This law class from MIT provides everything you could need to know about copyright law and how to protect your business.
  6. Climate Change: Law and Policy. Study the political and economic ramifications of climate change on local and global development with these lectures given by William Collins.
  7. Starcraft Theory and Strategy. Explore decision-making strategies by studying war within the game Starcraft with these two lectures from Berkeley.

Political Science

Watch lectures on important elements of political science, including international issues and the role of religion in American presidential politics.

  1. Politics, Strategy, and Game Theory. Kathleen Baun at UCLA discusses the use of game theory and other strategies to understand politics.
  2. Russia: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Senator Bill Bradley, speaking at Princeton, shares his thoughts on Russia, where it came from and where it’s going.
  3. The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century. Journalist Steve Coll speaks at Princeton about the subject of his book.
  4. Whither the Middle East?. Dennis Ross talks about the Middle East from his experience working there as a part of the American government.
  5. Shaping China’s Choices. Professor Thomas Christensen of Princeton talks about US-China relations and China’s choices when it comes to its increasing power in the world.
  6. God and Country: A New Role for Faith in Presidential Politics?. This round-table discussion focuses on the changing role of religion in presidential politics.
  7. The World is Flat 3.0. This lecture by NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman focuses on the update of his 2007 book and previews his upcoming book.
  8. Current Issues in International and Area Studies. Paula Goldman at Berkeley lectures on global issues such as poverty, the media as agent of change, citizen activism, philanthropy, and human rights.
  9. Workshop on Deliberative Democracy and Dispute Resolution. This powerful workshop from the Harvard Law School brought dispute resolution professionals and political theorists together to discuss deliberative democracy. Watch video clips, read lecture notes, and check out the reflections of the workshop attendees.


These lectures offer insight to the lives and successes of important entrepreneurs.

  1. Why Not?. Professor Barry Nalebuff lectures from his book about using ingenuity to solve problems of all sizes.
  2. Top 10 Things You Must Have to Start a Business. This series of lectures from Frank Levinson discuss what it takes to succeed with a start-up.
  3. Burrill & Co: Building a Successful Biotech Company. G. Steven Burrill shares his experience in these five lectures.
  4. Yahoo!: Staying Close to the Customer. Sue Decker delivers seven lectures on Yahoo!’s business practices and the future of the company.
  5. Go Big or Don’t Go!. Touching on teamwork, aiming high, naming, and marketing a start-up, Donna Novitsky speaks in this course at Stanford.
  6. Wilson Sonsini: Three Circle Strategy, Strengths of Silicon Valley. John Roos discusses the Three Circle Strategy as well as other topics on getting a business off the ground.
  7. Vertical: Optimism in Overcoming Challenges. The founder of Vertical, Rodrigo Jordon talks about the fast pace of change in technology and the importance of optimism.
  8. Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs. Jerry Kaplan elaborates on mistakes entrepreneurs make, characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, and a wealth of topics on making an entrepreneurial venture a success.
  9. Unitus: Entrepreneurship in Microfinance. Geoff Davis, founder and CEO of Unitus, talks about microfinance specifically and entrepreneurship in general.
  10. The Thriving Green Economy. Presented by Jesse Fink, these lectures explore a number of topics touching on the growth of low-carbon economy.
  11. Trilogy: Sticking to Your Beliefs. Joe Liemandt of Trilogy discusses starting a business while an undergraduate, perseverance, guaranteeing values to customers, and sharing your passion.
  12. The Scientist and the Entrepreneur. Steve Fodor talks about the importance of continuing scientific research despite your business’ success.
  13. The Rise of the Superclass. Study the make-up of the powerful few, problems with this type of social structure, and how Europe seems to be getting it right.
  14. Entrepreneurship and Free, Prosperous Society. In this lecture at Stanford, Jack Leslie asserts his beliefs that freedom and prosperity arise from entrepreneurial spirit and that an entrepreneurial society is the basis for a free political society.
  15. Politics in Public and Private Sectors. Jackie Speier and Deborah Stephens discuss the challenges of making changes in both public and private sectors.


From Sigmund Freud to communication and conflict in families, these lectures share a bit of what psychology professors are teaching at Ivy League schools.

  1. Introduction to Psychology. Learn the basics of psychology with the audio lectures from this class at MIT.
  2. Sigmund Freud. Paul Bloom’s lecture at Yale provides an introduction to Freud and his theories.
  3. What Is It Like to Be a Baby: The Development of Thought. Get the foundations of cognitive development and an introduction to the works of Jean Piaget in this lecture.
  4. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Love (Guest Lecture by Professor Peter Salovey). This professor from Yale lectures on love and attraction.
  5. Psychology, Sex, and Evolution. Watch this lecture to find out about sex and gender differences explored in recent psychological studies.
  6. Communication and Conflict in Couples and Families. From UCLA, Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury discusses connection and discord in relationships.
  7. Neuroscience and Behavior. This class offers audio lectures on the neural system and its functions, including sleep and dreaming, motivation, emotions, and more.
  8. Brain Structure and its Origins. Study the limbic system, the hypothalamus, taste, auditory and visual systems, and more with these audio lectures.
  9. Animal Behavior. The lectures in this course focuses on adaptive behavior of animals and also explores how this relates to humans when studying primates.


These video lectures introduce history lessons in a dynamic way.

  1. France Since 1871. Learn about the social, economic, and political transformation and emergence of modern France with these lectures by John Merriman.
  2. The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877. Watch these lectures by David Blight at Yale discuss the causes and results of the Civil War.
  3. Introduction to Ancient Greek History. Donald Kagan lectures on Greek civilization from the Bronze Age to the end of the classical period in Greek history.
  4. Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). Watch three lectures from this class taught by Christine Hays that explores the Old Testament as a reflection of ancient Israel.
  5. Science, Magic, and Religion. This class at UCLA offers a series of lectures that cover how science and religion have shaped history.
  6. Darwin’s Legacy. This series of lectures from Stanford features many Darwin scholars to explore the impact of his theory.
  7. African American History: The Modern Freedom Struggle. These lectures cover African-American history from 1930 to present day by examining some of the major individuals involved in the quest for freedom and justice.
  8. Nonviolence: from Gandhi to Martin Luther King. Study the history of strategic nonviolence from Gandhi in the east to the civil rights movement in the west with the lectures in this class from Berkeley.
  9. Seminar in Historical Methods. Two video lectures associated with this class at MIT cover two different topics related to how 20th century historians write about the past.

Physical Education

This unique set of classes from MIT feature videos and lecture notes that strive to teach important and fun physical activities. From SCUBA diving to sailing, you won’t want to miss these exciting lectures.

  1. SCUBA. Watch the videos in this class to learn the basics of diving so that you are ready to take a certification exam.
  2. Tennis. These videos will teach you the basics of tennis so you are ready to head out to the courts.
  3. Weight Training. Whether a beginner or experienced weightlifter, this class will help you learn about your body and proper techniques through lecture notes and videos.
  4. Archery. Those who are new to archery can learn the basics such as stance and shooting, equipment care, scoring, and more with these videos.
  5. Fencing. Watch here to learn the basics of fencing as well as how to apply skills and analyzing a bout.
  6. Sailing. This class focuses on teaching the basics of sailing the Tech Dinghy at MIT and includes readings, lectures, and videos.
  7. Physical Intelligence. Learn about the mind-body connection to intelligence with this unique class that includes lecture notes.
  8. Designing Your Life. Study the lecture notes here to learn how to lead a successful life that includes taking care of your body, career, relationships, and money.
  9. PE for ME. Mechanical engineering meets physical education in this class that studies physical intelligence through ME experiments in the gym.
  10. Chemistry of Sports. Through studying a combination of chemistry and physical education, learn about swimming, bicycling, and running while training for a triathlon by studying the lecture notes for this class at MIT.