Grad school is an even tougher hurdle to conquer than college; any grad student can attest to this. But with loads of free resources on the web these days, navigating higher ed has become more efficient and manageable. And as the world shifts from traditional learning setups to remote or distance learning, or blended learning in some cases, these online resources are now essential tools for grad students. These resources come in many forms like online databases, and search engines, niche sites, OCWs, OERs, MOOCs, online tools, and pages that write about grad school topics and everything in between that can help students thrive and survive grad school.
Check out this extensive list of free online resources for grad students. The resources are listed in random order and category. Browse away!
A self-guided tool initiated in 2001, the MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) was created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a free repository of all the school’s materials for both undergraduate and graduate students. No need to register to freely access, download, and even share the courses and these can be taken anytime. MIT OCW contains close to 2500 materials from its various graduate course offerings – from business topics to the liberal arts to STEM courses. Graduate-level courses in sustainable energies, medicine, and education are also available. Video lectures and podcasts are also available on the MIT OCW YouTube channel.
UC Berkeley Digital Learning Services (DLS)
The Digital Learning Services (DLS) of UC Berkeley is a portal for both UC grad students and faculty, who are gearing up for the transition to remote instruction and learning. Its Learning Management System, bCourses (also known as Canvas), is an online tool available to Berkeley students. By using their CalCentral or bCourses account credentials, they can access learning materials uploaded by their instructors. The portal also allows for interactive learning, collaboration, and discussions with the faculty and fellow grad students. Course grades are also uploaded here so students can track their progress.
OpenStax is an initiative of Rice University that creates and publishes textbooks online for free, while hard copies can be bought for a low price. Its textbook collection is regularly peer-reviewed by educator-authors for accuracy, relevance, and standardization of outline, ensuring that the materials can be easily incorporated to any level of tertiary and or graduate learning. OpenStax also supports mobility across devices and platforms as it is also available on Google Play, the App Store, and YouTube.
UMass Boston OCW
The Umass Boston OpenCourseWare is an open repository of educational materials in the form of lecture notes, audio lectures, and laboratory coursework (if any). No account registration is required, and the site can be freely accessed by anyone, anywhere. Though none of the courses featured offer credits or certificates, the course listing is well-varied, which includes STEM courses like biology and computer science, psychology, the creatives like performing arts, public policy and politics, natural sciences, history, and early and special education.
MITx on edX
Hosted on the MOOC platform edX, MITx is MIT’s most comprehensive MOOC offering. Its collection is similar to that of MITOCW’s, but it also has graded course works, live discussions with MIT faculty and peer discussion boards. Many courses are free while some, especially those that offer completion certificates and micro master’s degrees, include a modest fee. The micro master’s track can also be credited as a full semester, thus, allowing graduate students to continue with the corresponding full master’s program on-campus. The following are MITx’s micro master’s offerings: 1) Supply Chain Management, 2) Data, Economics, and Development, 3) Principles of Manufacturing, 4) Statistics and Data Science, and 5) Finance. Those who are on MITx are strongly suggested to explore and utilize the MIT OCW for a more complementary learning experience.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab or OWL is a free-for-use resource for aspiring – and even experienced – writers. The portal was created as a complement to Purdue University’s in-house and in-person writing tutorial service – The Writing Lab. Various writing instructional resources are available to those who are on a creative writing track. Specific resources on the citation for research work, with provisioned guides for the following writing styles: APA 6th and 7th edition, MLA, Chicago, IEEE, AMA and ASA, and job search writing should be highly useful to grad students. Video podcasts are also available, as well as materials in Spanish.
Created through the joint effort of Harvard University and MIT, edX is a vast MOOC storehouse of resources provided by over 140 partner universities from all over the world. For graduate students looking to augment their learning, edX has more than 2500 courses and programs on almost all types of subjects you can think of – from liberal arts to humanities to the sciences, to even law and medicine. Assignments and quizzes are also available to track one’s progress and learning. Many of the courses are free while some grant certificates and even micro master’s degrees.
EBSCO Open Dissertation Database
The EBSCO Open Dissertation Database is an excellent aid for graduate students looking for research trends in their respective fields and significant and verifiable references for their theses or dissertations. The database is home to almost 200,000 academic papers from universities across the country, and more than a million papers from around the world, with publishing dates spanning the early 1900s to present. Searches can be filtered by university and publishing date, and full texts of the theses and dissertations can be freely accessed.
MIT Open Learning Library
The MIT Open Learning Library is a select collection that combines the best of MIT OCW and MITx. An account is required to access a variety of free resources, which includes video and audio lectures, podcasts, lecture notes, problem sets, and answers. Materials marked as OCW content can be freely downloaded and shared. While no live feedback or discussion is provided, as well as certifications – similar to MIT OCW – auto-graded problem sets and other course work will help graduate students monitor their progress. Course offerings include aeronautics, STEM topics, particularly engineering, management, history, linguistics, media writing, and urban planning.
Google Scholar houses a massive collection of academic literature, both old and current. Grad students can use this to search for papers from hundreds of renowned journal publications from both ends of the scholastic spectrum. The portal also has information about the author(s), related literature, and citations. To enhance the search results with reliable, valid, and substantial sources, Google ranks the materials based on its content, the place, and date of its publication, the author, and the frequency by which other authors cited it.
Another popular MOOC site, Coursera has partnerships with more than 200 schools and companies worldwide. It houses a whole library of free courses which, aside from lectures, also includes assignments and discussion boards. For grad students who would want to earn specializations, professional, and Master Track certificates (a one-semester course that can be carried over to a full master’s program), they can obtain these for a modest fee.
Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC)
A project of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the Department of Education, ERIC, or the Education Resources Information Center is another great resource. Through its partnerships with various organizations and publications worldwide, ERIC can store more than 1.5 million journal and non-journal materials that can be accessed by anyone and anytime free of charge. Books, reports, policy documents, and other relevant scholastic work can also be found here.
Harvard Extension School
Harvard Extension School is home to Harvard’s open learning portal. It offers a good number of free courses which includes Abstract Algebra, Greek History, American Poetry, Introduction to Computer Science, World Literature, Culinary Science, Probability Models, US Education Policy, and more. The site also offers about 800 online courses where credits can be earned for modest fees. Application and registration are not required for both the free and paid courses.
A tool specially designed for Ph.D. students with their professional development in mind, Duke Options allows doctoral candidates to create a roadmap on how to better craft their grad school journey on their way to building a professional career. Students can choose their target competency and stage or current academic level and customize the planned activities from here. The portal has link suggestions matching the activities on the roadmap, which are also based on the student’s profile and career objectives. While anyone can access Duke Options, only those with NetID credentials can save their roadmaps and plans.
RefSeek is a search engine dedicated to academic materials, literature, and references, such as the website’s name. It has been around since 2008 and works pretty much like a Google search page. The difference is that the results are more streamlined to show only academic and educational materials, instead of manually weeding through the generic list that a standard search engine would have shown, thus saving one’s time. An option also exists for users to choose between all relevant results or to show only documents, which are usually in PDF format.
Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative (OLI)
Created in partnership with online curriculum site Lumen Learning, the Open Learning Initiative of the Carnegie Mellon University offers both free and paid courses in various learning paths, from STEM tracks, which also includes specialized courses like electric car technology and other sustainable energy courses, to linguistics, to public policy, and many more. There are separate offerings for independent learners or self-learners, and those with the OLI Course Key (usually acquired from CMU instructors).