Open Online Courses in Physics

What is Physics?

Physics is one of the oldest academic disciplines and focuses on the study of matter as well as its motion through space and time. This area of study yields a particularly diverse list of online courses since it intersects with other natural science disciplines, such as chemistry and biology. Often, college physics programs will focus on the physical relation to one of these areas of study; thus establishing vital subfields such as quantum chemistry and electromagnetism, which are responsible for contextualizing the knowledge needed to advanced industrialism and modern technological convenience as it is known today.

What Can Online Courses in Physics Actually Teach Me?

Since physical principles are so intimately intertwined in nearly every natural science discipline, you will have the opportunity to choose from a number of online physics courses and truly tailor your class work to your academic interests. However, an online physics course can be offered at either an undergraduate or graduate level so you may need to earn an area-specific bachelors degree prior to enrolling in some courses. The open enrollment format for some online courses will not twist your arm to earn a physics degree, but understanding the advanced principles therein will be much simpler and streamlined with a strong background in physics and natural sciences. Additionally, there are no official accrediting agencies for open online courses in physics, which means there are no ironclad prerequisites for enrolling in online courses. However, it becomes your responsibility to assess the viability of these courses either by examining your professor’s credentials or reviewing the reactions of past students.

An online physics class is a viable tool to gain introductory knowledge in fields such as thermodynamics, string theory, relativity, and astrophysics. During these courses, you may find yourself asking some of the following questions:

  • How were physical principles articulated in the past and how do modern interpretations differ?
  • What is natural philosophy and why are physical principles so vital to understanding the universe?
  • How has physics helped technological and industrial booms?
  • Who are some of the most prominent physicists?
  • What exactly are certain basic principles of physical study, such as torque or quantum theory?

Specifically, there is no one thing that will accurately assess the viability of an open online course, but you should note whether or not your prospective instructor has a Ph.D. in physics or a related subfield. This area of study is often regarded as arcane so you will need a professor with a full grasp on the subject matter. Also, you should make sure that you enroll in open courses provided by a regionally or nationally accredited university. While this is not required to actually enroll, completed courses from accredited institutions may be given more weight by future undergraduate and graduate admission boards should you decide to progress with your physics education.

Free Online Courses in Physics From Around the Web

We have compiled relevant open courseware in physics and organized it in the directory below. Open courseware is a collection of online tests, video lectures, and related course materials from mostly prestigious universities around the world. While these materials are mostly non-restrictive and free to access, you will have to learn independently since you cannot interact with the professor of the course. However, these courses can be excellent resources if you are considering an on-campus or online physics degree and want to gauge your interest in the subject and your ability to meet classroom requirements.

Subjects

Physics (41)

RelativityMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Relativity, Paradoxes, Electromagnetism, Particle Physics
Taught by: Prof. Max Tegmark

Physics of Rock Climbing Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Engineering, Communications
Taught by: David Custer

Galileo and Einstein University of Virginia

Open Courseware

Relativity, Time, Space

Modern PhysicsUniversity of Virginia

Open Courseware

Relativity, Quantum Mechanics
Taught by: Michael Fowler

Advanced Quantum MechanicsUniversity of Oxford

Open Courseware

Quantum Mechanics, Particle Physics

Fundamental Principles of Particle PhysicsUniversity of Oxford

Open Courseware

Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics
Taught by: C. Ross

Laser Physics University of Oxford

Open Courseware

Molecular Spectra, Energy, Chemistry
Taught by: Simon Hooker

Galaxies and the Expanding Universe University of Oregon

Open Courseware

Atomic Theory, Astrophysics, Astronomy, Cosmology
Taught by: James Schombert

Stellar Structure and Evolution University of Oxford

Open Courseware

Astrophysics, Science, Stellar Classification
Taught by: Dr Ph. Podsiadlowski

Mobile RobotsUniversity of Oxford

Open Courseware

Mobile Robots, Engineering

Introduction to Plasma Physics IMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Plasma Physics, Electromagnetic Theory, Energy
Taught by: Prof. Ian Hutchinson, Prof. Jeffrey Freidberg

Astrophysics IIMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Astrophysics, Science, Astronomy
Taught by: Prof. Paul Schechter

Quantum Theory IMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Quantum Theory, Uncertainty Relations, Quantum Mechanics
Taught by: Prof. Washington Taylor

Physics for HumanistsTufts University

Open Courseware

Relative Motion, Quantum Physics, Probability, Nuclear Radiation

Applied Nuclear PhysicsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Nuclear Physics, Energy, Matter
Taught by: Prof. Sidney Yip

Polymer PhysicsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Polymer Physics, Mechanics
Taught by: Prof. Edwin (Ned) Thomas

Mechanical Behavior of MaterialsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Mechanical Behavior, Materials, Structures
Taught by: Prof. Krystyn van Vliet

Feedback Control SystemsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Control Design, Implementation Issues, Controllers
Taught by: Prof. Jonathan P. How, Prof. Emilio Frazzoli

Optical Physics and Quantum ElectronicsHarvard University

Open Courseware

Electromagnetic Fields, Radiation, Matter, Quantum Theory
Taught by: R. Victor Jones

Quantum Theory IIMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Quantum Theory, Stressing Principles
Taught by: Prof. Washington Taylor

Introduction to Modern PhysicsTufts University

Open Courseware

Relativity, Transformations, Wave Functions, Probability
Taught by: Gary R. Goldstein

MHD Theory of Fusion SystemsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

MHD Equilibria, Fusion Systems, Energy
Taught by: Prof. Jeffrey Freidberg

Spacetime Warps and the QuantumCalifornia Institute of Technology

Podcast

Relativity, Time, Space, Astrophysics
Taught by: Dr. Kip Thorne

Introduction to Solar System AstronomyOhio State University

Podcast

Astronomy, Cosmology, Science
Taught by: Prof. Richard Pogge

Planets and Life beyond the Solar System University of Bath

Podcast

Astronomy, Science

PHYS 200: FUNDAMENTALS OF PHYSICS IYale University

Video

Science, Mathematics
Taught by: Professor Ramamurti Shankar

Physics I: Classical MechanicsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Video

Science, Mechanics
Taught by: Prof. Walter Lewin

String Theory, Black Holes, Laws of Nature Harvard University

Video

Science, Mathematics, String Theory, Astronomy
Taught by: Professor Lisa Randall

Physics II: Electricity and MagnetismMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Video

Science, Electricity, Magnetism
Taught by: Physics Department Faculty

Natures Greatest PuzzlesStanford University

Video

Kinematics, Cosmology, Astronomy, Matter, Mathematics, Science

Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & AstrophysicsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Video

Science, Mathematics, Cosmology, Astrophysics
Taught by: Prof. Edmund Bertschinger, Prof. Edwin F. Taylor

Frontiers and Controversies in AstrophysicsUniversity of California, Berkeley

Video

Science, Astrophysics
Taught by: Joshua Simon Bloom

Gravity in the Quantum World and the CosmosStanford University

Video

Gravity, Science, Chemistry, Cosmology

Gravity in the Quantum World and the CosmosStanford University

Video

Gravity, Science, Chemistry, Cosmology

A Complete Search for New SunsHarvard University

Video

Astrophysics, Science, Cosmology
Taught by: Alyssa A. Goodman

Theory of Van der Waals InteractionsRice University

Video

Solar Energy, Theoretical Physics
Taught by: Walter Kohn

The Evolution of Bodies Bound by GravityInstitute for Advanced Study

Video

Physical Law, Heat Flows, Gravity
Taught by: Peter Goldreich

OpticsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Video

Optics, Lens, Mirrors, Polarization

In the Beginning: Modern Cosmology and the Origin of Our UniverseInstitute for Advanced Study

Video

Cosmology, Astrophysics, Science
Taught by: Matias Zaldarriaga

PhysicsCarnegie Mellon University

Video

Mechanics, Electricity, Magnetism

Course Description:

Developed with the assistance of the Office of Naval Research, this physical science online course uses a physics tutoring program to supplement problems on mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. To access the course material, you will need Windows Media Player and Andes installed on your computer, both of which are available free of charge. Designed to supplement other physics study aids and workbooks, this program is ideal for undergraduate physics students.

A Celebration of the Life and Work of John Norris BahcallInstitute for Advanced Study

Video

Astrophysics, Astronomy, Cosmology
Taught by: John N. Bahcall