Get Smart: Free Online Courses at Ivy League Schools

A little over a week into the new year, and dinner was half a an entire chocolate orange. But you're not the late Jack LaLanne; it's your mind that is your temple. While you're editing your list of self-improvement goals and resolutions for 2012, it might be motivating to know that there are dozens of free online courses from Ivy League universities including Stanford and Yale available on YouTube and iTunes U.

Yes, that Yale. The university attended by such great minds as Rory Gilmore and Blair Waldorf. Free Yale classes, though mostly introductory, cover subjects from biomedical engineering to Italian literature. All you have to do is download the zip files and pick up books from the syllabus at the library, and you'll be ready to start PLSC 270 - Capitalism: Success, Crisis and Reform in no time. Art fans might be interested in courses on Modern Poetry, Listening to Music and Dante in Translation, in particular.

In the summer of last year, professors at Stanford opened up three 101-level IT courses and now their offerings include practical classes in developing web applications and beginner Unix. Unlike most online courses or learning podcasts, these three computer science courses were held in real time and offered students feedback. Professors used technologies that allowed classes to be more hands-on -- live quizzes with instant feedback and interactive videos.

Recordings from Cornell, MIT and UC Berkeley are also obtainable online. You might not be able to say, "Yes, I did go to Yale. I am a brain surgeon," but you would be able to wave your longneck around at a bar and say, "I'm taking a class at Yale right now. Are you familiar with Plato's arguments for the immortality of the soul?" And frankly, there is no better use for a college degree.

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