Where Can I Find Free Online Geology Courses?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is among colleges and universities offering free online courses in geology. Students can access notes on activities conducted in these classes. Keep reading to find out what you can learn and what materials are provided. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Courses in geology can be useful if you plan to pursue a career in the sciences or engineering or if you just want to learn more about rock formations and fossils. MIT offers noncredit courses in geology for free online. These courses might include readings, lecture notes, assignments and exams. You also might get to watch videos of field trips so you can experience real geological formations even if you can't make it to an actual site.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT's geology courses are available as OpenCourseWare (OCW) classes, and were originally taught as for-credit courses to students on campus. You have an open invitation to view assignments, exams and other course materials for free, but you will not receive credit for these courses.

Introduction to Geology

This undergraduate course was initially offered on campus in spring 2008 and has been updated for the fall 2013 semester. The class provides access to documents on lectures, labs and field trips. While the field trip is not included with the free online course, the materials used during the field trip are provided.

What Will I Learn?

You will learn the basic types of rocks and minerals and how they are formed through geologic processes that involve pressure, temperature, sediment movement, water, wind and other factors. The free geology course also introduces geologic structures, measurement methods and global plate tectonics.

What Assignments Will I Complete?

Assignments include lab exercises on activities, such as identifying rocks and minerals and reading geological maps. Participation in a class field trip was also a requirement for this course, but not offered for the free online course.

What Materials Are Provided?

The online course provides 36 lecture notes in portable document format (PDF) that include slides. There are also PDF materials from seven lab sessions and five exercises. A Google Earth file for the field trip component of the course is available as a Keyhole Markup Language (KML) file. You can also access other web-based and downloadable materials on the field trip. A link to a textbook you can purchase that covers a list of readings is available.

Structural Geology

Also an OCW course, the Structural Geology class was originally a for-credit class that two instructors taught in 2005 to undergraduate MIT students. This free course includes lecture notes and handouts from the original laboratory sessions, along with examinations.

What Will I Learn?

Among the many class topics, you can learn about the rock deformation processes and their impact on geological structures. Other topics include folds and faults, tectonics, regional structural geology and strain analysis.

What Assignments Will I Complete?

The course provides exercise files from nine of the on-campus lab sessions, five of which have solutions. You could also complete mid-term and final exam questions, but solutions aren't provided.

What Materials Are Provided?

As part of the free course offerings, you may read lecture notes, which are divided into three parts - continuum mechanics and rheology; faults; and ductile deformation, folds and fabrics. Other course materials include a list of required and suggested readings, a mid-term outline and a summary of notes on post-faulting.

Sedimentary Geology

This free course was offered in the fall of 2004 to MIT students through the school's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. You can view the Sedimentary Geology course materials at your convenience and follow the lecture notes to gain a better understanding of geology.

What Will I Learn?

This undergraduate class introduces the composition and chemistry of sediments and the processes that transform the materials into rock. The course covers the main types of sedimentary rocks and bodies near the Earth's surface, including aquifers.

What Assignments Will I Complete?

As an online student, you could read a PDF document for a lab project that involved measuring sediment transport and the development of bed topography. Use of lab facilities is not included for online OCW users. You aren't required to complete assignments because instructors will not review your work and you will not receive a grade.

What Materials Are Provided?

This free geology course includes lecture notes on topics like sediment production, alluvial fans and sediment production. The course also provides photos of various rock types, including carbonate rocks and siliciclastic rocks, as well as the names of the class textbooks used.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Ashford University

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  • Harvard University

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