Open courseware is a relatively new phenomenon. Traditional universities, including some of the most distinguished in the world, now offer many of their courses online, for free.
They are designed so web users can go through them on their own and are meant to share information on a global scale. These courses typically cannot be applied toward a degree plan, but they are excellent modes of independent learning.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( Protected content ) and Yale University ( Protected content ) make a wide array of courses available to the public, and they can be taken at any time. MIT even offers certificates of completion for students who make it through.