Your education doesn’t have to stop once you leave school–
—freedom from the classroom just means you have more control over what you learn and when you learn it. We’ve put together a curriculum of some of the best free online classes available on the web this spring (yes, and winter) for the latest term of Lifehacker U, our regularly-updating guide to improving your life with free, online college-level classes. Let’s get started.
Computer Science & Programming
Harvey Mudd College – Programming in Scratch – Professor Colleen Lewis – Learning to code can be difficult enough without having to choose a great starter language. Of course, the favorite around here is Python, but even in those conversations many of you pointed out that Scratch is a great first language for people looking to try their hand as well, and it’s easy and fun to learn. This course from Harvey Mudd College will have you designing animations, games, and short programs in no time, and learning the kinds of habits that will serve you well whether you plan to be a software developer in the long haul, or just want to know how to design and build your own projects. Course starts February 2nd.Enroll now.
The Linux Foundation – Introduction to Linux – Professor Jerry Cooperstein, Ph.D. – The immensely popular Linux Foundation introduction to Linux is back for another term, and the course just started a few days ago—there’s still time to jump in and get started. You have the option of taking the class for free, or getting a certificate for a hundred bucks, but either way if you’re ever never run Linux before, are just unfamiliar with the operating system, or want to expand your knowledge and horizons, this course is a great opportunity. Not only will you learn the tools that Linux users use every day in day to day use, but you’ll also learn tips and tricks that Linux system administrators put to work to make the technologies we take for granted run smoothly. Course started January 5th, plenty of time to catch up! Enroll now.
Cornell University – The Computing Technology Inside Your Smartphone – Professor Dave Albonesi – You’ve probably heard the statement over and over that your smartphone has more computing power than computers even a few decades ago had, and are far more powerful than even the computer that sent human beings to the moon and brought them back safely. That’s all great, but exactly what does that mean, and how powerful are these tiny computers we carry around with us? This course examines the topic, moving step by step through layers of technology, from the basics to applications to data collection and interfaces. Course starts March 15th.Enroll now.
Finance and Economics
Delft University of Technology – An Introduction to Credit Risk Management – Professor Pasquale Cirillo. – We all think we understand how credit works, but the truth is it’s a multi-faceted beast, both from the perspective of an individual looking to prove their credit worthiness to a large organization like a bank or lender seeking out reputable creditors who are capable and willing to pay their debts back—while still being customers. This course approaches the topic of credit from both sides, on both the practical and personal level as well as the greater organizational level, so you can see how both individuals and entire nations have their credit evaluated. Course starts April 30th.Enroll now.
Delft University of Technology – The Economics of Cybersecurity – Professors Michel van Eten, Ross Anderson, Rainer Böhme, Carlos H. Gañán, and Tyler Moore – Information security may seem commonplace these days, with hacks and breaches every few days making headlines, but there was a time when businesses didn’t bother at all because they preferred not to spend the money. Even now, many companies fail to understand that the consequences of lax security can cost more than security investments up front, and this course is designed to help students understand those costs, risks, and technologies. From there you’ll be able to – if you’re a technology worker, more accurately describe the risks and costs to your organization, or if you’re a business leader, understand when and where you should invest in data security as well as examine your risks. Course starts January 20th.Enroll now.
Science and Medicine
Harvard University – Super Earths and Life – Professors Dimitar Sasselov and Colin Fredericks – Many people don’t understand the close relationships between astronomy and biology, but they’re very related fields, especially now as we expand our search for possible alien life—in whatever form it may take—to exoplanets we see orbiting far off stars, some several times larger than Earth, others in harsher stellar environments. This course will show you how we look for life elsewhere in the universe, the tools we use, and what the very search teaches us about our place in the universe. Course starts Feburary 10th.Enroll now.
University of California, Berkeley – BVF101x: Biology for Voters – Professors Jasper Rine and Fyodor Urnov – Topics that require scientific literacy aren’t limited to the classroom or the lab—they’re turning up in public policy debates, and in the voting booth. To that end, these professors at Berkeley decided to do something about it with a simple biology class for people who are concerned about scientific issues, and who want to be informed when they go to the ballot box, no matter what their political party or candidate of choice says in front of a microphone. The course touches on topics like genetics and genetically modified foods, disease and vaccines, health care, mass extinctions, and more. Course starts February 16th. Enroll now.
Harvard University – EMC2x: The Einstein Revolution – Professors Peter Galison Ph.D., Ion Mihailescu, and Connemara Doran – Einstein is a popular figure, not just in pop culture, but in science as well. His accomplishments and achievements are well noted, but if all you know of him is E=MC2 or Relativity, this course will give you the whole picture. It traces everything from Einstein’s relationship with quantum mechanics, general and special relativity, and nuclear weapons—as well as his social relationships with Nazi Germany, philosophy, and the arts. Every scientific topic is presented with its cultural and social context as well, so you can see the type of world Einstein was working in—and the people he was working with—when some of his most famous discoveries came to light. Course starts February 12.Enroll now.
The University of Adelaide – HumBio101x: Essential Human Biology: Cells and Tissues – Professors Mario Ricci, Rachel Gibson, Sophie Karanicolas, Catherine Snelling, and Femke Buisman-Pijlman – Understanding human biology starts with understanding the basic building blocks that make up the body—and that means cells and tissues. This course will explain how cells work, divide, make up tissues that then in turn make up parts of our bodies and our organs. You’ll learn the four main types of tissue in the body – epithelial, connective, muscular and nervous, and how they function, both in healthy people, and when someone has a disease. Course starts February 17.Enroll now.
School Yourself – Introduction to Algebra – Professors Zach Wissner-Gross, John Lee, Vivek Venkatachalam, Kenny Peng, and Michael Fountaine – Sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics before you touch on advanced topics, and this course is just that. Whether you’re still in school and could use a refresher, or you’ve been out of school for ages and have no idea how to do basic algebra anymore, this course will serve as a great walkthrough of basic principles, exercises, and methods. It’s suitable if you’re looking for ways to better solve problems you encounter at work, or if you’re just interested in more math or science topics, but want to make sure you have the basics down first. Course starts February 10.Enroll now.
School Yourself – Introduction to Geometry – Professors Zach Wissner-Gross, John Lee, Vivek Venkatachalam, Kenny Peng, and Michael Fountaine – Where the last course tackled the topic of algebra, this one touches on geometry, from measuring angles to calculating area, volume, size, and more. You’ll prove geometric theorems, understand how geometry is immediately applicable to the things you do, and more. Again, a simple refresher for people who may find they need it, or people who just want to brush up before moving on to other topics. Course starts February 10. Enroll now.
Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities
University of California, Berkeley – ColWri3.3x: “Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus” by Shelley: BerkeleyX Book Club – Professor Maggie Sokolik, Ph.D. – The book, Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, was written by Mary Shelley when she was 18 years old, and it’s endured as a cultural and social touchpoint since. The course discusses how the book is a reflection of Gothic and Romantic cultural movements in the early 1800s, and how the book was received when it was published, and how it took off and became a fixture in pop culture after that. Course starts February 2.Enroll now.
University of Toronto – LA101X: Library Advocacy Unhushed – Professors Wendy Newman, Gwen Harris, and Carolyn Dineen – Libraries are fixtures in communities around the world, but in our increasingly digital, information-at-our-fingertips digital world, people are questioning the utility of these public spaces, and the money spent to maintain them. This course examines the value that libraries provide to communities both highly connected and to communities where the only internet access may be at the library, the value of information science, information scientists, librarians, researchers, and the broad benefits of libraries, even in this digital age. The course also examines how you can get involved advocating for libraries and public spaces in your community. Course starts February 2.Enroll now.
Wagenigen University – NUTR101x: Introduction to Nutrition – Food for Health – Professor Sander Kersten – Nutrition is a difficult and confusing topic, to be sure, but there are some things that everyone agrees on, and some ways to live and eat healthfully without worrying that someone will come along later and tell you to stop what you’re doing because it’s actually killing you. This course, a new offering from Wageningen University, seeks to outline some of those universal health and nutrition tips and knowledge so you can apply them at home in your own meals, and make more intelligent food decisions both at the market and at restaurants. You’ll also break down some of the confusing language and information thrown back and forth by so-called “experts,” many of whom stand to make money off of your confusing, and see through the fog to be a more educated consumer. Course starts January 12. Enroll now.
University of Texas at Austin – UT.8.02X: Jazz Appreciation – Professor Jeffrey Hellmer – Jazz is a complex, unique, and amazing form of music, one that in many ways is uniquely American but is celebrated and performed by artists and musicians around the world – all of whom have their own takes on the genre, make it their own, and produce beautiful music. This course will take you back through the history of jazz, some of its most iconic musicians (like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane) and what made those musicians brilliant and what made their music so good and so compelling. You’ll study modern interpretations of jazz as well, different eras of jazz and different generations of jazz soloists, and more. By the end of the course, you’ll definitely have broken in your headphones, and you’ll have a greater appreciation for a beautiful form of music. Course starts January 20.Enroll now.
McGill – The Body Matters – Professor Ian Shrier, Ph.D. – We all know it’s important to stay active, and that physical activity is important for a healthy body—but how much is necessary, and what exactly are those benefits? This course walks through the impact of physical activity and exercise on the body, how to exercise and work out safely and healthfully, and what to do when injury occurs (and how to recover if that happens.) The course tackles the point that activity—regardless of body type, size, profession, or lifestyle—plays a significant role in quality of life, and will walk you through the biological, social, psychological, and personal implications of physical activity (and a lack of it.) Course starts February 25. Enroll now.
By Becky Pineo