Your education doesn’t have to stop once you leave school. We’ve put together a curriculum of some of the best free online classes available on the web this fall 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.
Orientation: What Is Lifehacker U?
Whether you’re headed to college for the first time or you’re back in classes after a relaxing summer vacation, or long out of school and interested in learning something new, now’s the time to turn it on and amp up your skills with some interesting and informative classes and seminars. Anyone with a little time and a passion for self-growth can audit, read, and “enroll” in these courses for their own personal benefit. Schools like Yale University, MIT, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, and many more are all offering free online classes that you can audit and participate in from the comfort of your office chair, couch, or computing chair-of-choice.
If you’ll remember from our Summer 2016 semester, some of these classes are available year-round, but many of them are only available during the a specific term or semester, and because we’re all about helping you improve your life at Lifehacker, we put together a list of courses available this summer that will inspire you, challenge you, open the door to something new, and give you the tools to improve your life. Grab your pen and paper and make sure your battery is charged—class is in session!
Computer Science and Technology
- University of Michigan – Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) – Professor Charles Severance – One of our favorite beginner-friendly programming courses is back for another term. Python is one of your favorite programming languages for first-time learners, and for good reason. This course will introduce you to it, and to programming in general, in an accessible way. The course begins with discussing the basics of programming, then jumping right in and getting you installing the tools you’ll need to work with Python and playing around with it. By the end of the course, you’ll have learned functions, conditional code, loops, and more.
- University of Toronto – Learn to Program: The Fundamentals – Professors Jennifer Campbell and Paul Gries – This is another course that focuses on the basics of programming, and gets you started with Python. You’ll quickly pick up the tools required to build simple programs using Python through practical exercises. This course jumps in a little faster, but covers a bit more ground. It just started, but there’s still time to get in.
- CentraleSupélec – Build Your First Android App – Professors Virginie Galtier and Michel Ianotto – Developing for Android is often considered a stuffier, more tricky affair than building for iOS, but this course will have you up and working on your first Android app in no time, and will teach you the basic skills you need to continue developing for Android in the future. From learning the basics of storyboarding your application to installing Android Studio and the development tools you’ll need all the way to finishing your application, you can start this course with an idea and finish with a working application you can actually use.
- University of Reading – Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game – Professors Richard Mitchell, Timothy Threadgold, and Karsten Lundqvist – If your goal for mobile development isn’t just app development, but game development, this course will serve as an introduction. The course has a while before it starts, but it’s an encompassing look at mobile game development whether you’re a complete newcomer to programming or you’re coming to the topic with some skills to help you get started. You’ll learn to develop in Java, solve programming problems with algorithms, and of course, use Android Studio for game dev in the Android world.
- The University of Leeds – Learning Online: Managing Your Identity – Professors Raphael Hallett and Helen Howard – At this point, making sure you manage your own online identity is essential to making sure you control the message on the web about you. Whether you use them or not, you need to be the one who owns your own Facebook page, your own LinkedIn profile, and since most of us use social networks, how to own them and manage them in a way that’s not detrimental to your offline life. This course is designed for young college students, but it has lessons for people of all ages, especially those concerned with how our online identities impact our real-world ones—and how “online” and “real world” are even poor distinctions in themselves.
- Princeton University – Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies – Professor Arvind Narayanan – The web isn’t on fire with discussion of Bitcoin these days as it was even a year or so ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lot we can learn about cryptocurrency, and how its technologies work. This course tackles the topic, discusses what makes Bitcoin different from other currencies, what determines their price, and what the future might hold for decentralized monetary technologies.
- University of California, Berkeley – The Beauty and Joy of Computing – Professor Dan Garcia – Partially an AP course in computer science, this class (which has already started, so you’ll be coming in late) teaches you to think in abstract, gets you familiar with the mindset you’ll need to really get started as a developer, and learn one of the most user-friendly programming languages, Snap! (which is based on Scratch.) You’ll also discuss the global implications of programming, why it’s so empowering to learn to code, and why it’s so important to help others learn to code as well.
- ITMO University – How to Win Coding Competitions: Secrets of Champions – Professors Maxim Buzdalov and Pavel Krotkov – ITMO University is the only six-time winner of the world’s top coding cup, and this course teaches you how to enhance your own programming skills to either compete against (or alongside) them, or just how to make your own programming efforts and game more efficient. You’ll learn the benefits of participating in hackathons and coding competitions, and the tools you’ll need to master the art of fast, flexible, and elegant programming.
Finance and Economics
- University of Florida – Personal and Family Financial Planning – Professor Michael S Gutter, PhD – Aimed at college students but packed with useful financial skills that are useful at all ages, this course starts by helping you understand the time value of money, and then moves you slowly into topics like understanding financial statements, learning to set budgets that are flexible enough for you to stick to them, building and maintaining good credit, understanding risk, and even begin investing. If you’re looking for a guided approach to all of these topics, this course is extremely helpful.
- The Open University – Finance Fundamentals: Investment Theory and Practice – Professor Martin Upton – Investing can be a difficult, tricky topic for a lot of people, but this course—taught from a UK perspective, so be aware going in—tackles the topic in an easy to understand way, and will walk you through the fundamental skills you’ll need to invest, understand investment mechanisms and choose ones that line up with your goals, and of course, get started. You’ll even study how experts and financial gurus manage their money, and what, if anything, you can learn from them.
- Rice University – Finance for Non-Finance Professionals – Professor James Weston – If you’re interested in more advanced financial topics, especially when it comes to business finance, stocks, corporate balance sheets, and risk analysis, this course can help you—even if you don’t have the financial or business background to dive in. This course keeps a very high-level approach to all of these topics, with the goal of giving you an understanding of the major concepts in financial decision-making.
- University of California, Irvine – Managing Your Money: MBA Insights for Undergraduates – Professor Peter Navarro – This isn’t a terribly long course, but it is a multidisciplinary one. You’ll learn not just about the nuts and bolts of how businesses and organizations choose how to handle their money, but you’ll also learn about managerial economics, the human factor to managing money, and of course, tie it all back to the concept of basic life planning and how you can take all of these ideas and put them to work in your everyday life.
- The New York Institute of Finance – Understanding the Federal Reserve – Professor William Addiss – We’ve discussed what the “Fed” is, and how it affects your finances, but if you’re looking for a much deeper dive, this course is a great look at the topic. You’ll study its impact on the US economy, financial institutions around the globe, and of course, on individual investors and savers, and the companies that serve them. You’ll learn about the relationship between the federal government and the Fed, and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). It’s all tangled, but this course breaks it down so you’ll understand completely the next time you listen to or read financial news.
Science and Medicine
- IEEE – Smart Grids: Electricity for the Future – Professors Dr. Mani Vadari and Mrudhula Balasubramanyan – The power grid in the United States is old, prone to failure, and even small issues and errors can cascade into massive blackouts that can impact millions of people. This course from the IEEE tackles what we can do about it, the technology that we have right now that can help us build better, smarter power grids in the future, and how much energy we can save by doing so. If you haven’t heard of “smart grids,” this course will introduce you to the topic, talk about current funding and research into redesigning and reforming our power grid, and how you can get involved, if you’re interested.
- The Open University – Understanding Nuclear Power – Professors Mark Wenman and William Nuttall – Nuclear power has the potential to be a sustainable, safe way of generating massive amounts of power for billions of people—but it comes with significant risks. Meltdowns, nuclear waste, and other accidents are huge glaring warning signs to the dangers of nuclear power. This course takes an even-handed approach to the topic, discusses the impact of the dangers and the risks, versus the massive and significant benefits nuclear power offers, as well as the rush around the globe to build nuclear power plants to power societies tired of using fossil fuels for energy.
- Duke University – Introduction to Genetics and Evolution – Professor Mohamed Noor – If the fundamentals of biology interest you but escape you, or you’re curious about how evolution works, how genetics pass down traits from parent to child, and how a commercial kit available in the mail can tell you about your ancestry—all the way back to your ancient roots, this course can tell you. You’ll also learn about the process of natural selection, the observable evidence for it, and what information DNA does and doesn’t carry. It’s a great primer for anyone interested in evolutionary biology.
- The University of Pennsylvania – Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us – Professor Connie B. Scanga – This course made an apparance last term, but it’s back again for another one and it’s still an amazing course, whether you’re curious how you can learn to better listen to the signs your body gives you, understand how your body functions in general, or learn the warning signs that your body sends you that you may want to check out—even if those signs aren’t the obvious ones like pain or discomfort. You’ll learn everything about your pulse, blood pressure, metabolism, temperature, respiration, and of course, pain, over the six weeks the class takes.
- Yale University – Journey of the Universe: The Unfolding of Life – Professors Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim – There’s still a little time before this course begins, but if you’re curious about whether we’re alone in the universe, how life on Earth began—and what we know versus what we don’t, and how life could have started on other planets in the galaxy, this class is for you. You’ll study how stars and planets form everywhere in the universe, and how entire ecologies begin and prosper, and what, if anything, makes Earth special verus what we can already observe on other planets among the stars.
- Uppsala University – Antibiotic Resistance: The Silent Tsunami – Professors Saga Alvring and Thomas Tängdén – Antibiotic resistance is probably the biggest looming medical challenge humanity faces right now, and yet when it comes up it’s usually only in scary terms. This course will pull the wool off and help you understand exactly how significant a problem this really is, but also discusses the many ways people are attacking it, the research being done to develop next generation antibiotics, and of course, what you can do to help in your own everyday life. You’ll learn about how this became such a significant problem, where we are today, and study how the global medical community is responding to the problem.
- Universiteit Leiden – Osteoarchaeology: The Truth in Our Bones – Professor Andrea Waters-Rist – We can learn a great deal from the human skeleton, and archeologists study bones to determine not just how people died, where, and when, but also how they lived, how they ate, what they did in their day to day lives, and the kinds of cultures they lived in. This course examples how it’s possible to know so much just from some ancient bones, and you’ll try your hand at deciphering clues left behind about the lives and civilizations of past peoples from evidence you can sift through on your own.
- Cornell University – The Science and Politics of the GMO – Professors Sarah Evanega, Ronald Herring, David Just, Jaron Porciello, and Rebecca Harrison – What are “genetically modified organisms” and how are they created? Why are people afraid of them, or want them labeled on their food? This course will examine the fear, hype, and the science behind GMO, as well as the politics surrounding it, the roots of the biotechnology industry, and of course, how all of this interplays with food and nutrition in general. You’ll study genetic engineering and review the arguments for and against the use of GMO in food production and agriculture. By the end of the course, you’ll have a better, more mature understanding of the topic in general, and be able to separate fact from fiction, what GMO can and can’t do, the history of agricultural modification, and more.
- The University of Liverpool – Energy: Thermodynamics in Everyday Life – Professor Eann Patterson – The laws of thermodynamics are immutable as they are easily observable, but what’s less clear if you’re not a physical science student is exactly how applicable they are to virtually every aspect of life, from how easy it is for you to stay warm in bed at night to how difficult it is for you to get up in the morning. In this course, you’ll perform simple experiments in your kitchen to develop your understanding of thermodynamics, and teach you how to think about energy in general.
- The University of Leeds – Exploring Cancer Medicines – Professor Richard Foster and Paul Taylor – This course will introduce you to chemotherapy, explain the science behind why it’s effective but also why it’s such a scientific challenge, how commonly used cancer drugs work, and of course, how all of this is communicated to the public. You’ll study how cancer treatment is still a significant challenge, how effective chemotherapy can be, and study major developments in cancer treatment over the past 10 years.
- Loughborough University – Numeracy Skills for Employability and the Workplace – Professor Janette Matthews and Tony Croft – If you’re looking for a great course you can use to brush up on your math skills, improve your out-of-practice ones, or just boost your own mathematical confidence, this course will help you. It’s a short, three-week class, but by the end you’ll feel much more comfortable with the kinds of numbers and problems you’ll encounter on a day to day basis in just about any job or profession.
- The University of Texas at Austin – Effective Thinking Through Mathematics – Professors Michael Starbird, Donna Kidwell, and Angela Torres Camarena – In this course, you’ll learn not just mathematics, but how effective and critical thinking can be taught, and how you can learn it yourself through simple puzzles and mathematics. You’ll challenge yourself to be creative and think of solutions to interesting and original problems through logical challenges.
- The University of Auckland – Data to Insight: An Introduction to Data Analysis – Professors Chris Wild and Tracey Meek – This course is a little more involved than many of the others here, but it’s a mathematics course nonetheless. You’ll study how organizations use statistical data to make predictions and forecasts, and how improved methods of data collection have simultaneously improved the way that we can extract information about the world around us. This course will serve as a semi-introduction to big data, and data exploration as a field.
Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities
- Keio University – An Introduction to Japanese Subcultures – Professor Hisayo Ogushi – From manga aimed at boys and girls to Vocaloids to cosplay to idol culture, this course will walk you through the unique histories and industries around Japanese subcultures, and not just the ones you may be commonly exposed to as exports to other countries. The class takes a historical and cultural view of those subcultures for what they are—elements not wholly representative of culture as a whole—and focuses on the aspects youth that allows people, even as they age, to continue to embrace the things they felt defined them at a young age. Professor Ogushi is joined by three other professors for the course, and it’s open to anyone with an interest in Japanese culture, and willing to broaden their horizons a bit about the subcultures they may think they already know.
- Canvas – Understanding Media: Facts, Authority, and What We Believe – Professors Philina Richardson, Chelsea Stripling, Cheryl Davis, and Wanda Perez – How does social media, and the news we get through it, influence the way we think about the world, and the facts that we’re presented? This course examines, and touches on the topics of fact checking, confirmation bias, and how we derive authority—and subsequently look for ways around it. Especially in this “post-fact” election season, this course is a great look in how people can look at fact checkers and then ask “well who fact-checks the fact checkers” with a straight face. In fact, the people who probably need the course the most may not even consider taking it.
- Princeton University – Buddhism and Modern Psychology – Professor Robert Wright – How does meditation “work” exactly? Why did the Dalai Lama say that Buddhism and science are deeply compatible? This course dives into how Buddhism and its practices have fallen under scientific scrutiny by neuroscientists, and the quest to understand how meditation, for example, actually works so well. The course examines how physical explanations for meditation through neuroscience may explain some of the spiritual significance attached to it, and how evolutionary psychology can play a role in deciphering early Buddhist descriptions of the mind and the human condition.
- Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania – Corruption – Professor Philip Nichols – Corruption is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but this course examines what it really means, and how it’s the de facto way of doing business in much of the world, for better or worse. Every day government officials somewhere are forced to resign, and people protest en masse against corruption. In this course, you’ll examine corruption from a global perspective, discuss the degrees of corruption that are considered “acceptable” or just “the way things are done” in many parts of the world, and the impact that has on the rule of law, equitable treatment and fairness, and of course, the real lives of people around the globe.
- Hamilton – Ethics of Sports: Do Sports Morally Matter? – Professor Robert Simon – While sports are usually considered at best an entertaining distraction and at worst modern day “bread and circuses,” this course seeks to pull apart the ethical good presented to a society that participates in ritual gameplaying. In the process, the class examines the fundamental ethical questions involved in topics like what counts as fair play, their culture impact and significance, and of course, studying the values that sports do and don’t hold, and their significance to society. You’ll also study violence and medical care in sports, gender equity in sports, and the ethics of using performance enhancing drugs.
- The University of Nottingham – Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition – Professors Zoe Trodd, Kevin Bales, Katie Donington, and Hannah-Rose Murray – Around the world, there are still nearly 46 million people forced to work against their will for either no pay, or through some scheme of indentured servitude where their “wages” are “paid” back to their employers through some mechanism. Responding to this challenge is a huge social challenge, but it starts with identifying the different forms of slavery, which this course opens with. You’ll move on into strategies for ending slavery at the local, national, and international levels, and the roles that governments, multinational businesses, and other groups can play in the process.
- Universitat de Barcelona – Magic in the Middle Ages – Professors Godefroid de Callataÿ, Dr. Pau Castell Granados, Sébastien Moureau,
Dr. Gemma Pellissa Prades, Delfi I. Nieto-Isabel, and Blanca Villuendas – The way magic is written into high fantasy novels isn’t anything like the way magic was perceived in the middle ages. In this course, you’ll study magic in medeival culture through the perspective of history and the history of science. Popular magic, as well as “learned” magic, like alchemy, geomancy, and necromancy, will be discussed, from the concepts of magic and heresy, witchcraft and acceptable magic, magic’s role in Islam, and more, as well as a discussion of astrology. You’ll study how peoples of the time viewed these practices, who practiced them, and who learned them, and why.
- KLC School of Design – The Power of Colour – Professor Julia Begbie – From the basics of color theory to the science behind the applicaiton of color and the psychology of color perception, this course will introduce you to the idea that different colors matter in a space, and to the roles of different colors from a cultural perspective. You’ll also learn how to apply and use different colors to achieve different goals on your own.
- University of Reading – A History of Royal Food and Feasting – Professors Kate Williams and Lindy Grant – Royal food through the ages has always been an extravagant and lavish affair, but this course will look back at them from a historical perspective, from King Henry VIII ordering the first apricot trees to be planted in England because of his love for them to the introduction of chocolate by Charles II to compete with France. You’ll study five English monarchs, their palaces, and their royal appetites, along with the impact they’ve had on food and food culture in the UK and around the globe.
- Yale University – Introduction to Classical Music – Professor Craig Wright – Whether you’re a classical music lover already, or you just want to broaden your horizons and get into a genre of music that’s beautiful and deep without the stuffy learning curve, this course is for you. You’ll study Bach fugues to Puccini operas through a simple, listen-first approach that will help you get familiar with the music first, and then study its nuance second.
- Monash University – Law for Non-Lawyers: An Introduction to Law – Professor Lloyd England – The beauty of this course is that its aimed at individuals who have no background in law, but want to know their rights. That’s something we can get behind. It’s taught from a UK perspective, but many of the lessons of common law can be applied in many countries around the world, including here in the United States.
- The University of Pennsylvania – An Introduction to American Law – Professors Anita Allen, Shayam Balaganesh, and Stephen Morse – If you’re looking for an introduction to the legal system with more of a focus on the United States, this course is perfect. You’ll study constitutional law, criminal law, civil procedure, and even aspects of contract and property law that are unique to the American legal system, its complexities compared to the legal approaches in other countries, and the dilemmas that come from applying the law in varying methods to different situations, people, and groups of society.
- The University of Adelaide – Cyberwar, Surveillance, and Security – Professors Melissa de Zwart, Dale Stephens, and Rebecca LaForgia – Cyberwar and information warfare aren’t just sci-fi topics for hacker movies; they’re real. From intense government surveillance of its own citizens to intelligence agencies breaking into systems and collecting information to use in public disinformation campaigns and influence elections, this course will tackle the serious threats to commerce, national security, and individual privacy that come with this new frontier of information warfare, and how data security experts are scrambling to keep up.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Foundations of Professional Identity – Professor C.K. Gunsalus – In a way, this course is largely about professional law, and the applicability of professional law to your own professional identity, and topics like lying on resumes, misuse of technology resources at work, lying at work, cheating, and so on. This course will look at the legal implications of your actions on the job versus what you’re told to do, and what you should do if you find out that a company is breaking the law and the protections available to you as a result.
- Columbia University – Freedom of Expression in the Age of Globalization – Professors Dr. Agnès Callamard, Dr. Hawley Johnson, and Bach Avezdjanov – Freedom of speech and expression are highly misunderstood, and this course aims to set the record straight, while never hesitating to point out how it’s defined and perceived under international law, and the governments that regularly abuse it and fail to protect their citizens so they can exercise it. The course comes from a global perspective, focusing on international human rights norms when it comes to assembly and protect, the legal structures in place to protect freedom of expression, and the people who rely on it—and use it anyway, from journalists, human rights defenders, activists, and more.
Cross-Disciplinary Courses and Seminars
- Universiteit Leiden – De-Mystifying Mindfulness – Professor Chris Goto-Jones – Mindfulness, for all of its benefits, is still vastly misunderstood, and conflated with things like meditation and spirituality. While it can coincide with those things, they’re not required by any means. This course takes a more grounded approach, studies what mindfulness means at its core, who can learn it, how it can help you, and what it would feel like to be mindful. You’ll approach the topic both academically and practically, with the opportunity to practice and analyze mindfulness on yourself as you practice it.
- RMIT University – Designing the Future – Professor Marius Foley – If you’re interested in design, whether it’s graphic or otherwise, this course is a great primer to how you can use the elements of good design and various approaches to design to not just build better things, but to solve problems in your own world, and your everyday life. You’ll get an introduction to several design approaches from leaders in the field, and hopefully come out with some practical takeaways.
- Arizona State University – Introduction to Health and Wellness – Professors Nicole Vaudrin and Dr. Punam Ohri-Vachaspati – This course from Arizona State University focuses on the latest data around health, nutrition, and physical activity to give you the most up to date and relevant evidence-based approaches to assess your personal health, adapt or adjust your dietary choices, and improve your own personal fitness. You’ll also learn how to improve your sleep hygeine, how to access and study your own health information and history, and how to lower your risk for infectious diseases in a practical way.
- National Film and Television School – Explore Animation – Professors Pete Fraser, Jon Wardle, and Tom Woodcock – This course made an apparance a few semesters ago, but it’s back for another session and well worth taking. Whether you’re a budding animator, or just a fan of animation who loves watching great characters come to life, this class will show you how that process works, all of the steps it takes to make inanimate objects appear lifelike through stop motion or frame animation, how 2D and cel shaded animation works, and of course, dive into the world of CG and 3D computer animation as well. You’ll even get to try your hand at it, and you’ll learn from people who have experience in the animation industry.
- University of California, San Diego – Learning How to Learn: POweful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects – Professors Dr. Barbara Oakley, Terrence Sejnowski, and Becca Judd – This course is a primer in, well, how to learn. You’ll study learning techniques used by experts in various fields to retain information, including art, music, literature, science, and even sports. You’ll learn how to “chunk” information, and different learning modes that you can adapt to the material you need to absorb, how to deal with procrastination, effective learning techniques, and how to see through illusions of learning, where you think you’ve studied up but you haven’t actually retained the knowledge.
- The University of Adelaide – World of Wine: From Grape to Glass – Professors Kerry Wilkinson, Cassandra Collins, David Jeffery, and Paul Grbin – If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of wine and wondered how it was made, this course will explain it to you. You’ll study how wine grapes are grown, how wine is made from those grapes, the fermentation process, what makes some wines so expensive while others are so cheap, and more. You’ll also study the sensory language and attributes used to describe wine, come to understand the different varietals or types of wine, and even learn about different winemaking techniques used in the production of wine. In other words, if you love wine, this class is for you.
- The University of Tennessee – Birds 101: Introduction to Pet Birds – Professor Marcy Souza – If you’ve never considered a bird as a pet and companion, this course may change your mind. They’re incredibly intelligent, social, and often loyal and endearing. This course will walk though birds as pets, from parrots to parakeets, chickens to cockatoos, and tons of different birds in between, with a focus not just on how wonderful they can be, but also on pet bird care, behavioral characteristics, handling, anatomy, and more. Even if you’re just a bird enthusiast, it’s a great class to take.
- Taipei Medical University – Internet of Things for Active Aging – Professors Shabbir Syed-Abdul and Luis Fernandez-Luque, Ph.D – Now that everyone’s talking about the “internet of things,” and in many cases how horribly insecure it is, this course takes a different approach that may prove highly beneficial—how the so-called always-connected internet of things, which includes wearable devices and other peripherals as data-providing and internet-connected sensors—can help us stay active and independent as we age. By serving as a conduit for geriatric and elder care, wearable devices and in-home sensors can help caregivers learn everything from our regular habits to our diet and exercise routines, and help us adjust accordingly to get the most possible happiness and health from our older age.
- Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania – Success – Professor Richard Shell – What does it take to be “successful?” How do you even define “success?” This course examines the topic, what success means to you, personally, and helps you build a plan to get there from where you are today. You’ll look through your past and study your strengths, make realistic goals based on your capabilities and desires, measure your strengths, and then help you evaluate your future and find your own true success in life.
Extra Credit: How To Find Your Own Online Classes
The curriculum at Lifehacker U is rich and deep, but it may not reflect all of your areas of interests or expertise. If you’re looking for more or more varied course material, here are some resources to help you find great, university-level online classes that you can take from the comfort of your desk, at any time of day.
- Academic Earth curates an amazing list of video seminars and classes from some of the world’s smartest minds, innovators, and leaders on a variety of topics including science, mathematics, politics, public policy, art, history, and more.
- TED talks are well known for being thought provoking, interesting, intelligent, and in many cases, inspiring and informative. We’ve featured TED talks at Lifehacker before, and if you’re looking for seminars on the web worth watching, TED is worth perusing.
- edX is a collection of free courses from leading Universities like the University of California, Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. There are plenty to choose from, and they’re free, open to the public, and rotate often.
- Coursera has a broad selection of courses in-session or beginning shortly that you can take for fun or a certificate of completion that shows you’ve learned a new skill. Topics range from science and technology to social science and humanities, and they’re all free.
- Udacity offers a slimmer selection of courses, but the ones offered are not only often for-credit, but they’re instructor led and geared towards specific goals, with skilled and talented instructors walking you through everything from building a startup to programming a robotic car.
- Udemy is an online learning marketplace and resource that packs tons of free and paid courses in a wide variety of topics. Some are taught by amateurs and experts in their field, while others are backed by higher education institutions and taught by university professors. You’ll learn everything from how to master Microsoft Excel to how to learn another language here.
- FutureLearn offers regularly updating classes on topics like computer science and technology, history and humanities, political science, and culture from leading universities like the University of Birmingham, the University of Groningen, the University of Cape Town, and others.
- Sliderule maintains a massive course database that’s easy to browse and search from many of the other institutions listed here. They also offer their own skill paths and collections of courses designed to help you learn specific things and achieve your own learning goals, as well as their own hosted, mentor-led courses.
- The Saylor Foundation offers a wide array of courses and entire course programs on topics from economics to political science and professional development. Interested in a crash course in mechanical engineering? The Saylor Foundation can help you with that.
- Class Central aggregates some of the best courses available from open universities and programs around the web in an easy to sort and search format. Just search for what you want to learn, and if a course is available and starting soon, you’ll find it.
- Education-Portal.com has a list of universities offering free and for-credit online classes to students and the public at large.
- CreativeLIVE features a number of interactive courses in business, photography, and self-improvement, many of which are free and available to listen in on at any time of day.
- Open Culture’s list of free online courses is broken down by subject matter and includes classes available on YouTube, iTunes U, and direct from the University or School’s website.
- The Open Courseware Consortium is a collection of colleges and universities that have all agreed to use a similar platform to offer seminars and full classes—complete with notes, memos, examinations, and other documentation free on the web. They also maintain a great list of member schools around the world, so you can visit universities anywhere in the world and take the online classes they make available.
- The Khan Academy offers free YouTube-based video classes in math, science, technology, the humanities, and test preparation and study skills. If you’re looking to augment your education or just take a couple video classes in your spare time, it’s a great place to start and has a lot of interesting topics to offer.
- The University of Reddit is a crowd-built set of classes and seminars by Reddit users who have expertise to share. Topics range from computer science and programming to paleontology, narrative poetry, and Latin. Individuals interested in teaching classes regularly post to the University of Reddit subthread to gauge interest in future courses and announce when new modules are available.
- The Lifehacker Night School is our own set of tutorials and classes that help you out with deep and intricate subjects like becoming a better photographer, building your own computer, or getting to know your network, among others.
The beautiful thing about taking classes online is that you can pick and choose the classes you want to attend, skip lectures and come back to them later (in some cases – some classes require your regular attendance and participation!), and do examinations and quizzes on your own time. You can load up with as many classes as you choose, or take a light course load and come back to some of the classes you meant to take at another time that’s more convenient for you.
With Lifehacker U, you’re free to take as many or as few of these classes as you like, and we’ll update this course guide every term with a fresh list of courses on new and interesting topics, some of which are only available during that academic term.
If you have online course resources or your university offers classes that are available for free online that you know would be a great fit for Lifehacker U, don’t keep them to yourself! Send them in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can include them in the next semester!
Title photo remixed from an original by tpsdave.