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.
- 1 Orientation: What Is Lifehacker U?
- 2 Computer Science and Technology
- 3 Finance and Economics
- 4 Science and Medicine
- 5 Mathematics
- 6 Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities
- 7 Law
- 8 Cross-Disciplinary Courses and Seminars
- 9 Extra Credit: How To Find Your Own Online Classes
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 Fall 2014 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
- Grovo – Introduction to Digital Security and Privacy – If you’re looking for a benchmark course that you can take yourself to dive into topics like encryption, staying safe on Wi-Fi networks, protecting your personal information from scammers and identity thieves, and more, this series of short lessons at Grovo on information security and privacy will do the trick. The lessons are about a minute long each, followed by quick quizzes that will reinforce what you’ve learned. They’re not super in-depth, and many of you may be familiar with the material already, but it’s a good basic primer to the importance of and risks around security and privacy-related issues, in a nicely presented package.
- University of Maryland at College Park – Hardware Security – Professor Gang Qu – Often security topics are discussed in terms of software security—hackable applications, vulnerable networks, and so on, but there’s a whole other side to making sure information systems are secure: Hardware. This course, part of Coursera’s Cybersecurity Specialization, touches on security and trust from the other side of the coin, including the fundamentals of digital logic design, how the role of hardware has changed over the years, security systems like smart cards and FPGA-based systems, and the attacks that have become ever more common to compromise them.
- Udacity – Introduction to HTML/CSS – Professors Cameron Pittman, Jessica Uelmen, and Gundega Dekena – You can argue whether or not HTML is a programming language, but you can’t argue about its utility. Learning HTML and CSS are important, whether you plan to design and develop for the web or you just want to build a personal website. Sure, you could always just toss up a pre-packaged content management system and get the job done, but knowing HTML and CSS gives you an understanding and level of control that a GUI or content editor simply can’t—and you’ll be able to fix what those systems inevitably break. This course at Udacity will teach you everything you need to know, starting from zero and eventually ending with your own personal personal framework for web projects, and an understanding of responsive design.
- 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.
- Udacity – How to Use Git and GitHub – Professors Caroline Buckley and Sarah Spikes – Git and GitHub are some of the biggest, most used tools in the development community right now, and learning how to use them is essential to contributing to and getting involved with open source projects, building your own projects, and sharing them with the world at large. That said, they’re not the easiest tools to use if you don’t know your way around, or how check-in/check-out revision systems work. This course will show you what you need to know, and have you up and using your own GitHub account smoothly—not to mention working with and collaborating on other people’s projects too.
- 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.
- 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.
Finance and Economics
- The Open University – Managing My Money – Professor Martin Upton – This course offers practical guidance on managing your personal finances, including creating a budget, managing your debts and investments, how mortgages are used for home ownership, how pensions are handled and to build retirement savings, and more. If you’re looking for a primer to personal finance, or you need to hone your personal finance and money management skills, this course takes you across a number of critical topics and will send you away with more organized, well-managed finances as a result.
- 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.
- University of Toronto – Behavioural Economics in Action – Professors Dilip Soman and Joonkyung Kim – Most people think that their economic decisions – and the economic decisions of large organizations – are made using logical means and information on hand, and while that’s sometimes the case, there’s more to the picture. This course examines the topic of “behavioral economics,” that is, the way that human behavior influences our decisions, and how those behaviors can be used to influence people, help them make better decisions, and improve their financial situations. Part psychology and part economics, the course will help you understand your own actions, and the actions of others. Keep in mind the course is archived, and self-paced.
- Nanyang Technological University – Foundations of E-Commerce – Professor Vijay Sethi – Whether you’re just curious how a business might make a move from a traditional, offline presence to an online one, or you’re thinking about taking up a career in financial analysis and consulting, this course will give you the underpinnings required to understand how business is done online, the technologies involved, the soft skills required, and of course, some of the gaps that many organizations skip over in the rush to set up shop to a potentially limitless audience. The course, taught by The Economist’s designated “World’s Best Business Educator,” will guide you through understanding disruptive markets and technologies, the utility of social media, online platforms and architectures that support ecommerce, and of course, intellectual property.
- Babson Global – Financial Analysis of Entrepreneurial Ideas – Professors Shahid Ansari and Jan Bell – If you have a brilliant idea for a business, but don’t know how to get started, or even how to tell if your idea would actually make money in the long run, this course will show you how to objectively examine the feasibility of that idea. From there, you’ll also learn how to test it, start small, examine your results, and go forward from there. You’ll also learn how to look at the ideas and projects of others to determine whether or not they’ll likely find success, hopefully before you invest money into something that may not pan out. By the end of the course, you’ll have an eye for new opportunities and know how to put together a business plan.
- 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.
- Lund University – Greening the Economy: Lessons from Scandinavia – Professors Dr. Kes McCormick, Dr. Luis Mundaca, Dr. Oksana Mont, Lena Neij, Dr. Thomas Lindhqvist, and Dr. Håkan Rodhe – Issues like climate change, sustainability, environmental impact, and quality of life aren’t just buzzwords for politicians, they’re real economic concerns as well. This course touches on topics of individual choice, sustainable businesses, national policies, and more that have been tested and proven to work (and some proven not to work) in a global context, with specific focus on the economic successes (and failures) of Scandinavian countries with regard to environmental balance and economic growth.
Science and Medicine
- Lancaster University – Ebola: Symptoms, History, and Origins – Professor Derek Gatherer – The most recent Ebola outbreak has and continues to make headlines around the globe, and while the death toll is one thing, there are thousands of people hard at work around the world making sure the sick get better, testing better treatments, and working to contain the illness. Even so, what is Ebola exactly, beyond a scary disease? Where did it come from, and how does it spread? This course will teach you all of those things, dispelling myth and fantasy along the way, and will show you what this current outbreak can teach us about disease prevention, treatment, and medical science.
- 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.
- University of Michigan – Introduction to Thermodynamics: Transferring Energy from Here to There – Professor Margaret Wooldridge, Ph.D. – The Laws of Thermodynamics are more than just physical principles—they explain why perpetual motion machines don’t work, why cold fusion isn’t a thing, and why you can’t just create limitless energy from nothing. This course is a primer to thermodynamics, energy loss, heat, and specifically mass and energy conservation principles. You’ll need some basic science and math (physics, algebra, and maybe calculus) to get the most out of the course, but if you’re curious about the principles, you may be able to skate by anyway.
- The Open University – In The Night Sky: Orion – Professor Monica Grady– The constellation of Orion is one of the most easily recognizable in the night sky. Almost everyone knows it when they see it, but did you know it’s also a great playground for learning all about astronomy, from various types of stars and nebulae to planets that orbit other stars to even objects in the sky far from our own galaxy. You’ll start with some of the brightest stars in our stellar neighborhood, see how stars form, and them move far away and back in time, all without leaving one patch of the sky. This short, four week course will leave you in awe, and you’ll never look at the night sky the same way again.
- 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.
- The University of Edinburgh – EDIVET: Do You Have What It Takes to be a Veterinarian? – Professors Dr Jessie Paterson, Kay Aitchison, Susan Rhind, Dr Gurå Therese Bergkvist, Rachel Whittington, Dr Catriona Bell, and Dr Andrew Gardiner – Many people dream of becoming a vet at some point in their lives, but the truth is that like any medical career, it’s not for the squeamish, it’s not easy, it’s both intellectually and emotionally demanding, and it takes a toll. This course will help you understand whether you really do have what it takes to become a vet, from basic animal care to professional and clinical skills required to take care of animals large and small. You’ll also dive into the past, present, and the future of veterinary care.
- Duke University – Medical Neuroscience – Professor Leonard E. White, Ph.D. – Your brain is your most powerful organ, but how exactly does it work? This course dives into the topic from a medical perspective, including the basic functions the brain is responsible for, how the brain operates, and the organization and anatomy of the brain and the human central nervous system. You’ll learn which parts of the brain are responsible for what actions and functions, how nerves work and how your body communicates back and forth with your brain, how those signals translate to everything from shouts of pain to simple breathing to your heart beating. You’ll study motor control, cognition, and nerve signaling, among other topics. The course is aimed at health professionals, but if you’re curious, you can get a lot of it too.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ohio State University – Introduction to Calculus – Professor Jim Fowler, Ph.D. – Calculus is required for a number of scientific concepts, and an understanding of calculus will be helpful even in some of the other courses here in this feature. This course is designed for people who may have had calc at some point but don’t remember any of it, or couldn’t do a derivative or an integral to save their lives after the number of years since they were last required to—or for people who never took calc in the first place, but are curious how the math ties into the other sciences they’re passionate about.
Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities
- The University of Virginia – Buddhist Meditation and the Modern WorldProfessors Kurtis Schaeffer and David Francis Germano – Meditating is an ancient practice, but for more than a few reasons, it’s come to the forefront as an excellent tool to help all of us, from any walk of life, deal with our stressful, busy lives. This course will help you get a better appreciation for the origins of meditation as a practice, both personal and religious, starting with the origins of meditation as a practice, how it’s performed in India and Tibet, and with extensive contributions from scientists and doctors who have studied meditation and its effects on the body and mind from a qualitative perspective. By the end of the course, you’ll understand meditation from a cultural perspective as well as a scientific and medical one, as well as understand how practices differ around the globe.
- National University of Singapore – Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues By Plato – Professor John Holboa – Plato was on to a thing or two, and this course examines modern dilemmas and problems with an eye back to three Platonic dialogues, where he sought to challenge belief systems and encourage critical, rational thought through asking intelligent, thoughtful questions. Consider the course a primer in moral psychology and theory, while being rational and thoughtful through the entire process. You’ll tackle topics like virtue and ethics—words everything thinks they understand, but likely don’t.
- University of Pennsylvania – History of the Slave South – Professor Stephanie McCurry – Prior to the Civil War, the United States was a nation built on slave labor and the slave trade, in more ways than we’re reminded in high school social studies classes. This course takes a deeper dive into the economic, human, and moral implications of slavery, how the practice was viewed and justified at the time, how it was tied into a booming global economy that was always tied to concepts of labor, capital, and capitalism. The course examines how slavery played a role in getting the United States to its status as an economic powerhouse in a matter of generations, and then how, after the Civil War, the nation destroyed the same system that made it one of the most wealthy nations with some of the most wealthy citizens in the world in the 19th century.
- University of Strathclyde, Glasgow – Caring for Vulnerable Children – Professor Graham McPheat – This course is designed for educators and social workers looking for ways to help identify and care for disadvantaged or disabled children in times where social services designed to help them are shrinking away. The course examines ways to communicate with and relate to young people in difficult life situations, work with them, and prepare you for a career in social work or child care.
- 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.
- 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.
- The University of London – The Magna Carta and Its Legacy – Professors Dr Emm Johnstone, Dr Graham Smith, Justin Champion, Jonathan Phillips, and Nigel Saul – The Magna Carta is generally referred to as the base document prototyping what “law” would come to be known in western society. Drafted in 1215, King John sealed the document, which served as a binding agreement between him and his barons on the matter of division of powers and authority, and cemented the idea that all people—including a ruling monarch—would be bound by the rule of law. It was by far the first time in human history this had happened, but it was one of the first times it had been so codified and ritualized in the western world. This course examines that document in detail, the cultural and social situation leading up to it, and the lasting legacy of the Magna Carta on constitutional documents, legal reforms and systems of law and justice, and entire nation-building efforts since the 1200s, everywhere in the world. By the end of the course, you’ll realize the Magna Carta was more than just a contract.
- Yale University – America’s Unwritten Constitution – Professor Akhil Reed Amar – There’s more to American government than the Constitution of the United States, and while many people like to point to it and cite it every time they dislike a politician or feel someone’s trampling on their rights, there’s more to the picture—including a number of implied and unwritten rules for implementing it, interpreting it, and acting on it. This course tackles many of those topics, and is actually the second class in a two-part, with the first studying the actual text of the Constitution (videos of that course will be available in this course.) This course, on the other hand, tackles the issue of interpreting the Constitution over the ages, putting it into practice and defining the limits in which the articles can act, the “meaning” and “purpose” behind them, and more. The course answers questions like “who gets to interpret the constitution, and what makes their interpretation the right one,” and even what it means to “interpret” a document like it, especially in the context of modern society, which is full of Constitutional issues and debates—but not all of them are the ones you hear on the news.
- University of Strathclyde, Glasgow – Introduction to Forensic Science – Professor Jim Fraser – I try to include a forensics class with every Lifehacker U, and this year, this course fits the bill perfectly. The course covers four different evidence types, including drugs of abuse, DNA, firearms, and impression evidence, and how crime scene investigators and forensics experts retrieve and preserve that evidence in order to identify and try suspects. The course follows an example murder case from discovery to investigation and through to identifying a potential suspect. Everything from DNA to fingerprints to footprints and firearms residue are at your disposal as you try to solve the case.
Cross-Disciplinary Courses and Seminars
- Wageningen 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.
- University of California, San Diego – Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects – Professors Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski – Really absorbing information and processing it isn’t a skill you’re just good at or not. Learning how to learn, or how to organize, process, and really absorb and think critically about information you’re presented with is an important skill to have. It’ll also serve you well whether you’re still in school, or you’re long out of school and at work, watching the news, or just studying something new. This course seeks to give you some helpful tools to better absorb information, how procrastination and memory really work, the “chunking” method to learning, and more.
- Learning by Giving Foundation – Giving with Purpose: How to Get the Most Out of Your Charitable Giving – Professor Rebecca Riccio – Giving to charity is always a good idea, but some charities do more good than others, some work on causes that are close to you, and others are really moneymaking efforts in disguise as non-profits. This course will help you see through the veneer, choose the charities that deliver the most bang for your charitable buck, and align with the needs and passions you want to help support. You’ll learn to engage with non-profits in your community, learn when and what to give to which types of organizations, and how to tell good organizations from bad ones in this course.
- 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.
- University of Reading – Managing People: Engaging Your Workforce – Professor Martin Bicknell – Whether you’re already a manager or you’re about to become one, managing people isn’t a skill people are just born with—you have to learn it. This course will help you with the process, from motivating people to give you their best, to relating to the people who have to work for you on a human level as well as a professional one. The course discusses how to get disparate people from different backgrounds to work together cohesively, how to lay out common goals, how to delegate and shift responsibilities, and how to follow up appropriately, among other management theories and concepts.
- University of California Irvine – The Art of Negotiation – Professor Sue Robbins – We discuss more than a few tips to help you learn to negotiate with people, whether you’re trying to haggle over the price of a new car or you’re looking to get the pay you want in your new (or current) job. Still, negotiating is just as much an art as it is about numbers and motivations, and it’s important to understand how both of those play a role in getting what you want when you sit down with someone who has something you need—or vice versa. This course walks you through the basics of negotiation, keeping your options open, how to approach difficult negotiations or emotionally charged ones, how to address power inequities when you’re negotiating, the role emotional intelligence plays, and more.
- 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.)
- Grovo – Digital Etiquette – This series of short video courses will walk you through the basics of digital etiquette, and how to behave responsibly online. The subject matter includes everything from how to leave constructive comments, considering the audience of a message before you type or send it, the differences between public and private communication, how to set boundaries and respect both your and other peoples’ time, creative commons and copyright, and more.
- University of California, San Diego – Visual Design – Professor Scott Klemmer – Everyone likes to think they’re an expert on design, but the truth is there are a lot of things that go into design, from color and space to scale and organization. This course focuses on user interfaces, but it approaches the topic on a broader scale, showing you how to turn blank canvases into useful, beautiful, and still easy to use interfaces for others. The course tackles topics like interface design, typography, layout, and more, all in a short period of time, but it’s a great crash course.
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 aren’t many, but the ones offered are free, open to the public, and they 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.
- 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 couses 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.