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 summer 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 Spring 2015 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
- Harvey Mudd College – MyCS: Computer Science for Beginners – Professor Zachary Dodds – If you’re interested in a free, online course to get kids involved with computer science, learning to code, or just familiar with how computer programs work, this is a great class. Same for adults—if you don’t have a huge computer or technology background but you want that same understanding, this course is the one that’ll give it to you. You’ll learn the basics: How computer store and retrieve information, how computers “think,” and you’ll even play with Scratch, the programming language, to solve problems.
- Udacity – Intro to iOS App Development with Swift – Professor Kunal Chawla – If you’re interested in app development and iOS is your preferred platform, this free course is a good first start. You’ll need a little background knowledge to make the most of it, namely some programming experience, but you don’t need to know Swift or be that familiar with iOS app development to master it. You will, however, need a Mac (running OS X 10.10) and an iOS device. Beyond that, bring your enthusiasm and you’ll be ready to go. By the end of the course you’ll have built an app that can record you and a friend’s voices, play them back, and then modulate your voices to sound like chipmunks or Darth Vader. By the end of the class you’ll have a working knowledge of Swift, enough to get your own app idea off the ground.
- Udacity – Developing Android Apps – Professors Reto Meier, Katherine Kuan, Dan Galpin, Alexander Lucas, Sarah Spikes, and James Williams – If your preferred mobile app platform is Android, this course in developing Android apps may be more your speed than the previously mentioned Swift course. Again, you’ll need some programming fundamentals to get the most out of the course, you’ll need to grab Android Studio, and be ready to learn how to use GitHub to post, fork, and manage code. From there though, you’ll build an internet-connected Android app that will show you the fundamentals of Android permissions, building a great user interface for Android devices, and teach you enough to start building your own Android apps after the class is over. The self-paced version of the course (as in, just the course materials) are free. If you pay for the course, you’ll get group projects and instructor-led activities.
- University of Washington – Computational Neuroscience – Professors Rajesh P. N. Nao and Adrienne Fairhall – There’s more to computer science than just learning to code, and this course in computational neuroscience aims to bring some of those concepts to the fore. You’ll learn about how to model systems to emulate human thinking patterns and structures, and you’ll study the basic computational methods that describe what nervous systems do and how they function. If you’ve ever wondered how computers are like neurons, this is the course for you—but you should have enough math in your background to back up your experience here.
- France Universite Numerique – Code-Based Cryptography – Professors Irene Marquez-Corbella, Nicolas Sendrier, and Matthieu Finiasz –Cryptography isn’t a new topic around here—we talk about things like encryption and digital signing a lot. However, if you’re curious how the technology really works, or how the future of information security will evolve with newer, faster, and more complex computing systems, this class will give you a head start into the topic. Make no mistake, this is an advanced course, and is designed for people who are moving past their undergraduate studies in computer science and information architecture, but if that’s you, it’s free, online, and can be extremely rewarding.
- Rice – An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python (Part I) – Professors Joe Warren, Scott Rixner, John Greiner, and Stephen Wong -Python is a great programming language for beginners, and this course from Rice will show you the ins and outs of the language, how to get started, how to build good coding habits with Python, and how to start building your own utilities and applications. You’ll work through multiple mini-projects in Python, learning new skills as you progress—mini-projects that involve building your own little games, like Pong and Asteroids. It’s a fun way to learn a new language, but it’s a two-parter. Keep an eye out for Part II, starting later this summer, if you sign up for this one.
- University of Reading – Begin Robotics – Professors Richard Mitchell, Tharindu Liyanagunawardena, and William Harwin – Learning about robots was never this much fun. This course is a basic introduction to robotics that examines how robots “think” and “learn,” how they process information, how we interact with and program robots, and even a look back at the history of robots and robotics from science fiction to science fact. You’ll even look at how you would go about building your own, what goes into making a robot that’s mobile, and examine the components of ones built just for this course.
Finance and Economics
- The Open University – Managing My Investments – Professor Martin Upton – Brought to us by the professor behind the extremely popular “Managing My Money” course, this course (which doesn’t require the former to take) shows you the basics of managing investments, how to save for the future, when to set and forget about your investments, and when to get more hands-on with your portfolio and make changes. You’ll learn about investment choices, risks, and how to estimate returns, and how to judge good retirement and investment vehicles from bad ones. The course has a UK thrust, so keep that in mind when you take it, but the basics are applicable to anyone, anywhere.
- University of Michigan – Introduction to Finance – Professor Gautam Kaul – If your interests in finance are less “personal finance” and more economic in nature, this course is a good starting point. It blends the two topics well, and helps you learn to think of finance as more than just balancing books and paying off debt and instead as movements of markets, supply and demand, and large-scale movements of money and debt that drive massive projects, businesses, and entire economies.
- The New York Institute of Finance – Understanding the Federal Reserve – Professor William Addiss – The “Fed,” or the Federal Reserve, is a complicated organization with l0ts of responsibilities, but too often most people don’t understand what those responsibilities are, how they operate, or why they’re so important when it comes to setting financial policy. This course is a walkthrough of not just the Fed itself, but how their decisions impact the economy at home and abroad, and how their choices and reactions to global markets can spell success or doom. The course examines the relationship between the Federal Government and the Fed, and how their decisions ultimately impact you and I.
- Barnard College – Economics of Money and Banking, Part One – Professor Perry J Mehrling – This course in economics and banking aims to explore new ideas and concepts in borrowing, lending, and banking in general based on some old traditions in economics that have been left by the wayside over the years. With one foot firmly planted in the financial crisis of 2007-2009, the course will look at ways to solve the systemic problems unveiled at that time for the long term, and discuss ideas—both logical and grandiose—of how to make a more robust and equitable financial system overall.
- University of Maryland at College Park – New Venture Finance: Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs – Professor Michael R Pratt – If you’ve wondered how all of these new apps and startup companies get money for their ideas, no matter how silly, this course will show you how the process works. Even better, if you have your own idea and would love to get your hands on some cash to help you bring it to reality, you’ll learn how startups and entrepreneurs fund their ideas in the hopes of making enough money to, of course, pay back the people that gave them the cash to get off the ground (and hopefully turn a profit in the process.)
Science and Medicine
- The University of Edinburgh – AstroTech: The Science and Technology Behind Astronomical Discovery – Professor Andy Lawrence and Catherine Heymans – Every day it seems we’re learning something new and amazing about the universe around us, but the technology behind those discoveries is often reduced to a few popular satellites, probes, or rovers on distant planets. This course will take you on a tour of some of humanity’s best technologies and instruments for looking at the universe, what they do, how they work, and the science that’s used by the real people who operate them. You’ll hunt for black holes, look at distant galaxies and, by proxy, back in time, reach all the way back to the beginnings of the universe, and study the tools that pave the way for future discoveries and that are helping us deduce what will happen in the millennia and eons to come.
- Harvard University – Fundamentals of Neuroscience, Part I – Professors David Cox, Winston Yan, and Nadja Oertelt – There are a lot of things we don’t know about the way the brain works, but there are tons of things we do understand, and this course will walk you through some of the basics with clarity. You’ll understand how the brain processes information from the body, from the inner microscopic workings of nerve cells to how entire parts of the brain work in concert. The course is free and open to everyone, but you have to register through EdX if you want a certificate. If not, the whole course—including all of the parts—is available for free at the class website here for self-paced study.
- 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 University of Groningen – Why Do We Age? The Molecular Mechanisms of Aging – Professor Marianna Bevova – Is there a limit to human lifespan? Why do we wage, and what signals the beginning of the process? Where do you draw the line between growing up and growing old? This course examines all of those topics, and investigates the recent advances in age-related studies and the never-ending human quest for immortality in one form or another. You’ll hear from biology lecturers studying the aging process, as well as learn about the cell systems, animal models, and computational models used to explore the topic. If you want to get up to date on the modern-day quest for the fountain of youth, this course will show you the way.
- Dartmouth University – The Engineering of Structures Around Us – Professors Vicki May, Adrienne Gauther, Jay Beaudoin, Sawyer Broadley, Owl*, Meegan Daigler, Katherine Franklin, Jenny Seong, Ariana Sopher, Laura Vang, Jared Benedict, Michael Goudzwaard, Petra Bonfert-Taylor, Janifer Holt, Katherine Roy, and David Souther – If you’ve ever wondered how bridges stay up, how massive apartment buildings hold everyone who lives in them and their stuff without collapsing, or even how bridges and buildings collapse when they do fail, this is the class for you. You’ll come away with an understanding of how engineers put structures together to support themselves and any additional weight needed (like cars and trucks on a bridge, or residents in a building), how engineers draw how the forces that play against one another in a structure, and how those principles mesh with design and making those same structures pleasing to the eye.
- The European Space Agency (ESA) – Monitoring Climate from Space – Professors Martin Wooster, Andrew Shepherd, and Mathias Disney –Some of the best information we have about the Earth’s changing climate—and what’s causing it—comes from our outposts in space, near-earth satellites. In this course from the ESA, you’ll study those orbital platforms and the information they collect and relay to scientists on the ground, how accurate they are, what information they can see down to the smallest detail, and how important it is to continue monitoring our home from space as we struggle to convince people that change is needed—and as we make those changes and see the results.
- University of California San Diego – Finding Hidden Messages in DNA – Professors Pavel Pevzner and Phillip E. C. Compau – Most people understand the basics of DNA – genomes, chemicals that tell cells how to replicate, and so on, but this course will help you understand how such basic chemical instructions can tell us whether we’ll get a specific illness in life—or whether we have a risk for it, how DNA replicates itself, how DNA expression works, and how those “hidden messages” translate into basic organic functions, like knowing when it’s light or dark outside or whether you’re growing old. It’s one thing to understand what DNA is, but this course will show you how DNA works, and the limit to how it works and where other factors take over.
- Rice University – Medicine in the Digital Age – Professors Kirsten Ostherr and Bryan Vartabedian, MD – The future of medicine is here, and it’s packed with technology. Patients have more options than ever to track their own health and wellness even when they’re not at the doctor, and have more ways to share information with their doctors than ever before. Doctors and health care organizations have ways to personalize and tech patient visits, health, and ongoing conditions like never before. So what does this all mean for the individual, and how can we expect technology to keep making strides in this area? This course will walk you through some of the recent developments in healthcare technology, how that technology is redefining who the physician really is and the tools they rely on for diagnosis, and how to critically analyze the risks and rewards of technology in the healthcare marketplace.
- The University of New South Wales – Myths and Realities of Personalized Medicine: The Genetic Revolution – Professors Dr Caroline Ford, Dr Orin Chisholm, Dr Sheri Nixdorf, and Rachel Williams – There was a time when people thought that the “generic revolution” would lead to drugs developed specifically for individuals, customized for each person and only effective on them or people like them. “Personalized medicine,” it was called, and years later we’re approaching some of that, but it’s by no means the norm. What happened? Where does understanding genetics and genome really help people with everyday health care, and where is it just science fiction and fluff? This course will tackle those topics, and help you understand where the real inroads have taken place, where we have to go, and what will likely never actually happen.
- University of Notre Dame – Math in Sports – Professors Anne Pilkington and Michael Hildreth – Understanding mathematics can be daunting when your only real application for it is solving problems in classrooms and on exams. This course will show you how mathematical principles play out in your favorite sports, from how to draw conclusions using inductive reasoning to simple scoring methods and probability analysis. If you’ve ever wondered how you can use math in the real world, take this course.
- Tsinghua University – Combinatorial Mathematics – Professor Yuchun Ma – If you’ve ever rolled the dice and wondered what the odds you’d get a certain number two or three times was, or wondered how to effectively predict your next draw in Blackjack, or just seen any combination of events and wondered what the odds of the next event coming out one way or the other is, you’ve thought about combinatorial mathematics. This course will walk you through how to make those judgements and do those calculations on paper and on the fly. You’ll study pigeonhole principles, recurring numbers like the Fibonacci Sequence, functions, and more.
- Udacity – Differential Equations in Action – Professors Jörn Loviscach and Miriam Swords Kalk – Understanding differential equations is crucial for computer programming and higher sciences, and this Udacity course will walk you through the topic with an emphasis on what you need to know for computing principles. You’ll see how differential equations play a role in real world studies and calculations, starting with the math needed to rescue the Apollo 13 mission, how they’re used to analyze the spread of disease around the world, how antilock brake systems work (and why you need to understand DiffEq to really get how), and more.
Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities
- Smithsonian Institution – The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture – Professors Stan Lee, Michael Uslan, David Uslan, and Dr. Christopher Robichaud – One of my favorite recurring courses is back again for another term – the Smithsonian’s crash course on superheroes, how the mythos of the modern day superhero came to be, how they’ve changed culture forever, and how they’ve evolved from poster children of high morality to conflicted, relatable personalities with internal struggles and powerful enemies. The course will examine how we’ve used superheroes as a way to find power in powerlessness, and to look in the societal mirror at our own biggest fears and challenges and find a way to triumph through them. You’ll look back at ancient gods and myths of Egypt, Rome, and Greece, and see how their archtypes are still with us today, just wooshing through city skylines.
- University of Michigan – Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World – Professor Eric Rabkin – Another of my favorite recurring courses, this class dives into topics commonly approached in science fiction and fantasy, and how those genres often say more about the time and places in which they were written than they could ever say about the futures or histories they imagine. You’ll study fantasy and sci-fi books both old and new, like Frankenstein and The Martian Chronicles to understand some of the underlying themes that still resonate with readers today.
- Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona – Emotions: A Philosophical Introduction – Professor Jordi Vallverdú – What are emotions, and why do we feel them? Why are they so important to us? This course aims to take a more human approach to the topic beyond just neurons firing and chemicals swirling in the brain, and to help us understand how our emotions are shared experiences across cultures and generations, how many emotions exist, whether other organisms—like plants and animals—”feel” emotions the way we perceive them (or in some other fashion), and more. The course also dives into the evolutionary and scientific basis for emotional response, but aims to approach those topics from a philosophical perspective as well.
- The Hans Christian Andersen Centre – Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales – Professors Ivy York Möller-Christensen, Jacob Bøggild, Johannes Nørregaard Frandsen, and Torsten Bøgh Thomsen – These aren’t your Disney fairy tales—but they are the stories that inspired them. This free course by the Hans Christian Andersen Centre explores the original stories and fairy tales that taught children for generations how to behave, where their place in society was, and the values that helped raise them. Agree or disagree, you’ll read all about some of your favorite stories, like The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen and more, along with the real morals, real endings—ones that obviously wouldn’t make it into big budget animated features, but paint a far more interesting picture of life in Andersen’s time.
- Universitat de Barcelona – Magic In the Middle Ages – Professors Dr Noemí Alvarez da Silva, Godefroid de Callataÿ, Dr Pau Castell Granados, Sébastien Moureau, Dr Gemma Pellissa Prades, and Delfi I. Nieto-Isabel– The world of the middle ages was one where magic was very much real to the people who lived in it. Some phenomena in the physical world that were poorly understood could only be explained by some mythical, difficult to understand forces that worked behind the scenes of the reality that everyday people understood. This course approaches that topic, from how people perceived what was “natural” and what was “magical” in the middle ages, where magic departed from (or became) heresy during those times, and how some cultures embraced that magic while others decried it—sometimes violently.
- Australian National University – Ignorance! – Professors Michael Smithson and Gabriele Bammer – Ignorance is more than just the absence of knowledge, although you could approach it that way. Where does this absence come from, and how is it defined? In this course you’ll study different kinds of ignorance, sources of ignorance, and the social roles, benefits, and costs of ignorance—not to mention how to harness your own ignorance for creativity, learning, and discovery.
- The University of Hong Kong – Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought– Professor Chad Hansen – This course gives you the opportunity to study along with Chinese masters of philosophy as they search the natural world for clues as to where ethics – that too-often used and poorly understood concept – really comes from. What is “ethical” behavior? Where do ethics and values differ, and what does the natural world have to say about the things we consider “ethical?” This course follows two rival schools of thought in ancient China that both sought to understand and define what “ethical thought” and “ethical behavior” really were, beyond a generic understanding of right and wrong.
- Université Catholique de Louvain – International Law – Professor Pierre d’Argent – When people talk about “international law,” what do they mean? What body makes those globally understood “laws,” and who presides over them? This course approaches the topic, and who must respect those laws, how they’re applied, and how they’re enforced. You’ll learn about the bodies that help make and enforce those laws around the world, what happens when those laws are broken and how affected people can seek justice for being wronged. You’ll focus on international bodies like the International Court of Justice, and the United Nations in the process.
- Penn State University – Presumed Innocent? The Social Science of Wrongful Conviction – Professor Dr. Tim R Robicheaux – The old saying goes that it would be better to let a guilty man walk free than convict an innocent man, but is that necessarily how the American justice system does business? This course takes a logical approach to the topic, looking at the human costs of wrongful conviction, how often wrongful conviction actually occurs and how accurate the justice system is based on the best available data, and where in the justice system things go wrong that lead to those wrongful convictions.
- University of London – Freedom and Protest: Magna Carta and Its Legacies – Professors Dr Emm Johnstone, Dr Graham Smith, Justin Champion, Nigel Saul, and Jonathan Phillips – The Magna Carta, one of the bedrock documents in what we understand as the western system of justice and self-governance, is 800 years old this year, and yet its legacy and lessons persist through soceity today. This course takes a look back at the historic document, what it said, how it was groundbreaking in its day, and how its echoes still steer how people govern and are governed to this day, in topics like human rights, international law, community law, and, in general, the rule of law over society.
Cross-Disciplinary Courses and Seminars
- The University of Adelaide – Cyberwar, Surveillance, and Security – Professors Melissa de Zwart, Dale Stephens, and Rebecca LeForgia – It’s easy to have opinions about things like drones, mass surveillance, and intelligence gathering, but it’s another to actually study the topic to both challenge and refine those opinions. The Internet is both a massive tool for information sharing and communication, but it’s also becoming a massive monitoring and surveillance tool depending on who’s using it—and this course dives into why, and how international agencies and organizations are using it to leverage their own goals, spy on others of interest, and use the information they collect. You’ll study topics of “cyberwarfare,” and how large, international agencies have already attacked, hacked, and compromised one another, “cyber activism,” and the organizations striving for personal freedoms and rights on the Iternet, and more.
- The University of Nottingham – Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life – Professors Maiken Umbach, Ian Cooke, and Matthew Humphrey – We look back causally at the art and propaganda of previous wars and think that we’re beyond it today, but nothing could be further from the truth. This course examines how propaganda plays a role in everyday life, what propaganda really means, and what it really looks like, and how ideology becomes the building blocks of our personal and political perspectives. The course starts with topics like how words take on meanings, and then discusses freedom, community, place, justice and choice—what those things mean to different people, and how messaging influences those beliefs.
- The University of Southampton – Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds: Maritime Archeology – Professors Jon Adams, Dr Lucy Blue, Dr Helen Farr, Dr Jesse Ransley, Dr Fraser Sturt, and Dr Julian Whitewright – Just beneath the waves is a treasure trove of information on our ancestors, how they traveled the globe, what they took with them, why they left home, and both the treasures and adventures they sought when they did. This course examines how archeology below the surface of the water is conducted, the tools that divers and researchers use to find wrecks and lost ships, when they raise them and how they preserve them, and what they can learn even by looking through what’s sitting right there at the bottom of the ocean.
- Johns Hopkins University – Psychological First Aid – Professor George Everly, Jr., PhD – This course examines the RAPID model (Reflective listening, Assessment of needs, Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition) of providing psychological assistance to victims of trauma or other emotionally and physically jarring events. Over the course of the class, you’ll learn to put the model into practice in your own life, how experts use it to provide assistance to people suffering from mental health illnesses or pressures, and more. It’s not so much a place to find help, but it’s a great place to learn how to help others.
- The Open University – Childhood in the Digital Age – Professor Nathalia Gjersoe – Whether you’re still young or you’ve long since grown up past your childhood years, today’s constantly connected, technologically dominated society presents challenges for children that many didn’t experience even a few years ago. What do all of those changes mean to young people as they try to find their way in this new world, and how do tools like social media change how children see and form relationships? How to digital relationships and always-on connections with people and information at their fingertips change the way people interact with one another? This class dives into all of these topics and then some.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology – The American Dream for the Next Generation – Professors Thomas Kochan, John McCarthy, and Christine Riordan – The “American Dream” has meant different things to different people over the years, but it’s still an ideal that holds true even today. Does it mean home ownership, or just the ability to find fulfilling work? This course examines, and takes a look at the historical idea of the “American Dream,” what it meant for past generations, and how it’s adapted to new technological, employment, and financial realities as times have changed. You’ll study the American labor market today and how companies have changed, how the social contract between employer and employee has changed, and what that means for that “dream,” both for people working now and future generations.
- The University of Notre Dame – Understanding Wireless: Technology, Economics, and Policy – Professors Patricia L. Bellia, Barry Patrick Keating, J. Nicholas Laneman, and Aaron Striegel – You may have an idea how your cell phone communicates with your wireless carrier, and how you send and receive information through mobile networks, but do you know why mobile networks are set up the way they are? What about why certain frequencies are used for commercial purposes, and why mobile bandwidth is an issue? This course helps you truly understand wireless communication, from mobile devices and the crunch for wireless bandwidth across data providers, as well as how your own devices function and talk to each other in your own home. By the end of the course, you’ll be up to speed on public policy debates on wireless bandwidth and broadband, as well as have a basic understanding of how the technology works.
- The University of Cape Town – What Is a Mind? – Professor Mark Solms– The question of how the mind works is both a medical, philosophical, and scientific question, but it’s perplexing on all fronts. This course aims to introduce you to the many schools of thought around what makes up a “mind,” and “how the mind works.” You’ll study topics of neuroscience and medicine, of course, but you’ll also dive into the philosophical and study consciousness, sensitivity, and subjectivity, among other topics. By the end of the course, you may not know the answer to the question the course poses, but you’ll certainly have a greater understanding of the issue on its many, many fronts.
- Case Western Reserve University – Women in Leadership: Inspiring Positive Change – Professor Diana Bilimoria, PhD – This course aims to empower both women and men to create positive, inclusive workplaces, as well as engage in career development and learn how to take on leadership roles in both work and life. The course will tackle topics of values and issues facing women in the workplace and in leadership positions, address conscious and unconscious biases on the topic, and discuss the traits that lead to the success of women in the workplace and the perceptions that hold many back.
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.
- 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.
- 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.