Sick of being unproductive on the weekends? Looking to spend your downtime learning something new? Well, why not try your hand at a free MOOC?
The acronym MOOC stands for “Massive Open Online Course” and refers to courses hosted on a specific platform. These include reading material, lectures, videos, and even short worksheets that people can use to enhance their learning experience. Even better, some of these are free!
MOOCs emphasize learning at your own pace, which means that you can log on to the portal whenever you’re willing and available. Unlike regular college lectures, you won’t be forced to speed through the material just to keep up with the rest of your classmates, nor will you have to slow down to accommodate the needs of others. Rather, how long you spend watching a video, reading a text, or completing a worksheet is completely up to you.
Thanks to the rise of the Digital Age, MOOCs have come a long way since they were first developed in 2008 by Stanford University students Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun. Today, world-renowned institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Oxford have launched their own courses, giving people across the globe access to top-tier education.
Think that sounds fantastic? Well, you’re not wrong!
But here’s the thing about MOOCs – the platforms hosting them can be so massive and so diverse that it’s hard to pick the right course for you.
So I had a look and chose a select few that my readers might be interested in.
University of Glasgow - Future Learn
Given the widespread #MeToo movement and heightened awareness for unfair sex-based societal structures, learning about the roots of how we perceive sex and gender is extremely important. This will allow for a more nuanced understanding of the issues we face today, making you more equipped to confront and resolve them.
Headed by lecturers and research fellows from the Center for Gender History at the University of Glasgow, this course dives deep into the histories of the social justice issues currently making headlines, such as #MeToo, LGBTQ+ rights, and the sex pay gap. To learn about these, students are given a wide range of resources, from oral testimony to original documents and museum collections.
Princeton University – Coursera
Many mistakenly believe that religion and science exist in opposite spheres; however, this course explores the intersection between Buddhism and Modern Psychology. More specifically, it examines whether the practice of meditation can be understood by neuroscientists and whether physical explanations of it undermines its spiritual and emotional significance.
Taught by Robert Wright, a lecturer from the Religion Department and the Center for Human Values, this course will take students through a four-week journey filled with compelling videos and interesting reading material. In the end, they’ll come away with a deeper understanding of how the human mind works and how it’s affected by meditation.
Harvard University - edX
The Pyramids of Giza have long fascinated people, drawing in millions of tourists each year. However, not a lot of people know the colorful history that led to their creation, nor do they understand their impact on the modern world.
Led by Peter Der Manuelian, a Barbara Bell Professor of Egyptology at Harvard, this course will enable students to learn more about the history of the Pyramids of Giza, as well as their cultural and religious significance. They’ll also tackle the hieroglyphic inscriptions found in the tombs, excavated art dating back from the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, and how digital technologies deepen our current understanding of this fascinating historical period.
University of Barcelona - Coursera
Magic is something regularly featured in books and movies; however, not many know that even people from the Middle Ages were fascinated by it. In fact, they were so interested in this concept that they took to developing “sciences” based on it, such as alchemy and necromancy.
Taught by several experts on Medieval History, this course provides a compelling overview of what society was like back in the Middle Ages. Aside from dismantling the usual prejudices and misconceptions about this historical period, it will also discuss popular magic and spiritual practices that were performed at the time.
Harvard University - edX
When it comes to literature, Western classics like “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen and “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo are the first things usually mentioned. These often make up the bulk of required reading lists, with high school and college students across the globe encouraged to share their thoughts on such books. However, it’s important to note that the ancient world is also known for its incredible literary contributions, all of which have played a role in shaping our understanding of civilization and culture.
Led by Martin Puchner, a Professor of Drama, English, and Comparative Literature at Harvard, this course takes on ancient masterpieces like “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” “The Tale of Genji,” and “The Thousand and One Nights,” just to name a few of them. Besides in-depth discussions, it will also teach students the modern significance of these and the best ways to critically analyze them.
Harvard University - edX
A literary figure that arguably everyone knows about, the English writer William Shakespeare and his treasure trove of tragedies, comedies, and histories are often major topics in both high schools and universities alike. However, most students come away with only a surface-level understanding of the Bard, which prevents them from appreciating his work and his contributions to modern literature.
This course seeks to change that, though. Led by Professor of the Humanities Stephen Greenblatt, it will discuss how to read Shakespeare’s plays while taking into consideration his biography, Elizabethan and Jacobean history, and the principles of modern performance. It also teaches students how to analyze his work both on the page and in performance, as well as how to interpret them using different approaches.
Harvard University - edX
Thanks to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, along with a few other Hollywood blockbusters, people today have become more interested in ancient Greek mythology. But as compelling as films and books are, they don’t do justice to the original text, nor do they accurately encapsulate their historical, societal, cultural, and even religious significance.
Taught by a whole slew of experts in Classical Studies and Classical Greek Literature, this course aims to explore what it means to be human today by drawing parallels with what it meant to be a hero back in Ancient Greece. It makes use of the most phenomenal pieces of literature to have ever come out from that period, including the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides, the dialogues of Plato, and the songs of Sappho. It also explores how this literary tradition combined images with the written word to ensure a complete understanding of the messages that they wanted to convey.
University of Edinburgh - edX
The business landscape of today is characterized by fierce competition and rapid change, as well as by endless streams of content generated by both individual creators and brands alike. To survive in this kind of environment, companies have to rely on marketing strategies designed to stand out, build customer loyalty, and sustain long-term returns.
Taught by expert lecturers from the University of Edinburgh, this course aims to give students a deeper understanding of the role that marketing plays in the business world. It also introduces them to the latest concepts that will help them create competitive yet relevant strategies. In addition to these, it tackles the different tools that experienced marketers use to achieve their goals, such as segmentation, positioning, branding, and design.
University of Reading - Future Learn
The Roman Empire’s role in shaping modern Britain is often overlooked, but it can’t be denied that remnants of this once-thriving civilization can still be seen today. Its impact continues to affect our modern world, which is why it would be fascinating to learn more about what life was like back then.
This two-week archaeology course enables students to join a real-life research team as they uncover more information about the cremation burials excavated on the site of the first Roman capital city. Not only will they gain more insight into how the ancient Romans lived, but they’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the latest techniques and technologies used in the field.
Yale University - Coursera
Recent years have seen an increased awareness of mental health and the various issues that surround it. More and more people are beginning to pay attention to their mental and emotional needs in the hopes that fulfilling these will allow them to live happier and more productive lives.
Led by Laurie Santos, an esteemed Professor of Psychology, this course is designed to help students increase their happiness and build more productive habits. Not only will they discuss misconceptions about these two topics, but they’ll also learn about how the human mind works and why we think the way we do. Ultimately, it will allow them to lead happier and less stressful lives.
University of Michigan - Coursera
We may not know it, but every single day is an exercise in negotiation. Besides enriching your personal relationships, mastering this skill will also play a key role in sustaining and improving your business. After all, no company can survive without profitable clients, and these contracts aren’t made without negotiating with someone else.
Taught by George Siedel, a renowned Williamson Family Professor of Business Administration and Thurnau Professor of Business Law, this course is designed to help students formulate negotiation strategies and tactics that lead to success. In fact, 20% of learners reportedly started a new career after completing it, while a whopping 15% received a pay increase or promotion. These real-life benefits will definitely make learning this skill worth the time and effort!
Dublin City University - Future Learn
After years of being disregarded, the Irish language is finally going through a renaissance, with people increasingly becoming interested in learning it. Thanks to this heightened awareness, universities and other institutions in Ireland have begun offering courses designed to help beginners become conversational. Among the best ones is “An Introduction to Irish Language and Culture,” which was developed by Dublin City University.
Besides the unique Irish culture, this course also seeks to help students learn the fundamentals of the language. By the time they complete it, they’ll be able to make basic conversations regarding travel and countries, clothes and shopping, and more. For all those interested in learning how to speak Irish, this series of lectures, videos, and reading material will undoubtedly be perfect for you.
The MOOC industry is booming right now, which means that you aren’t limited to trying out those listed above. From business to psychology and from history to foreign languages, you definitely won’t have a shortage of topics or skills to learn and master!