Excellent Online Classes
November 10, 2009 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Which online course should I take next? What are the best free courses you've taken online?

I'm really enjoying the English 291 course at Yale Open Courses posted to the blue a few weeks ago and I'm looking for suggestions for what to watch after I finish these. The subject matter is not as important to me as a good professor presenting brain-stretching material in an engaging way. Math, science, philosophy, engineering, history - I'm open to anything, but I want something that's going to help me to use some of the cobwebby parts of my brain. Audio-only is fine, too. I've browsed through UC Berkley's online offerings, Open Yale and MIT OpenCoursware, but there is a lot out there. Help me to narrow my options.
If it makes a difference, I'm a web developer, but I'm not necessarily looking for anything related to my field (although don't count it out either!)
(I didn't see this question posted previously, apologies if it has been)
posted by mike_bling to Education (13 answers total) 119 users marked this as a favorite
You probably already know about them, but I find Ted talks to do what you're asking, albeit in a one-off way each instead of a whole class.
posted by brainmouse at 1:39 PM on November 10, 2009

I loved Open Yale's Intro to Psychology. I never took Psych (Engineering major) so it was all new to me, but understandable.
posted by rocket88 at 1:41 PM on November 10, 2009

Response by poster: I love Ted, and yes that's what I'm after, albeit in a more extended format.
posted by mike_bling at 2:09 PM on November 10, 2009

I got the Iphone application dev course, but haven't finished working through it yet. Also downloaded the algorithms course from MIT as well.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 2:24 PM on November 10, 2009

Hungerford's course is indeed great! I took it for real a few years ago and have been wanting to re-watch a few of my favorite lectures recently. I took Game Theory (Econ 159) with Ben Polak the year it was filmed and it seemed like a very well-run production, if you're interested in the material.

If you like philosophy, you should definitely watch Death (Phil 176) with Shelly Kagan. It's a Yale classic. Intro to theory of literature (Lit 300) with Paul Fry is also an extremely awesome class that will work the cobwebby parts of your brain.

Unfortunately I can't speak to the quality of the science or history classes offered by Open Yale. I took both of the psych classes and they were alright (great professors, fairly introductory material). My roommates really liked Intro to Old Testament.
posted by acidic at 3:01 PM on November 10, 2009

I just ran across this blog post: How To Get A Free Education Online that you may find useful.
posted by ainsley at 6:21 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've watched the first five lectures of Circuits and Electronics, and it's been interesting to see how computers are built from components lower than boolean logic gates. It would be nice to place these recorded lectures into podcasts with schedules so I can pace myself, but when they started covering circuit analysis it's clear I need to consider the homework to really understand what they're up to.

There was also a post in the blue about Justice from Harvard that covers traditional ethics with student interactions. It's a bit self congratulatory to watch students fawn over themselves and their institution, but there's nuggets of use in there.

As a web developer though, Google tech talks are really damn handy. Like hour long TED talks. It does get a bit spammy when Google hosts a conference though.

In grad school I liked a course I took on computational biology. It was pretty interesting to hunt down old ass UNIX code like Phred/Phrap/Consed. If anyone has a better link than this one, I'd be happy to see it.
posted by pwnguin at 7:15 PM on November 10, 2009

Physics for Future Presidents. I saw Richard Muller speak once, and resolved to someday take that class.
posted by mogget at 8:04 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I listened to (and sometimes watched -- she uses maps) Margaret Anderson's wonderful The Making of Modern Europe, from U.C. Berkeley, and loved it. She specializes in 19th century German history, but does a fantastic job with this foundation course.
posted by mabelstreet at 10:58 PM on November 10, 2009

Justice is available online now.
posted by snofoam at 7:44 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Bloom's intro to psych course at Yale.
posted by AceRock at 8:17 AM on November 11, 2009

Seconding Margaret Anderson's History 5 at Berkeley.

The Civil War and Reconstruction by David Blight is another excellent history course.

As for science courses... I'm currently working my way through MIT intro biology (7.012) which is very good. I'm used to the old-school anatomy-and-taxonomy biology - but this is all about biochem, genetics, and molecular biology. The genetics and molecular biology lecturer does a great job of getting the students to think like experimenters...
posted by problemspace at 11:39 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Late to the party, but I can't resist joining. I'll first go ahead and absolutely nth Anderson's History 5. That was awesome.

I would really recommend Daniel Coffeen's Rhetoric 10, which has the seemingly unassuming title, "Introduction to Practical Reasoning and Critical Analysis of Argument." It's audio-only, but hey. This course made me think in new and fantastic ways and go "Whaaaa?" multiple times, whereupon I had to stop what I was doing (my job), rewind the mp3, click my brain into high gear, and listen again. I even listened to the entire lecture series twice, and some lectures even more times. And while I've come away from it not entirely agreeing with the modern rhetorician's worldview, I think it's nonetheless fascinating and valuable. And he makes me giggle! Definitely engaging.

I have some questions I'd love to be able to ask him - the stuff I learned has stayed with me, and makes me think on a regular basis. Alas that I can only attend through my headphones...
posted by po at 5:09 AM on November 13, 2009

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