Great online courses?
April 18, 2020 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for truly *great* and inspiring online courses to take (or videos to watch) that help broaden my perspective, are well-researched / taught by experts, and go into some depth (like several hours of content vs. 10min video). I am looking for links/recs to *specific* courses vs. general learning platforms like Masterclass.

Topics of particular interest:
- Social justice
- Feminism
- Psychology / Sociology
- Anthropology
- Art/music history
- History of science

I am not really looking for "skills" based courses, e.g., how to code, how to cook. I particularly would appreciate "longer form" content guided by an expert. The course does NOT need to be credentialed, or even necessarily look like a "course" (with homework, etc.). Video format is preferred. Paid courses are fine.

Thanks hive mind.
posted by ellerhodes to Education (17 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Open Yale Courses include, "a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video accompanied by such other course materials as syllabi, suggested readings, exams, and problem sets. The lectures are available as downloadable videos, and an audio-only version is also offered. In addition, searchable transcripts of each lecture are provided."
posted by Fukiyama at 9:38 AM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Feminism: you might like Beyond the Ballot: Women’s Rights and Suffrage from 1866 to Today from FutureLearn. I haven't taken this course but I have done several others through FL, and think it meets your criteria.
posted by paduasoy at 9:46 AM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have not done these but I’ve noted them down because I really want to find the time to do so...

Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey

Harvard University’s Justice with Michael Sandel
posted by fabius at 9:49 AM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a ton of stuff at Coursera, and I know they recently added a bunch of (free) MoMa courses. They're 12–38 hours each, self-paced.
posted by wisekaren at 9:52 AM on April 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Genetics and Evolution course taught by Mohamed Noor at Duke is available on Coursera. I TAed this course back in the day, and then later my mom did the online version, so that's two of us who say it is really good, Mohamed is a great lecturer, and it really opens up a basic understanding of genetics and evolution and how they're related.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:01 AM on April 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Thank you for this question! I'm excited to hear other people's answers.

I don't love video, but I use my Audible subscription pretty much entirely for Great Courses content. The courses I have listened to in full (which means I strongly endorse them) are the following:

Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition
Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science

I'm currently working my way through The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World's Great Intellectual Traditions.

The thing about Audible is that it's $15 a month, and though they don't advertise it, you can return any book at any point. It usually takes me a few hours to figure out whether I'm going to be able to hook into the professor's style, and so I've started and returned ~3 courses for each course I've made my way through, which would be prohibitive cost-wise if I had to buy a course outright.

Additionally, I don't know if language-learning too much of a skill for you to be interested in it, but all of the cult favorite French in Action videos are free online, and the textbooks are available on the controversial Internet Archive library, so if you wanted to do the course - which really focuses on culture and context, all you'd have to pay for are the audio tapes, which are for sale for $195. I'm doing Pimsleur instead and I'm finding it super satisfying and distracting so far.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 10:09 AM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Pianist Jonathan Biss has a series of courses on Coursera analyzing Beethoven’s piano sonatas in depth.
posted by matildaben at 12:02 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 2nd the Open Yale Courses - you're essentially 'sitting in' on a college classroom. At Yale. Also, the syllabus, readings list and ancillary material are all available for download, so you can actually follow along with the assignments and discussions.
posted by eclectist at 12:12 PM on April 18, 2020

Best answer: This course fits your Social Justice category:

Indigenous Canada

I think it’s the most popular Coursera course in Canada. Even if you don’t live in Canada specifically, it provides a good insight into the mechanisms of—and damage done by—colonization in general, and the power and creativity of indigenous resistance.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:51 PM on April 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 2nd using audible monthly credits to purchase Great Courses. I've enjoyed what I've worked through of Robert Greenburg's various classical music courses
posted by snowymorninblues at 1:24 PM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I love Edwin Barnhart's Lost Worlds of South America and Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed, both from Great Courses (the video versions rather than the audio). They can be pricey from Great Courses unless on sale, but your library may have them available for streaming on Hoopla or Kanopy (or DVD, if the libraries ever reopen).
posted by lagomorph at 2:42 PM on April 18, 2020

Best answer: The Robert Sapolsky lecture series on human behavioral biology most likely fits the bill. I've also enjoyed a lot of the Yale courses as mentioned above.
posted by bluebelle at 7:23 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Kanopy has a huge trove of documentary films that are great for learning the topics you mention in your Ask. I have a very messy list of films I compiled while preparing a syllabus for a class that's a mix of urban sociology and urban planning. Off the top of my head, one excellent film more in the thoughtful lecture and discussion mode than muckraking expose is What is Democracy directed by Astra Taylor

They also have Great Courses series, California Newsreel videos, PBS series, etc etc. Oh! This California Newsreel film is great Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi: African American's Fighting for Their Land in the 1960's

MeMail me if you want me to share the link or the syllabus (I assign a film a week for the whole semester). At some point I will make it less messy and actually post it publicly (though the links go to either my county or university library's Kanopy account, so you will have to find them in Kanopy again, unless you happen to be using the LA County system!).
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:29 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This isn't a topic on your list, but others may find it interesting. Dr. Racinello's Virology 2020 course on YouTube is excellent. I watch it a couple years ago. He's a virologist working at Columbia University. He also writes a blog at and produces the excellent podcast This Week in Virology. Currently, they're talking exclusively about SARS CoV 2. He also has a bunch of other podcasts people might find interesting.
posted by kathrynm at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another one I keep hearing is amazing is Michael Mann's course on climate change
posted by hydropsyche at 7:41 AM on April 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Robert Greenberg's music courses on The Great Courses. He's engaging, informative, and good at communicating clearly. And there are a lot of great lecturers on The Great Courses — they do a great job of choosing professors who are good at this.
posted by Tehhund at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2020

I have gone through the David Harvey Capital lectures alongside reading the book and can vouch for its quality.

And, while I can't recommend any specific course that falls under those categories, the following list has consistently steered me towards long-form university-level courses--often from the kinds of places I wish I could've gone to:

Between the quality of the selections (in my experience) and the fact that it's sorted by subject matter, I hope that this works as a resource that is somewhere between the generality of a specific course and just mentioning a learning platform.
posted by davedave at 6:08 PM on May 14, 2020

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