10 Incredibly Interesting Free Online Courses I’d Like to Take for Fun

It’s amazing just how many colleges and universities are offering free open education courses that people can take from the convenience of their own computers. I’ve been investigating the offerings at many of these including MIT, University of Notre Dame, UC San Diego and others, and there are many classes that I’d enjoy taking just for fun. Here are ten of my choices, but click into the programs for listings of hundreds more!

1.) Lego Robotics (MIT)

Course Description: LEGO® robotics uses LEGO®s as a fun tool to explore robotics, mechanical systems, electronics, and programming. This seminar is primarily a lab experience which provides students with resources to design, build, and program functional robots constructed from LEGO®s and a few other parts such as motors and sensors.


2.) The repute and reality of being a Roman emperor (Open University)

Course Description: This unit considers the relationship of the emperor with the Roman provinces, and how this relationship was mediated and represented, as well as how the culture of empire was manifested in the identity of the emperor.


3.) Babylonian mathematics (Open University)

Course Description: This unit looks at Babylonian mathematics. You will learn how a series of discoveries have enabled historians to decipher stone tablets and study the various techniques the Babylonians used for problem-solving and teaching. The Babylonian problem-solving skills have been described as remarkable and scribes of the time received a training far in advance of anything available in medieval Christian Europe 3000 years later.


4.) Foundations of American Cyber-Culture (UC Berkeley)

Course Description: This course will enable students to think critically about, and engage in practical experiments in, the complex interactions between new media and perceptions and performances of embodiment, agency, citizenship, collective action, individual identity, time and spatiality. We will pay particular attention to the categories of personhood that make up the UC Berkeley American Cultures rubric (race and ethnicity), as well as to gender, nation, and disability. The argument threading through the course will be the ways in which new media both reinforce pre-existing social hierarchies, and yet offer possibilities for the transcendence of those very categories. The new media — and we will leave the precise definition of the new media as something to be argued about over the course of the semester — can be yet another means for dividing and disenfranchising, and can be the conduit of violence and transnational dominance.


5.) Game Theory (UC San Diego)

Course Description: Introduction to game theory. Analysis of people’s decisions when the consequences of the decisions depend on what other people do. This course features applications in economics, political science, and law.


6.) Creole Language and Culture (U Notre Dame)

Course Description: This course introduces students to the language of Haitian Kreyòl, or Creole, and to the culture of its speakers. The course is intended for students with no prior knowledge of the language and will develop both reading and writing skills–emphasizing communicative competence as well as grammatical and phonetic techniques. Importantly, this study of Kreyòl explores the language’s social and cultural elements, as seen in Haiti and elsewhere in the Caribbean. The course includes an anthropological survey of Haitian history, economy, politics and religion. In addition to class work, music and film combine for a multilateral approach to language development. The program is designed to meet the needs of those who plan to conduct research in Haiti or in the Haitian diaspora, or who intend to work in a volunteer or professional capacity either in Haiti or with Haitians abroad.


7.) Reinventing the Fairytale (U Notre Dame)

Course Description: This course is structured around four main fairy tales: “Cinderella,” the frame narrative for The Arabian Nights, “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” and we be looking at a number of different reinventions of those tales in the form of short stories, novels, poems, picturebooks, songs, and films. Because the basic content will be familiar to most students, the focus will be on the stylistic, rhetorical, and ideological changes that are grafted into different redactions. Each variation that we study will be contextualized in its historical moment, and through class discussion, we will map the major developments of each tale, and because fairy tales often teach lessons, we will always be asking ourselves “What is the moral of this story?” For example, in 18c. France, “Beauty and the Beast” was penned to persuade young women to accept physically or intellectually undesirable but financially and socially advantageous marriages. What does that mean in context of Disney’s musical celebration of true love: “bittersweet and strange/finding you can change/learning you were wrong”?


8.) Magic, Witchcraft, and the Spirit World (MIT)

Course Description: Spiritual, magical, and “occult” aspects of human behavior in anthropological and historical perspective: magic, ritual curing, trance, spirit possession, sorcery, and accusations of witchcraft. Material drawn from traditional nonwestern societies, medieval and early modern Europe, and colonial and contemporary North America.


9.) Beginning Costume Design and Construction (MIT)

Course Description: This is an intermediate workshop designed for students who have a basic understanding of the principles of theatrical design and who want a more intensive study of costume design and the psychology of clothing. Students develop designs that emerge through a process of character analysis, based on the script and directorial concept. Period research, design, and rendering skills are fostered through practical exercises. Instruction in basic costume construction, including drafting and draping, provide tools for students to produce final projects.


10.) Introduction to computer forensics and investigations

Course Description: This unit is an easy introduction to some of the issues both in data privacy and computer forensics – with a few easily available tools people can reveal the stored passwords on their computer and access previously deleted data so it is a good practical demonstration as well as being easily accessed.

  • an understanding of the role of computer forensics in both the business and private world
  • identify some of the current techniques and tools for forensic examinations
  • describe and identify basic principles of good professional practice for a forensic computing practitioner
  • become familiar with some forensic tools and know how to apply them in different situations.