Just like a traditional school, the courses now available online run the full spectrum from extremely practical to completely ridiculous and fun.
Anyone who missed the chance in high school or college to explore a subject they’re fascinated with can now take an online course from some of the top universities in the world. Online learning platforms offer more than you might imagine, including classes on the plausibility of life on other planets and how to survive the zombie apocalypse portrayed in TV show “The Walking Dead.”
They’re also a reminder that education doesn’t always need to be career-oriented, and can be something you simply want to know more about.
Platform: Canvas Network
Affiliated university: The University of California at Irvine
Description: 'From understanding social identities to modelling the spread of disease, this eight-week course will span key science and survival themes using AMC's 'The Walking Dead' as its basis.'
- Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Is survival just about being alive?
- Social order and structures, from the farm and the prison to Woodbury
- Social identity, roles, and stereotyping, as shown through leaders like Rick and the Governor
- The spread of infectious disease and population modelling
- The role of energy and momentum in damage control: How can you best protect yourself?
- Nutrition in a post-apocalyptic world: Are squirrels really good for you?
Affiliated university: Harvard University
Description: 'During each week of the course, you will watch as chefs reveal the secrets behind some of their most famous culinary creations -- often right in their own restaurants. Inspired by such cooking mastery, the Harvard team will then explain, in simple and sophisticated ways, the science behind the recipe.
'Topics include: soft matter materials, such as emulsions, illustrated by aioli; elasticity, exemplified by the done-ness of a steak; and diffusion, revealed by the phenomenon of spherification, the culinary technique pioneered by Ferran Adrià.'
Affiliated university: Princeton University
Description: 'Over the past two decades, astronomers have discovered over a thousand planets around nearby stars. Based on our current knowledge, it seems likely that there are millions of stars in the Galaxy that host Earth-sized planets in Earth-like orbits. What is the range of conditions for these planets to host life? In this course, students will engage with a wide range of concepts in astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology and physics with a focus on developing the background they will use need to think further about this profound question.'
Platform: iTunes U
Affiliated university: Yale University
Description: 'There is one thing I can be sure of: I am going to die. But what am I to make of that fact? This course will examine a number of issues that arise once we begin to reflect on our mortality. The possibility that death may not actually be the end is considered. Are we, in some sense, immortal? Would immortality be desirable?'
Affiliated university: University of Colorado at Boulder
Description: 'Comic books have arrived! Comic Books and Graphic Novels presents a survey of the comic book canon and of the major graphic novels in circulation today. Its governing question is simple: by what terms can we discuss comic books as literary art? In pursuit of that question it develops a theory of literary reading and time itself.'
Affiliated university: Princeton University
Description: 'Through this course, I hope that you will come to appreciate that war is both a natural expression of common human emotions and interactions and a constitutive part of how we cohere as groups. That is, war is paradoxically an expression of our basest animal nature and the exemplar of our most vaunted and valued civilized virtues. You will learn some basic military history and sociology in this course as a lens for the more important purpose of seeing the broader social themes and issues related to war.'
Affiliated university: University of Melbourne
Description: 'Many of us derive inspiration from watching natural history documentaries and their astounding catalogue of wild animal behaviours. In this course, we will explore how scientists study animal behaviour, and in particular how behaviour is shaped by the evolutionary forces of natural and sexual selection. Topics include resource acquisition; avoiding enemies; mate choice and sexual conflict; cues, signals and communication; parental care and social behaviour; and the role of genes, environments and learning in regulating behavioural diversity.'
Affiliated university: University of Alberta
Description: 'Students will learn about the many kinds of non-avian dinosaurs that roamed the earth during the Mesozoic Era, from 250 to 65 million years ago. Numerous topics are covered in order to deliver a comprehensive survey of this important group of animals.
'These include adaptations for attack and defence, anatomy, appearances, behaviours, birth, deep time, evolutionary theory, feeding, fossilization, growth, integumentary structures, locomotion, major groupings, origins, paleogeography, plate tectonics, reproduction, species definition, stratigraphy, and the extinction event that brought their dominance to an end.'
Affiliated university: University of Copenhagen
Description: 'The New Nordic Diet is a new food culture that emphasises gastronomy, health, and environment. This course presents the scientific background of the New Nordic Diet, the world's largest research project into adult and child health and well-being, and will help you better understand the global challenges such as obesity and obesity-related diseases.'
Affiliated university: The University of Minnesota
Description: 'This course will help anyone who loves dogs to better understand their dog's reproductive health and how to control its reproduction. This includes understanding the pros and cons of having your dog spayed or castrated, and understanding at what age that surgery can be performed.'
Platform: iTunes U
Affiliated university: Wesleyan University
Description: 'Western movies form the oldest of American film genre. They have also been the most important modern vehicles for one of the oldest and most significant of American cultural myths -- the myth of the frontier. The course surveys the development of the Western film genre and sets it in historical and cultural context. In addition to viewing 20 or more feature films, we will study some of the precinematic sources of Western themes and images (novels, paintings). There will also be readings in the history of movies, critical and cultural theory, and political history.'
Affiliated university: Brown University
Description: 'In this class, we will ask and answer a series of questions about the role and practice of archaeology in the world today. If archaeologists are trained to investigate the past, what is left for us to study? Who gets to be an archaeologist? How and why do archaeologists hunt for 'treasures,' and what do we do once we've discovered them? What can we know, and not know, about people in the past? What do archaeologists know about the past that most people would never guess -- and why aren't we telling you? Why are people entirely willing to murder each other over the fate of archaeological sites? Are Real Men alone capable of discovering the truth behind all this?'
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