The 10 most popular free online courses for professionals

Your education shouldn’t stop when you leave the classroom.

Learning new skills is a great way to expand your mind and get ahead in your career — and it’s easier than ever with a plethora of online classes just a click away.

A good place to start is with this year’s most popular Coursera courses from top universities. They range from an introduction to the programming language Python to mastering the art of negotiating. All are free, but some have paid versions that offer more extensive experiences.

Read on to see this year’s top 10, courtesy of Coursera.

10. Introduction to Financial Accounting -- University of Pennsylvania


Wharton professor Brian J. Bushee teaches the basics of accounting in this course. By the end, you'll know how to confidently read an income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows.

It's one of four courses in Wharton's business foundation Coursera package, which costs you $595 for the classes and a capstone project, all graded. If you don't care about a certificate or being part of a cohort that can interact with each other and the professors, you can work through each course for free.

Next session: Dec. 28 - Feb. 1

Find it here >>

9. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills -- University of Michigan

Miguel Villagran/Getty

Ross School of Business professor George Siedel has taught negotiation classes around the world and says his research-based class is useful whether you're trying to secure a million-dollar investment in your business or to lower the cost of your cable bill.

Next session: Always available

Find it here >>

8. An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python (Part 1) -- Rice University


Python is one of the world's top five programming languages and is used at organisations like Google, Yahoo, and NASA. It's a high-level language, but a novice can learn the basics relatively easily.

Rice professors Joe Warren, Scott Rixner, John Greiner, and Stephen Wong keep the course interesting by having students use Python to build simple games like Pong and Asteroids.

Next session: Jan. 9 - Feb. 2

Find it here >>

7. Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World -- University of Virginia

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty

This course from University of Virginia professors David Francis Germano and Kurt R. Schaeffer takes a look at multiple Tibetan Buddhist meditation traditions from historical, religious, scientific, and practical purposes.

It's a multi-layered introduction to the roots of an increasingly secularized practice.

Upcoming session: Always available

Find it here >>

6. The Data Scientist's Toolbox -- Johns Hopkins University


Johns Hopkins professors Jeff Leek, Roger D. Peng, and Brian Caffo use this two-part course to give an overview of what exactly data scientists do, as well as to introduce students to some of their tools: version control, markdown, git, GitHub, R, and RStudio.

It's one of nine courses in the data science introductory package, which costs $470 for full participation and a certificate of completion.

Next session: Current session still open, ends Jan. 2

Find it here >>

5. R Programming -- Johns Hopkins University


This is another class in the Johns Hopkins data science package. It introduces students to the R programming language, which is the world's most popular language for data analysis.

Next session: Current session still open, ends Jan. 2

Find it here >>

4. Machine Learning — Stanford University


If you've been wanting to learn more about artificial intelligence, this is a great place to start. Stanford associate professor and Coursera cofounder Andrew Ng uses case studies and programming exercises to illustrate some of the ways machines learn.

Next session: December 28 — March 21.

Find it here >>

2. Mastering Data Analysis in Excel -- Duke University


Duke post-doctoral fellow Jana Schaich Borg and director of the Center for Quantitative Modelling Daniel Egger teach students how to use Excel to understand the concepts behind uncertainty-reduction and information-gain predictive models that data scientists use.

It's one of four courses in Duke's data science package, which costs $395 for full participation.

Next session: Dec. 14 - Feb. 1

Find it here >>

1. Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects -- University of California, San Diego

Matt Cardy/Getty

Oakland University professor Barbara Oakley and Salk Institute professor Terrence Sejnowski use studies of brain chemistry to determine the best ways to approach a new subject, memorise facts, and deal with procrastination.

The instructors make a bold claim: 'If you've ever wanted to become better at anything, this course will help serve as your guide.'

Next session: Jan. 4 - Feb. 7

Find it here >>

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