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12 Free Online Science Courses That'll Change The Way You See The World

It's not too late to learn something new in 2017.

13 DEC 2017

If you're anything like us, you're constantly looking for ways to expand your skills.

Whether you're looking to take the next step in your career, get back into study, or simply learn something mind-blowing, one of the best ways to level up in a whole new subject fast is with a course. And thanks to the Internet, there are now a whole bunch of classes you can take from the comfort of your couch.


But there are a lot of time-wasters out there, which is why we've done the legwork for you and collected nine online science courses from top universities like Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley. They're life-changing, and they just so happen to be free through online learning hub edX.

Check them out and make sure that next time you spend a couple of hours procrastinating online, you're actually learning something at the same time.

1. Super-Earths and Life

University: Harvard University

Next session starts: January 10

Commitment required: 3-5 hours a week 

What you'll learn: Are we ever going to find life outside Earth? This course will teach you everything you need to know about the search for alien life, including where to look, how it might have started, and how we'll find it if it's out there.

2. Quantum Mechanics for Everyone

University: Georgetown University

Next session starts: Whenever you want (it's a self-paced course)

Commitment required: 7-10 hours a week

What you'll learn: This four-week long MOOC (massive open online course) is perfect for everyone who's fascinated by quantum mechanics. There's no complicated mathematics required so it's perfect for all enthusiasts, but quantum theory is taught without "dumbing down" any of the material. One of the most fascinating ways you can spend your Christmas break.

3. Scientific Methods and Research 

University: Ural Federal University

Next session starts: Whenever you like (it's a self-paced course)

Commitment required: 3-4 hours a week 

What you'll learn: This might be one of the most important subjects to study in a post-fact world. The course teaches you the ins and outs of the scientific method, how to tell good science from dodgy research, and how to analyse and talk about science articles.

4. Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (part 1)

University: Harvard University 

Next session starts: Whenever you like (it's a self-paced course)

Commitment required: 5-7 hours a week

What you'll learn: We all want to be better cooks, but it's hard to know where to begin. Top chefs and Harvard researchers have teamed up for this course, using principles from science and engineering to help you create culinary delights in your own kitchen.

5. Introduction to Computer Science

University: Harvard University

Next session starts: Whenever you want (it's a self-paced course)

Commitment required: At least 100 hours all up

What you'll learn: OK so it's not strictly science, but programming is the must-know language of the future. This is the ultimate introductory computing course and perfect for people with no programming experience. It'll teach you languages including C, PHP, JavaScript, SQL, CSS, and HTML. 

6. Climate Change: The Science 

University: The University of British Columbia

Next session starts: Whenever you want (it's a self-paced course)

Commitment required: 2-5 hours a week 

What you'll learn: Win every argument with climate deniers from now on. You'll learn all the hard scientific facts on climate change and how to explain them in a clear way to anyone. You'll also find out what we can really do to tackle global warming.

7. Introduction to Astrophysics

University: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne 

Next session starts: Whenever you want (it's a self-paced course)

Commitment required: 2-4 hours a week

What you'll learn: It seems like every day we're learning something new about the Universe - from black holes and exoplanets to the incredible science of gravitational waves. But how do scientists figure all of this out? This course teaches you the basics of astrophysics to help you better understand the incredible phenomena that make our Universe what it is.

8. The Extremes of Life: Microbes and Their Diversity

University: Kyoto University

Next session starts: December 21

Commitment required: 2-3 hours a week

What you'll learn: Life on Earth is so much stranger than we ever imagined - in some of the most extreme parts of the planet, researchers have found creatures that eat nothing but air and survive ridiculous amounts of radiation. Find out more about the incredible microorganisms that exist on Earth and why they're so important to our future.

9. Cell Biology: Mitochondria

University: Harvard University

Next session starts: Whenever you like, it's self-paced

Commitment required: 2-4 hours a week 

What you'll learn: Mitochondrias are the power houses of the cell! These incredible organelles play a crucial role in our energy production and overall health, and scientists are finally beginning to understand more about where they came from and how they work. Perfect for all the biology lovers out there.

10. The Science of Everyday Thinking

University: The University of Queensland

Next session starts: Whenever you like (it's a self-paced course)

Commitment required: 2 hours a week 

What you'll learn: How to think better, argue better, and choose better, thanks to science. Find out the psychology behind why we think the things we do, and how our opinions, expectations and judgements form. It's the one course that's guaranteed to directly impact your life and make your life a whole lot better.

11. Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe

University: Australian National University

Next session starts: Whenever you like (it's a self-paced course)

Commitment required: 3 hours a week 

What you'll learn: We're learning more about the Universe every day, but there's still plenty out there that has scientists completely stumped. And they're not trivial issues, either: we still don't whether alien life exists in space, what most of the Universe is made of, or why the Big Bang happened. This course will help you get a deeper understanding of these mysteries, beyond what you read in popular media.

12. Anatomy: Gastrointestinal, Reproductive and Endocrine Systems

University: The University of Michigan

Next session starts: February 27

Commitment required: 2-3 hours a week 

What you'll learn: The human body is just straight-up fascinating, and this course teaches you the primary functions and layout of three of the most important systems. For anyone who's ever had an interest in medicine or anatomy, this is a lot of fun.  

ScienceAlert is an affiliate partner of edX and we know first-hand that they're incredible learning opportunities. We receive a small fee if you register for their courses.  


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