According to a variety of sources, college tuition today costs 559 percent more than it did in 1985. While this and the rise of student loan defaults should give lawmakers and college administrators serious pause, you don’t have to abandon your dreams of obtaining an online education. When without the degree credential, free online classes like those that follow are valuable to any frugal individual concerned with lifelong learning. Sources like MIT Open Courseware, Stanford University and Coursera are just a few places to get started, so get Googling!
Free online classes recommendation No. 1: ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence‘
Taught via YouTube by Stanford University’s Drs. Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun, this course teaches students about the science of computer software that displays the ability to reason about the surrounding world. Robots, self-driving cars and many other devices are all examples of AI, and Norvig and Thrun teach students who to create software that runs this advanced technology. This course made its debut in the fall of 2011, and at the time, 160,000 students from 209 countries enrolled. The free lectures are stimulating.
Free online classes recommendation No. 2: ‘The Structure of English Words’
Dr. Will Leben of Stanford has free lectures available via iTunes that can help clue you in to the historical, cultural and linguistic factors that have shaped the English language. If you have even a little bit of curiosity about words and want to appear more erudite, Leben’s approach to word origins via images is quite enlightening.
Free online classes recommendation No. 3: ‘Dilemmas in Bio-Medical Ethics: Playing God or Doing Good?’
Dr. Erica James of MIT offers this lecture-based class through MIT Open Courseware. The moral foundations of the science and practice of bio-medicine in the west is at issue, and are examined through the lenses of abortion, birth control, cloning, organ transplants and more. Cross-cultural study of the challenges new medical technologies face, as well as how those challenges fare in the face of critiques from religion, the law, feminists and more, illuminates the vitality of thought dedicated to this polarizing science.
Free online classes recommendation No. 4: ‘Video Game Theory and Analysis’
Another offering from MIT Open Courseware, Dr. Alice Robison delves into pop culture gold mine that is video games. The interdisciplinary academic study of the ubiquitous popular electronic entertainment medium examines cultural, educational and social functions that video games play in the modern world. Play, analysis, reading and writing are all involved, as students come to understand just how the form of entertainment reflects the values of the society that produces it.
Free online classes recommendation No. 5: ‘Sets, Counting and Probability’
Because there’s always more room for math in your life, Dr. Paul Bamberg of Harvard University teaches you via the Open Learning Initiative how probability models apply to everyday occurrences. You’ll study “elementary set theory, systematic counting, probability axioms, conditional probability, discrete random variables, infinite geometric series and random walks,” according to TED. Not only will these concepts apply to games of skill, but games of chance, political elections and even subjects related to history, genealogy and national security.
Free online classes recommendation No. 6: ‘Introduction to Aerospace Engineering and Design’
Dr. Dava Newman teaches students via MIT Open Courseware that highlights of aerospace engineering, including aeronautics, astronautics and design, are fascinating for tinkerers and space program enthusiasts alike. While online students won’t necessarily be producing and flying their own light-than-air (LTA) vehicle, they can if they have the resources and the dedication to follow along.
Free online classes recommendation No. 7: ‘Shakespeare After All: The Later Plays’
Harvard’s Dr. Marjorie Garber doesn’t want you to forget that all the world’s a stage for the great bard of the English language, William Shakespeare. This course focuses on the later plays, from “Measure for Measure” and running through “The Tempest.” Key themes and the wide variety of interpretations of the work will be discussed. Human issues such as gender, politics, family and free speech will be observed through the lends of both the gentry and the lower classes.
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