11 Cutting-Edge Free Online Courses Worth Taking This Fall

From zombies to cryptography, there are a ton of awesome free online courses you should consider taking this Fall. They’re all free, run by entertaining and educational (edutainment anyone?) teachers who will teach you a bit more than you expected.

There are, of course, hundreds of other free courses you should check out. These are just some of our favorites and they’re also all brand new. Each and every single one was created and organized within the last few months.

Click the title of the course to view more information, by the way.

Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead

walking dead mooc

From understanding social identities to modeling the spread of disease, this eight-week course will span key science and survival themes using AMC’s The Walking Dead as its basis. Four faculty members from the University of California, Irvine will take you on an inter-disciplinary academic journey deep into the world of AMC’s The Walking Dead, exploring the following topics:

Solar Energy

solar edx course

The course Solar Energy will teach you to design a complete photovoltaic system. The course will introduce you to the technology that converts solar energy into electricity, heat and solar fuels with a main focus on electricity generation.  Photovoltaic (PV) devices are presented as advanced semiconductor devices that deliver electricity directly from sunlight. The emphasis is on understanding the working principle of a solar cell, fabrication of solar cells, PV module construction and the design of a PV system. You will understand the principles of the photovoltaic conversion (the conversion of light into electricity). You will learn about the advantages, limitations and challenges of different solar cell technologies, such as crystalline silicon solar cell technology, thin film solar cell technologies and the latest novel solar cell concepts as studied on lab-scale.  The course will treat the specifications of solar modules and show you how to design a complete solar system for any particular application. The suitable semiconductor materials, device physics, and fabrication technologies for solar cells are presented. The guidelines for design of a complete solar cell system for household application are explained. Alternative storage approaches through solar fuels or conversion of solar energy in to heat will be discussed.  The cost aspects, market development, and the application areas of solar cells are presented.

Foundations of Computer Graphics

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CS184.1x teaches the Foundations of Computer Graphics. Students will make images of 3D scenes in real-time, and with offline raytracing. This course runs for 6 weeks and consists of four segments. Each segment includes an individual programming assignment:

  1. Overview and Basic Math (Homework 0: 10% of grade)
  2. Transformations (Homework 1: 20% of grade)
  3. OpenGL and Lighting (Homework 2: 35% of grade)
  4. Raytracing (Homework 3: 35% of grade)

This term, students who earn a total score of 50% or greater will have passed the course and may obtain a free honor code certificate from BerkeleyX.

Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science

haute cuisine

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 will 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.

To help you make the link between cooking and science, an “equation of the week” will capture the core scientific concept being explored. You will also have the opportunity to be an experimental scientist in your very own laboratory — your kitchen. By following along with the engaging recipe of the week, taking measurements, and making observations, you will learn to think both like a cook and a scientist. The lab is also one of the most unique components of this course — after all, in what other science course do you get to eat your lab?

Introduction to Global Sociology


Sociology offers us a powerful set of tools with which to interpret our relationship to a global social and cultural economy. This course extends conventional sociology to foster an understanding of how the conditions of our everyday lives fit in with broader trends of continuity and change in regions across the world. We use the global garment industry as a vehicle for mobilizing our sociological imaginations, and follow the movements of capital, materials, and labor in the garment industry to examine the economic and cultural exchanges that keep our complex world in motion. Along the way, we’ll learn to critically read social scientific texts and construct evidence-based arguments. Klaus Lanstein, Group of People Walking Over World Map. Courtesy Getty Images.

Tales from the Genome


This course is a journey into the biology of the human genome and will highlight the scientific, social, and personal perspectives of people living with a variety of traits. You will learn about fundamental principles of inheritance, gene expression, mutation and variation, development of simple and complex biological traits, human ancestry and evolution, and the acquisition of personal genetic information. By the end of this course, you will be able to read and understand genetic information available from personal genetics services such as 23andMe.

Cryptography 1

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Cryptography is an indispensable tool for protecting information in computer systems. This course explains the inner workings of cryptographic primitives and how to correctly use them. Students will learn how to reason about the security of cryptographic constructions and how to apply this knowledge to real-world applications. The course begins with a detailed discussion of how two parties who have a shared secret key can communicate securely when a powerful adversary eavesdrops and tampers with traffic. We will examine many deployed protocols and analyze mistakes in existing systems. The second half of the course discusses public-key techniques that let two or more parties generate a shared secret key. We will cover the relevant number theory and discuss public-key encryption and basic key-exchange. Throughout the course students will be exposed to many exciting open problems in the field.

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative

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Intended for both newcomers who are curious about video games and hard-core gamers who want to reflect on their passion, this course will explore what happens to stories, paintings, and films when they become the basis of massively multiplayer online games.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy—the novels, films, and video game—are our central example of how “remediation” transforms familiar stories as they move across media.  We will study The Lord of the Rings Online™ (LOTRO) against the backdrop of other games such as Final FantasyStar Wars: The Old Republic, andSkyrim; narrative theory, intermediality, and game theory; poems by Spenser, Coleridge, Keats, and Browning; fiction by Tolkien and others; and art since the Pre-Raphaelites that has influenced the neo-medievalism of much fantasy literature and gaming.

Drawing on centuries of romance narrative conventions, the twenty-first century gaming industry has become a creative and economic powerhouse.  It engages the talents of some of our brightest writers, artists, composers, computer engineers, game theorists, video producers, and marketing professionals, and in 2012, it generated an estimated $64 billion in revenue.  Anyone interested in today’s culture needs to be conversant with the ways this new medium is altering our understanding of stories.  Join me as we set out on an intellectual adventure, the quest to discover the cultural heritage of online games.

The Power of Microeconomics: Economic Principles in the Real World

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In this course, you will learn all of the major principles of microeconomics normally taught in a quarter or semester course to college undergraduates or MBA students.

Perhaps more importantly, you will also learn how to apply these principles to a wide variety of real world situations in both your personal and professional lives.  In this way, the Power of Microeconomics will help you prosper in an increasingly competitive environment.

Note that this course is a companion to the Power of Macroeconomics.  If you take both courses, you will learn all of the major principles normally taught in a year-long introductory economics college course.

The Comprehensive Guide To The Apple iPad (Beginner)

modern lessons

Whether you just got a single iPad or are rolling them out to an entire classroom or school district, you need to be sure that you know exactly what you’re doing with the device. Do you know how to use tabbed browsing, iMessage, how to improve Siri, and how to unlock the Lost Mode? All those skills and more are must-have for anyone using an iPad. This course will get you that knowledge and more.

Understanding Media by Understanding Google 

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Google Inc. is one of the key success stories of the Internet era. The company has expanded beyond its original search business through innovation and acquisition to touch the lives of nearly every person who lives life online. Americans spend more than 3,400 hours per year using consumer media, the field where Google’s impact is most profound, and increasingly must understand what the company has wrought not only to control our offline and online environments, but also to interact and engage successfully with anyone in our professional and personal lives.

You will learn how to understand the tactics that modern media companies, journalists, marketers, politicians, technologists, and social networks are using to reach you and affect your behavior. You will learn how to adopt strategies that put them on an even footing with these entities in achieving your own communications goals. We’ll

  • think about, react to, and write about half a dozen important books about Google;
  • read a sampling of newspaper and magazine reportage from Google’s entire history;
  • monitor news sites and specialized blogs about the company and its competitors;
  • take note of our own usage of Google and other online resources; and
  • learn how to anticipate the future impact of the company and its competitors on information consumption, creation, and distribution.

1 Comment

  1. Rita O' Connor

    September 26, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    To whom it may concern i am very interested in doing the online Foundations of Computer Graphics. Could you please tell me what i would need to do to start this course. I also would like to know if my computer wouldbe able to do this as im not sure how old this it. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regardS
    Rita O’ Connor