National University of Singapore - Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues By Plato - Professor John Holbo - Plato was one of the fathers of philosophy, but he was also one of the first and more prominent people to challenge what we know today as confirmation bias—he taught all of his students (and anyone who would listen) to "blow up their beliefs" as they progressed through life, to make sure they were built to survive the rigors of new experiences and the changing world around them. This course will walk you through that mentality, explain how Plato taught people to do just this, and why it's so critically important to living an informed, intelligent, and reasoned life to be ready to challenge your beliefs in the face of new information and evidence, and to be willing to make adjustments to them as you learn or the world around you changes.
Queen's University Belfast - Identity, Conflict and Public Space: Contest and Transformation - Professor Dominic Bryan - In the United States and many other countries that value freedom of speech and expression, we have a long tradition of using public spaces as forums for speech, opinion, and demonstration. Times have been changing though, and there's a combination of fewer truly public places and the transformation of public spaces from public to semi-public or private entirely. This course seeks to examine that transformation and what it means for public discourse, especially as much of the dialogue moves to places that aren't public at all but appear to be, like the Internet. The course also looks at the tradition of public dialogue and discourse in countries that have a history of political violence, where public spaces mean something very different than they do here.
Nanyang Technological University - Beauty, Form & Function: An Exploration of Symmetry - Professor Tim White - Art and architecture are largely the same thing, although the latter can be considered art that also has to work within the rigors of purpose and functionality. This course examines art and symmetry, why the human eye finds symmetry so appealing, and then examines the concept and application of symmetry in everything from architecture to crystals and natural formations, technological innovations, tiles and tessellation, and more. By the end of the course, you'll have a new appreciation for symmetry both in our man-made world and all of its structures, objects, and designs, but also in the natural world, from leaves on trees to snowflakes and gems.
The University of Nottingham - Sustainability, Society, and You - Professor Sarah Speight -"Sustainable" is a bit of a buzzword these days, and it's been applied to everything from furniture manufacturing to vegetable farming, but what does it mean, and what does it mean globally for an industry, field, product, or even a household to be "sustainable?" This course will offer you the opportunity to dive deeper into the topic, explore what sustainability really means and how to identify it, and how to choose sustainable options on your own that are real and true, and not simple greenwashing.
University of Virginia - Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World - Professors Kurtis R. Schaeffer and David Francis Germano - You've likely heard about the research and science of meditation, complete with brain scans that show how meditation can be good for you, can soothe anxiety, can help you relax, can help you think, and so on. This course aims to do a deeper dive into that science and the current resource around led, structured meditation from a scientific perspective. The professors aim to combine the ancient with the modern. The class will discuss and approach meditation techniques in their own cultural context, then examine modern research into meditation and its dynamics, relatively modern adaptations of meditation to suit modern lives, and more. By the end of the course, you'll understand not only the science behind meditation, but you'll learn how to do it yourself.
Decision Education Foundation - Decision Skills: Power Tools to Build Your Life - Instructor Chris Spetzler - Decision making is difficult. If it weren't everyone would be leaders, and we'd all have the skills we need to not wrangle over or struggle with minor and major life decisions. This course will help you learn to make better decisions, quantify your needs and desires, make allowances for your personal wants and needs, and build a personal structure to make making difficult decisions easier—or at least, more streamlined. By the end of the class, you'll be ready to take charge of your life, instead of letting life happen to you.
Vanderbilt University - Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights - Professors Jamie Pope - This course in nutrition and health will help you separate fact from fiction, determine what really is and isn't healthy based on the most current science on the topic, and most importantly disabuse you of the myths, marketing pitches, snake oil, and other beliefs that are so prevalent in pop culture around dieting, nutrition, and health. The goal of the course is to help you find your way to better behaviors and informative resources that will help you make intelligent decisions, instead of being tricked by someone selling a fad diet, the latest hot eating trend that promises cures for all of your ills, or worse, someone selling you pseudoscience with the promise that easy results and health will come to you if you just believe them over all others. The course will walk through the fundamentals of a healthy eating plan, the necessity of exercise and activity, dietary supplements, challenges in food labeling and nutrition info, food allergies and intolerances, and much more.
Polytechnic West - Principles of Project Management - Professor Sue Dowson - We talk a lot about productivity here at Lifehacker, and one of the basic careers for someone who has a passion for productivity and organization is project management. This course will walk you through the foundations of project management, including basics like the "golden triangle" of scope, time, and cost, the various "phases" of a project, the life cycle of a project, and the tools that project managers use to get their jobs done.
University of Pennsylvania - Gamification - Professor Kevin Werbach - From achievements in video games and card collecting during Steam sales to badges and points for getting up and walking around the room, the concept of gamification has worked its way into almost every part of our lives. The most effective implementations of those games influence our psychology and our behaviors, encouraging us to improve our behaviors or change our behaviors in order to collect points, items, or do something else that we feel benefits us. But how does gamification work, and why does it work so well? This course will explain all of those things to you.
The University of Nottingham - How to Read...a Mind - Professor Peter Stockwell - Reading minds isn't as difficult as you think. We do it all the time when we watch television or read books, eagerly anticipating the next move of a character and trying to decipher their actions, and in the real world, we do it all the time when we try to figure out what someone is thinking, what they plan to do next, and what their impression is of us. This course will help you understand those processes, explore better ways to predict human behavior patterns, and help you understand why we feel for fictional characters, why we try to relate to others, and more.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health - An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health - Professors Keeve Nachman PhD and Robert S. Lawrence, MD - This course will help you understand where your food comes from (if you live in the United States, that is), separate fact from fiction when it comes to the US food supply, and how all of the distances, people, hands, and machines that handle your food from farm to table play a role in their nutrition, freshness, and your own health and well being. You'll examine case studies and current research that will give you a new appreciation—or new concerns—about the US food system.
The Ohio State University - TechniCity - Professors Jennifer Evans-Cowley and Thomas W. Sanchez - The "TechniCity," as the professors call it, is around us now. We live in highly networked, highly connected, highly interconnected communities in which information can travel within instants from one region to another. This course will explain exactly what the TechniCity is, and why it's really just a short term for how technology has completely changed the way we build cities, form communities, and how the continuing evolution of technology will continue to play a role in how we live together and communicate with each other over long and short distances.
The University of Maryland - Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship - Professor James V. Green - Most people assume that the way a company or a business starts is that someone essentially invents a tool or product that fills a specific need, and the company grows up around it. That's true in some cases, but in many (if not most) cases, a company is formed around an idea—the product or product offering almost comes later. This course will teach you to develop those new ideas that can lead to your first business, and how to look at problems and systems in new ways, come up with methods to optimize them, and then find ways to stake your own claim on the business world to bring those ideas—and subsequently your own company—to life.
Wesleyan University - How to Change the World - Professor Michael S Roth - Some of the world's biggest problems are perceived as intractable and impossible to address, but are they really? This course examines how to use common good and the things that almost all of us have in common to address the biggest challenges we face as a society. Poverty, war, crime, health care, and more are on the agenda, and over the course of the class you'll find new angles and approaches to examine those problems that you may have never initially thought of. This highly interactive course may be challenging sometimes, but over the course of it you'll develop "social goods" that can then be used to tackle some of the biggest issues you can imagine in an intelligent and academic method that, you never know, may actually work.
Extra Credit: How To Find Your Own Online Classes
The curriculum at Lifehacker U is rich and deep, but it may not reflect all of your areas of interests or expertise. If you're looking for more or more varied course material, here are some resources to help you find great, university-level online classes that you can take from the comfort of your desk, at any time of day.
Academic Earth curates an amazing list of video seminars and classes from some of the world's smartest minds, innovators, and leaders on a variety of topics including science, mathematics, politics, public policy, art, history, and more.
TED talks are well known for being thought provoking, interesting, intelligent, and in many cases, inspiring and informative. We've featured TED talks at Lifehacker before, and if you're looking for seminars on the web worth watching, TED is worth perusing.
edX is a collection of free courses from leading Universities like the University of California, Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. There aren't many, but the ones offered are free, open to the public, and they rotate often.
Coursera has a broad selection of courses in-session or beginning shortly that you can take for academic credit (if you're enrolled) or just a certificate of completion that shows you've learned a new skill. Topics range from science and technology to social science and humanities, and they're all free.
Udacity offers a slimmer selection of courses, but the ones offered are not only often for-credit, but they're instructor led and geared towards specific goals, with skilled and talented instructors walking you through everything from building a startup to programming a robotic car.
The Saylor Foundation offers a wide array of courses and entire course programs on topics from economics to political science and professional development. Interested in a crash course in mechanical engineering? The Saylor Foundation can help you with that.
Class Central aggregates some of the best courses available from open universities and programs around the web in an easy to sort and search format. Just search for what you want to learn, and if a course is available and starting soon, you'll find it.
Education-Portal.com has a list of universities offering free and for-credit online classes to students and the public at large.
CreateLIVE features a number of interactive courses in business, photography, and self-improvement, many of which are free and available to listen in on at any time of day.
Open Culture's list of free online courses is broken down by subject matter and includes classes available on YouTube, iTunes U, and direct from the University or School's website.
The Open Courseware Consortium is a collection of colleges and universities that have all agreed to use a similar platform to offer seminars and full classes—complete with notes, memos, examinations, and other documentation free on the web. They also maintain a great list of member schools around the world, so you can visit universities anywhere in the world and take the online classes they make available.
The Khan Academy offers free YouTube-based video classes in math, science, technology, the humanities, and test preparation and study skills. If you're looking to augment your education or just take a couple video classes in your spare time, it's a great place to start and has a lot of interesting topics to offer.
The University of Reddit is a crowd-built set of classes and seminars by Reddit users who have expertise to share. Topics range from computer science and programming to paleontology, narrative poetry, and Latin. Individuals interested in teaching classes regularly post to the University of Reddit subthread to gauge interest in future courses and announce when new modules are available.
The Lifehacker Night School is our own set of tutorials and classes that help you out with deep and intricate subjects like becoming a better photographer,building your own computer, or getting to know your network, among others.
The beautiful thing about taking classes online is that you can pick and choose the classes you want to attend, skip lectures and come back to them later (in some cases—some classes require your regular attendance and participation!), and do examinations and quizzes on your own time. You can load up with as many classes as you choose, or take a light course load and come back to some of the classes you meant to take at another time that's more convenient for you.
With Lifehacker U, you're free to take as many or as few of these classes as you like, and we'll update this course guide every term with a fresh list of courses on new and interesting topics, some of which are only available during that academic term.
If you have online course resources or your university offers classes that are available for free online that you know would be a great fit for Lifehacker U, don't keep them to yourself! Send them in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can include them in the next semester!