Back to School – Online Learning

It’s that time of year again – time for the young folks to shuffle on back to school, leaving our parks, movie theaters, museums, and arcades blissfully empty and ripe for some grown-up, daytime hooky action. We’re not saying you should call in a personal day to take in a child-free matinée, but we’re not not saying it either. Choose your own adventure.

purple rose of cairo.gif

However, if all the back-to-school hubbub has you hankering for action of a more educational sort (we don’t judge), we do have a few suggestions.

We’ve put together a little list of online education resources and a few courses from each that caught our eye. Learning can be a lot of fun, and, as it turns out, more socially acceptable than a gang of middle-aged office workers tearing up the arcade on a squishee bender at 10AM on a Tuesday. (Although, that does sound pretty awesome and we should probably do that, too, as soon as possible.)


Anywho, here are a few websites we thought you might like to check out and a few courses (we’re told they’re called Massive Online Open Courses, or”MOOCs”) we may even take ourselves.


EdX is a nonprofit organization founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012 touting “quality education for everyone, everywhere.” The site boasts over 90 schools/partners with over 950 unique courses taught by over 2,300 faculty and teaching staff. Here are a few free, self-paced courses that piqued our interest:

Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You
[Harvard University]
Gain an understanding of history, museum studies, and curation by looking at, organizing, and interpreting art, artifacts, scientific curiosities, and the stuff of everyday life.

Video Game Design History
[Rochester Institute of Technology]
Learn about the evolution of video games from experts at The Strong National Museum of Play, the world’s largest collection of video game materials.

The Science of Everyday Thinking
[The University of Queensland]
Learn how to think better, argue better, and choose better.


Unlike EdX, Coursera is a for-profit, venture-backed outfit. All courses are available for free, but you can pay a variable fee that will provide a certificate of course completion. We’re unclear of the value a certification holds, but a little googling led us to this article: Is getting a verified certificate on Coursera worth it?

That said, we found a number of interesting courses from highly reputable institutions. Here’s where our eyeballs landed:

Dog Emotion and Cognition
[Duke University]
Dog Emotion and Cognition will introduce you to the exciting new study of dog psychology, what the latest discoveries tell us about how dogs think and feel about us, and how we can use this new knowledge to further strengthen our relationship with our best friends.

Imagining Other Earths
[Princeton University]
Are we alone? This course introduces core concepts in astronomy, biology, and planetary science that enable the student to speculate scientifically about this profound question and invent their own solar systems.

Creative Problem Solving
[University of Minnesota]
This course deals directly with your ability for creativity which is a critical skill in any field. It focuses on divergent thinking, the ability to develop multiple ideas and concepts to solve problems. Through a series of creativity building exercises, short lectures, and readings, learners develop both an understanding of creativity and increase their own ability.


MasterClass differs significantly from our previous entries in that all its courses are exclusive to the platform and are taught not by academics, but by “geniuses” in their fields – actors, musicians, athletes, and artists. While its course offering is small, the site is very slick and production values of its video appear exceptionally high. Each course requires a fee that will grant you lifetime access to video lessons, class workbooks, and even “office hours.”

werner herzog happy new years losersWerner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking
When the legendary director Werner Herzog was 19, he stole a camera and made his first movie. 70 films and 50 awards later, Werner is teaching documentary and feature filmmaking. You’ll learn storytelling, cinematography, locations, self-financing, documentary interview techniques, and how to bring your ideas to life. By the end, you’ll make uncompromising films.

Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin wrote his first movie on cocktail napkins. Those napkins turned into A Few Good Men, starring Jack Nicholson. Now, the Academy Award winning writer of The West Wing and The Social Network is teaching screenwriting. You’ll learn his rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell. By the end, you’ll write unforgettable screenplays.

Serena Williams Teaches Tennis
Serena Williams, the world’s #1 ranked women’s tennis player and winner of 21 Grand Slam singles titles, teaches you tennis and reveals the secrets of her game. This is as close as you can get to a private lesson with one of the world’s greatest tennis players.

Let us know if there are any online learning resources you’d recommend, or if you end up trying some out. We read somewhere that less than 15% of online students will complete a course. So, it would be interesting to see how folks have fared.

Of course, if you’d just like to have a little fun at work, be sure to check out our Weekly Challenges and Arts & Crafts projects. Playing along could win you a prize!