A Different (and Free) Way to Go Back to School

Whether your goal is to fry a better egg, explore the stars or bust myths like a pro, finding the right continuing education alternative has gotten a whole lot easier.

EdX, a nonprofit virtual learning platform, offers 200-plus free online courses from the best minds at Harvard and dozens of top-tier research universities and international organization partners. More than 2 million students worldwide have participated both in certificate and audit-only instruction since Harvard and MIT launched EdX in May 2012.

So an aspiring chef can dive into Harvard’s Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, to find out how cooking can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering. Or an aspiring entrepreneur can delve into Introduction to Computer Science. Or maybe The Science of Happiness offered by the University of California, Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, strikes a chord. And sports fans can jump aboard Sabermetrics 101, which explains the importance of baseball analytics and its history, and even offers a tool allowing students to code their own analysis.

Becky Oleson, a promotional content editor for GlaxoSmithKline, recently audited Think101x: The Science of Everyday Thinking (she was one of 70,000-plus participants).

“Think101 is one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve taken,” the avowed lifelong learner says. “I  love being able to access the courses when it’s convenient for me, which sometimes is at 1 in the morning. The instructors bring world-class ‘thinking experts’ to my laptop, helping me better understand the things that factor in to the decisions, choices and judgments I make daily. It presents learning as the ultimate survival skill—we have access to more information than ever, on every topic imaginable. This class teaches you how to sift through and interpret the information in a scientific way—even if you’re not a scientist.”

With a new school year comes a chance to start over. Check out our grown-up guide for recreating that back-to-school fresh start.

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