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The UnCollege Blog

The Best MOOCs for Your Summer

Thinking of summer typically evokes feelings of relaxation and fun, but for me the past few years it has conjured up fears of unpreparedness, laziness, and falling behind my peers. To combat these inadequacies and make the most of my three months of free time, I began to take MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses. MOOCs are easily accessible (and often free!) classes on the internet covering an incredible variety of materials offered by individuals, organizations, or top universities. Usually lecture and reading based, these classes can be taken from anywhere, anytime. I took the following variety of courses, and what follows below is a summary and recap of my experience with them. To beat the dog days of summer and broaden your educational horizons, put the following MOOC samples on your to-do list.

PSYCHOLOGY 110 (Open Yale Courses)

This course provides an overview of introductory psychology, the study of thought and behavior. It is part of the Open Yale courses that are offered to the public for free, and is a great lecture-based series taught by Paul Bloom that explores many common topics like history of the field, childhood development, the subconscious, gender differences, and brain injury.

How I did it: I listened to the lectures on YouTube on 1.5x speed (you can adjust speed on the bottom right bar of videos) while doing chores like laundry or cooking, and Wikipedia’d the concepts I was cloudy on. This is compelling subject matter that everyone gets vague academic exposure to throughout life, and it has clarified a lot for me and is easy to get immersed in!

LEARN PYTHON (Codeacademy)

For those of you nervous about the importance of knowing how to code in the future, this course is a stellar introduction to Python, a common, easy language that popular platforms like YouTube use. Activity-based and geared towards complete beginners, anyone can take it and understand syntax and strings, loops and lists, and conditionals and control flow. If that sounds like gibberish to you, have heart and try the first lesson.

How I did it: This course consists of a tiny bit of reading and instructions, but has no memorization and is geared towards real-life problem solving, like automating restaurant tips and building a battleship game. At around thirteen hours of material, you hypothetically could get this done in 2 weeks by doing one lesson a day, but it took me more like a month. Then if you’re intrigued you can go on to check out other coding languages or continue deeper into Python.

DIFFERENTIAL CALCULUS (Khan Academy)

This is scary stuff, but Sal Khan’s pleasing voice, slow pace, and understandable illustrations in the videos make this tough topic tolerable. This course goes through limits and taking derivatives, and continues on with real-world applications. There are instructional videos and then problems to test your retention, as well as forums for discussion available.

How I did it: I used it as a refresher from the class I doodled through in high school, and it was a little excruciating but it felt good to get through it and continue on to the Khan course in integrals. (https://www.khanacademy.org/math/integral-calculus) With these courses, you really have to pay attention to what’s happening on-screen, but listening to music in the background makes it more tolerable and it feels fantastic when you actually grasp these concepts and can put them to use in the practice problems.

CONCEPTS OF BIOLOGY (OpenStax)

This online free book covers all the information of an introductory biology course and is available to everyone online to “promote scientific literacy.” It is reminiscent of a high school textbook, but far more interesting and interesting in its writing style. Cells, genetics, reproduction, and evolution are all brought to light in a highly organized, sensical style. To do alongside the book are multiple choice and free response questions.

How I did it: I studied a chapter at night and had a Google Doc with all the vocabulary and some brief notes. Because biology is my favorite subject, it was enjoyable, easy stuff to end a day with and get some last minute productivity in.

Did you like this post? Check out: Hack Your Summer Reading

Hackademic reading list

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