Even for those with full-time careers, summer seems to beckon to people to break out of their usual routine, to do something unusual. Some opt for weekend getaways. Others for a good book by the pool. For the curious and those looking to increase their marketability, however, online courses provide a welcome adventure for the mind.

This summer, free online courses (sometimes referred to as MOOCs) make it easy to sample a fun topic without paying tuition or the risk of ruining your GPA. Thanks to a variety of providers and dozens of universities and colleges, free online courses are available in every category you can think of. Most of them require students to enroll by a certain time and feature video lectures and assignments, just a traditional course. But these courses you can attend from your computer and from anywhere an internet connection is available.

To give you a sampling of the free courses that are available this summer, we’ve put together this list of ten courses. So dust off your calendar and don’t hesitate. Our first recommendation starts today…

“Introduction to Public Speaking”

University of Washington
Starts: June 24, 2013
Workload: 3-5 hours/week

free online course public speaking

Do you hate speaking in public? What if you could emerge from your summer with a newfound ability to stand up in front of your peers and deliver an engaging message? What if you could supercharge your career by polishing up your public speaking skills? This free online course, taught by Dr. Matt McGarrity, acquaints you with the fundamentals of great public speaking and lets you practice and improve your speechifying skills through interactive practice sessions. (And yes, you better get on the ball if you want this one because that start date is today.)

“Competitive Strategy”

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen
Starts: July 1, 2013
Workload: 4-6 hours/week

free online course competitive strategy
Learn the strategies that allow the world’s top companies to survive and thrive amidst unrelenting competition. That’s the big draw of this course, provided by Tobias Kretschmer, but these same principles can be used by any business person at any level. According to the course description:

Using the basic tools of game theory, we will analyze how firms choose strategies to attain competitive advantage.

We don’t know exactly what it means, but “game theory” sounds so darn smart that we’re definitely along for the ride.

“Maps and the Geospatial Revolution”

Pennsylvania State University
Starts: July 17, 2013
Workload: 6-9 hours/week

free online course maps
Move over Google Maps! This is a whole course about maps and using high-tech tools to make your own maps. What better course to go along with your Southeast Asian or European tour this summer?


Berklee School of Music
Starts: July 19, 2013
Workload: 6-8 hours/week

free online course songwriting
Do you have an inner songwriter who’s just dying to be heard but just needs a little direction? Why not spend this summer letting him or her (you’re free to assign whatever gender you want to your inner songwriter) finally blossom? This free online course, taught by Pat Pattison, shows students how to match lyrics to music to convey their desired message. So you’re next step is to enroll in this course. Your second step: call you agent and tell him to expect a steady stream of chart-toppers in the next few months.

“Virology I: How Viruses Work”

Columbia University
Starts: August 1, 2013
Workload: 3-4 hours/week

free online course virology
Germaphobes, beware! In this free online course, Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D. acquaints you with “the common reactions that must be completed by all viruses for successful reproduction within a host cell.” Warning: you will spend at least an hour scrubbing your hands with disinfectant after every lecture.

“The Global Business of Sports”

University of Pennsylvania
Starts: August 6, 2013
Workload: 4-6 hours/week

free online course sports business
Hey, sports fans, now that the NBA Finals are over and the summer sports slump has started, why not learn the in’s and out’s of the mega-industry that has dominated your life over the last several months? This course promises to give you the tools to “understand and evaluate the business side of competitive sports around the world.”

“Climate Change”

University of Melbourne
Starts: August 12, 2013
Workload: 6-8 hours/week

free online course climate change
The unbearably hot dog days of summer are the perfect time to learn about the curious phenomenon of global climate change from the viewpoint of multiple disciplines. Why is it happening? What can we do to stop it? How will it affect our world socially, politically, economically, and scientifically? This is pretty heady, complex stuff… and probably waay more realistic than that Day After Tomorrow movie.

“Social Psychology”

Wesleyan University
Starts: August 12, 2013
Workload: 4.8 hours/week

free online course social psychology
You’ve probably wondered why your Aunt Pearl always makes up stories about you and your brother at family reunions or why perfectly decent people refuse to give up their seats on the subway to the stressed out single mom next to them. Taught by Scott Plous, this course delves into the reasons why people make the choices they make, especially in social situations. Understanding why people are so strange is the first step toward, well, being able to laugh pompously at them.

“Think Again: How to Reason and Argue”

Duke University
Starts: August 26, 2013
Workload: 5-6 hours/week

Nothing finishes off your glorious summer of learning like figuring out how to look at others’ arguments critically and then construct your own unbeatable arguments. Of course, the goal of this course is to help you learn how to reason your way through arguments with others logically and constructively. This sounds much better than the popular method of yelling louder than the other person.

“Survey of Music Technology”

Georgia Institute of Technology
Starts: August 26, 2013
Workload: 5-7 hours/week

Nothing finishes off the summer like a good jam. This course will teach you all about the tools that make up a digital audio workstation, as well as the theory and history that have brought music production to where it is today. Dr. Jason A. Freeman will even teach you how to write your own computer programs to support your blooming musical vision and become the next P. Diddy.

Ready to start online courses of your own and maybe even an online degree program? Click here to get started today.


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