This article is part of the Vacation Guide, which can be found here.
Since childhood, two words have stood for that carefree bit of time that can be whiled away and enjoyed to the maximum: summer vacation. However, it is also the time where one can actually learn what he or she is truly passionate about. This is the Wild West: no more core courses. You could take a (seemingly) unrelated course without sacrificing your engineer/doctor/lawyer (or anything else in the planet) tag. And all this without endangering your pocket money! It seems too good to be true, but yes, these are all the lucrative facilities offered by myriad online courses today.
Fascinated by the depths of the universe since childhood? Machine learning and big data analysis, maybe? Some applications of game theory or chaos theory, perhaps? And of course, what about compositions by artists ranging from Beethoven to the Beatles? Learn about all these and more through the thousands of courses offered online by many prestigious institutes across the world, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the National University of Singapore, and from The University of Edinburgh to the IITs and IISc. These institutes offer courses both on their own websites, and on other public platforms.
Some of the platforms which host courses (mostly free, with paid add-on certificates) offered by multiple colleges include:
- MIT OpenCourseWare
- Open Yale Courses
- Stanford Online
- NPTEL (Some IITs and IISc)
- Khan Academy
- Harvard Online Learning
- UC Berkeley Online Summer Courses
Many of the courses offered by the above websites are at the top of the sought-after list by students today. Here are a few interdisciplinary (and mostly introductory) courses which you would be able to take during what’s left of this summer as well as the winter vacations:
- Introduction to Computer Science and Programming using Python: One of the most highly rated courses offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on edX, it is designed to help people who are new to computer science and programming, using Python, one of the leading programming languages today.
Commences on: 10th June 2015
Duration: 9 weeks, 15 hours per week
- Introduction to Public Speaking: This course, offered by the University of Washington on both edX and Coursera, is to help you become an effective and confident public speaker, and enhance your oratory skills as well as verbal improvisation.
Commenced on: 7th April 2015, self-paced
Recommended Duration: 10 weeks, 3-5 hours per week
- User Innovation: A Path to Entrepreneurship: A self-paced course offered by MIT on edX, this pertains to how users can identify problems, innovate and use their ideas and solutions to form startups. A few examples of these include Dropbox, GoPro and Airbnb (As mentioned on the course page). And of course, the famous Virus Inverter from 3 Idiots!
Commenced on: 1st June 2015, self-paced
Recommended Duration: 6 weeks, 2 hours/week
- Machine Learning: A popular self-paced course on Coursera offered by the Stanford University, it deals with one of the trending topics in the field of Computer Science today, Machine Learning. This is the science of getting computers to perform tasks without explicitly being programmed. In other words, this is the technology which drives self-driven cars and powers the speech recognition algorithms in Siri!
Commencement and Duration: Always open, self-paced
- Understanding Political Developments in India: Our country is of immense diversity but we have still managed to stay united through all our highs and lows. This course, offered by UC Berkeley under their summer online courses, deals with explaining the systematic chaos in India’s political sphere, which has, rather counterintuitively, helped us progress in all fields, along with keeping our democratic ideologies intact. (PS: Registrations end on June 14th 2015)
Duration: 8 weeks
- Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe: Ever wondered about the Big Bang? About the existence of ETs out there? About what happens when a black hole is formed? Here is a 5/5 rated course on precisely the aforementioned topics, offered by the Australian National University on edX for all astronomy enthusiasts! No prerequisite subjects are needed to attend this course.
Commences on: 23rd June 2015
Duration: 9 weeks, 3 hours/week
- Game Theory in Social Sciences: Offered by UC Berkeley under their summer online courses, the course deals with using elements of high school mathematical analyses in the form of game theory to study the outcomes of political and governmental issues. Basically, you could predict the next World War and which government will win the next Lok Sabha elections! (PS: Registrations end on June 14th 2015)
Duration: 8 weeks
- Model Thinking: Every scenario, however complex, ranging from political uprisings to stock market crashes, and from finding your optimum pizza meal to calculating the best possible way to reach a class in time, can be converted to models which can be thoroughly analysed. A course offered by the University of Michigan on Coursera, Model Thinking is all about logically approaching situations and analysing mathematically, which will prove to be very useful in all fields. Basic algebra is a prerequisite for this course.
Commenced on: 1st June 2015, Registrations still open.
Duration: 10 weeks, 4-8 hours/week
- Anthropology of Current World Issues: A popular introductory course offered by the University of Queensland on edX, it deals with viewing the world with an anthropological perspective and using this for several practical applications, from our own origins to the things we do and have created.
Commenced on: 11th May 2015, Enrollments still open
Duration: 8 weeks, 2 hours/week
- Math in Sports: In this unique course offered by the University of Notre Dame on edX, you will learn how to use basic mathematical tools to make educated decisions about strategies and execution in sports. In short, you’ll be able to use calculus for insight into the biomechanics of sports along with being able to pick the best possible Fantasy Football/IPL Fantasy League team and also become the next Paul the Octopus! Basic knowledge of high school algebra and some exposure to probability, statistics and geometry is required to take up this course.
Commences on: 15th June 2015
Duration: 8 weeks, 4-6 hours/week
- Scientific Humanities: What were the changes to the average 18th century citizen’s life and surroundings due to the Industrial Revolution? How has social networking changed the face of global communication? Offered by Sciences Po on Coursera, this course answers the above questions and helps one understand the political, moral and social causes and effects due to developments in the field of science and technology, and about how to deal with technological changes and identify the fine line between science and politics. It does not require prior degrees in science and technology or humanities.
Commences on: 15th June 2015
Duration: 6 weeks, 2-3 hours/week
If you want a common platform to link most of these websites, a group of IIT, Wharton, UCLA and NYU alumni have a solution for you in the form of SlideRule, which is essentially an online course search engine which offers ratings and reviews too. Go ahead and jump right into these courses for a productive vacation this year!