I prefer courses over books. While the best books definitely outperform courses, there are several reasons why a great course will make a deeper impression. Beginners in courses tend to teach the basics, while most book authors try to be original. But much of what is worth knowing is actually quite old. In this post, we’ll share with you the best free courses from Harvard, Stanford, MIT and more.
Courses tend to be balanced. The teaching professor will try to explain most of the main points of view on the subject. In addition, a popular book written by a professor may turn out to be completely one-sided, since [в книге] the professor tries to give the most convincing arguments in favor of his own point of view.
On top of that, I just love watching the courses. Reading is good, but it’s also good to watch and listen. If you read, listen, and watch, you will probably learn more than dwelling on text alone.
Here’s my pick of the best free video courses.
1. Justice – Mitchell Sandel, Harvard
Honestly, this course is only worth taking to see one of the best teachers of all time. Sandel teaches moral philosophy, a topic that has a reputation for not being the most exciting. Nevertheless, the lectures are fascinating: students discuss the concepts of philosophy, illustrated by real examples.
What impresses me most is Sandel’s ability to teach hidden moments only accessible to initiates through dialogue with students in the manner of Socrates: philosophical principles are illustrated by students’ reactions.
There is a reason why these classes are among the most popular among Harvard freshmen. And now you don’t need to attend Harvard to take this course.
2. Physics – Walter Levin, MIT
I watched lectures on physics from Walter Levin (both classical and physics of electromagnetism) during MIT Challenge… These classes are some of the best I have ever attended over the internet. In exciting experiments, Levin manages to explain the deep concepts of the structure of the world. And also he draws dotted lines beautifully…
Unfortunately, there was a small scandal on the open MIT platform that removed the Levin-related material, and now these lectures are harder to find online; but nothing can be removed from the net, and I think if you want to study physics it’s a good idea to watch these lectures.
3. How do you learn to learn? Terrence Seinovsky and Barbara Oakley, University of California, San Diego
This is the most popular course on Courserawhich is also taught by my friend Barbara Oakley. It’s fun and easy to understand: neuroscience and psychology are applied to illustrate the principles of effective learning.
I must admit that when this course came out I was a little nervous: my income depends a lot on my own paid course… Since then, I’ve realized that the approach to learning itself is a fairly broad subject; there will always be something to teach and something to learn. Regardless, I recommend this course!
4. Machine Learning – Andrew Ng, Stanford
This course began an explosion in the popularity of massive open online courses in general, when Eun left teaching at Stanford to start Coursera.
It went through several iterations: first it was lectures recorded in the Stanford class, later – a simplified massive online course, and today it is a complete platform for learning machine learning…
I prefer YouTube, so I watched videos of actual classes at Stanford. With the version on Coursera, it’s unclear if it’s free or if you need to pay a little. However, you may prefer version of the massive online coursebecause it’s newer.
5. Quantum Mechanics – Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman is my all-time intellectual hero. He did a brilliant job of explaining quantum mechanics without resorting to mathematics. I would have decided that this is impossible, but somehow Feynman succeeds – and in a figurative sense barefoot, no less!
Although Allan Adams’ classes from MIT Quantum Physics I liked them, they set unreasonably high requirements for knowledge in mathematics. The number of people with a sufficient level of knowledge in both mathematics and physics, but for some reason have not studied quantum mechanics in their bachelor’s degree, is fairly small, so I do not take them into account. However, the first lecture is free of mathematics and is done beautifully, so I recommend it even if you don’t know mathematics.
6. Medical Neuroscience – Leonard White, Duke University
This course in neuroscience – the best I’ve seen. White describes in detail how the brain works. He even shows the real human brain tissue on camera, accompanying the lecture with many diagrams and slides.
The course is difficult, especially if you want to pass the exams. I even made flash cards for him [для запоминания]while studying anatomy. But if you just want to listen to the classes, I think you will learn a lot about how the brain works.
7. Organic Chemistry – Michael McBride, Yale
I took this course recently: Looking at my efforts in the study of biology, it was suggested by one of my readers.
I found him very exciting, especially his first semester. Although courses in organic chemistry are often intimidated by the complexity and the need to memorize, McBride manages to convey fundamental ideas through the prism of scientific discovery.
Much of the time is spent showing how people, from Lavoisier to Wöhler and Kekulé, discovered certain ideas. In science, I like classes that show how we figured out something, rather than being encouraged to accept the discovery as true just because the teacher told you so.
8. Immunology – Alma Novotny, Rice University
It withA series of courses on the immune system, which consists of four parts, by the way, I started taking this course shortly before the start of the pandemic.
The immune system is much more interesting than I thought before taking this course. For example, here are the questions: How does your body build cells that recognize and eliminate entirely new pathogens without damaging any of your tissues? How can you protect yourself from viruses that are capturing cells in your body, or bacteria that quickly replicate and develop around your defenses? Why do we suffer from autoimmune diseases and allergies?
The course lays the foundation for knowledge on these topics. Nice illustrations of different immune cells are another plus: lovers of visual communication of ideas will appreciate them.
9. Crash Course in World History – John Green
Beautifully animated, with a robust script, this course is designed specifically for the YouTube audience. When he came out, watching the review of many different historical events, I got a real pleasure. This course now consists of many embedded courses on various topicsso if you prefer style over whiteboard, chalk, or PowerPoint, then this is a great resource.
10. Microeconomics – Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabbarok, Marginal Revolution University
Economics is probably the topic that I work with every day. If you are passionate about exploring the thinking patterns with which you can look at reality, then economics is a good place to start.
Cowen and Tabbarok run a popular economic blog Marginal revolution and teach at George Mason University. Their foray into online education has created stellar video courses; the courses are good enough micro- and macroeconomics: the authors manage to convey complex ideas without being overly abstract.
Having written this list, I realized how many good courses I had taken were not included in it.
Here’s a quick follow-up list
Nonlinear dynamics and chaos Steven Strogatz on the mathematics behind the butterfly effect and why reality can be unpredictable in nature.
Systems biology Uri Alona is the fascinating machinery of human cells, from gene regulation to the causes of type II diabetes.
Programming paradigms Jerry Kane, one of my first online courses, was part of the incentive to take the MIT Challenge.
Introduction to biology Eric Lander’s great biology lectures, especially the ones Lander teaches. The only annoying thing is that the course is stitched together from several segments, and not finished lectures. Nonetheless, the genetics sections are really well done.
Poker theory and analytics by Kevin Desmond – hilarious about the math behind poker betting. I took it when I was working on a project – poker programming.
Being and time by Hubert Dreyfus – Dreyfus offers many audio courses on continental philosophy and his Heidegger is the best.
A common problem with all freely available courses, even super awesome ones, is that they don’t have any factors that prevent us from simply stopping learning. This problem is especially acute in the warm season, when the weather outside is conducive to a walk, and not to sitting at home for lectures. For example, on our course Data Science, coordinators work with this problem, who support students, helping to complete the course to the final and fulfill their goal of mastering a new and changing field of activity. Come, we will help you too.
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