Editor’s Pick: Our favorite MOOCs

There used to be a time when students could attend classes at their university or in their vicinity – and that was it. Lately, the geospatial restriction has vanished with the introduction of massive open online courses (MOOC’s). This format of online courses are part of the “open education” idea, offering everyone with an internet connection an opportunity to participate in various courses, presented by more and less known institutions and universities. The concept is more or less similar for all courses: anyone can join, and lectures are available in form of a video and as lecture notes. During the course, whether it is a fixed-date or self-paced (as in you deciding when to complete tasks), you will need to take quizzes, exams, and/or written projects if you wish to complete the course. In less than 10 years, this idea has grown to include millions of users, hundreds of countries and more than a dozen universities around the world, while continuing to grow.

A few years back, most courses were free and offered certificates as a reward for course completion. Nowadays, you can participate in most courses offered, but if you wish to get a certificate, there is a fee. As with every course in universities, professors or assistants are available for your questions and there is a forum for interacting with other people enrolled. In case you aren’t confident you will be able to fully understand a course in english, some of the popular courses come subtitles. If you fall in love with the format and would like to contribute, Coursera offers the possibility of you becoming a translator.

Lifelong learning is the norm nowadays. By taking MOOC, you can gain new skills and knowledge in any area of interest or keep up with the latest trends in your field. In case you are considering a change in your career or are going to start university soon, it is a nice way to sneak a peek into what the topic entails with all the time flexibility you’d like to have and from the comfort of wherever you are.

The following courses are grouped into categories, from general introductions to specific topics that enhance your methodological toolbox. Apart from the courses the JEPS team can personally recommend you, you can find a list of currently available MOOC’s on https://www.mooc-list.com/

Introduction to psychology – University of Toronto
If you are considering studying psychology or are just interested in psychology in general and are looking for a nice and comprehensive introduction, this course is yours. It covers all topics and gives you a good overview of how psychology came to be, what fields it covers, and a student favorite—mental illness. The lectures are easy to follow, cover the main topics any good textbook would cover in a more interactive and interesting way, and include the most famous experiments in psychology.

Writing in the Sciences – Stanford University
A truly excellent course that starts explaining how to improve punctuation, sentences, and paragraphs to communicate ideas as clear as possible. It also offers incredibly helpful models for how to structure your research paper. The course makes extensive use of examples so that you can apply the techniques immediately to your own work. This course will change how you write your thesis!

Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life – University of Chicago
The brain is a complex system and its neurobiology is no exception. This course takes you through all the important parts of the nervous system (beyond the brain itself) involved in our everyday functioning. Each lecture includes a very well explained theory and physiology behind the topic at hand, accompanied by very interesting examples and real-life cases to give you a better understanding. Highly recommended is the lecture on strokes–from their originas, what happens to the brain during one, to consequences to a person’s functioning.

The Brain and Space – Duke University
If you have ever wondered how our brain perceives the space around and interprets the input we get from our senses into the major picture, this course will give you a very detailed image of this complex phenomenon. Even though a general understanding of neuroscience and perception is recommended, the material can be understood with some help of Wikipedia for explanation of any unknown concepts. Everything you wanted to know about vision, spatial orientation, and perception in general is here.

Programming for Everybody (Getting started with Python) – University of Michigan
First part of the five-part course on Python programming, this is a very nice and slow-paced introductory course into the world of programming. As no previous knowledge is required, everything is explained in an easily understandable manner with a lot of examples. The shining star of this course is the professor himself, whose funny remarks make the daunting task of writing code a fun experience. In case of any doubts, there is a big and very active community on the forum ready to help at any moment.

Machine learning – Stanford University
A great introductory course in machine learning. It starts with linear regression and quickly advances into more advanced topics such as model selection, neural networks, support vector machines, large scale machine learning. The course gives both a first overview over the field and teaches you hands-on machine learning skills you can immediately apply to your research!

Calculus single variable (Five-part course) – University of Pennsylvania
Most probably the best calculus course in the world. It only requires high-school math knowledge and from there on builds up a deep knowledge about calculus by using fantastic graphics and many intuitive examples. A challenging course that is worth every minute spent on!

Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions – Higher School of Economics
As neuroeconomy and psychology have been gaining a lot of attention recently, this course gives a comprehensive overview of the foundations for this new hot field and the research. As this course is highly interdisciplinary, expect to learn about neuroanatomy, psychological processes, and principles of economy merging into one theory behind decision-making. From bees, monkeys, game theory, why we dislike losing above all, and group dynamics–this course covers it all.

Statistical Learning – Stanford University
An outstanding statistics course taught by two of the world’s most famous statisticians, Trevor Hastie and Rob Tibshirani. They present tough statistical concepts in an incredibly intuitive manner and provide an R-lab after each topic to make sure that you are able to apply new knowledge immediately. They provide both of their textbooks free download for download, one heavier on the math, the other more applied.

The Addicted Brain – Emory University
Navigating in the modern world includes being exposed to (mis)information about various psychoactive substances. As having the information backed by scientific research is less biased and solid, this should be the place to learn about this topic. The course goes through all major addictive substances: from the more legal ones like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine; medication and illegal substances; along with ways in which they change the brain and affect behavior. Lastly, two lectures cover the risks of addiction along with treatments and recent policy developments.

Drugs and the Brain – CALTECH
Building on the basics of “the Addicted Brain” (I suggest taking that one prior to this one), the course goes more in depth into what happens on a molecular level in the brain the moment a drug is taken. A big part of the course requires learning the principles of psychopharmacology, which I would wholeheartedly recommend for anyone who either wants to be a clinical psychologist or is interested in how drugs for various psychiatric diagnoses work. The course goes beyond the scope of the more basic previously mentioned course by covering neurodegenerative diseases we often hear about but aren’t really sure what they entail, along with serious headaches or migraines.

Let us know if you found this helpful or if you have any tips. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration to take a course yourself while browsing the ones we have mentioned. If you have a suggestion or previous experience with this, feel free to comment below!

Lea Jakob

Lea Jakob

Lea Jakob is currently finishing her psychology Master’s degree at University of Zagreb, Centre for Croatian Studies. Her research interests include clinical psychology within which she is writing her masters thesis on the topic of cognitive impairment in pulmonary patients as well as music perception and cognition. Apart from her passion for research, she has a serious case of wanderlust paired with polyglotism.

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