7 Unusual Ivy League Courses You Can Take for Free Right Now

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Benjamin Franklin once said that ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest’, but if he was talking about a financial investment, then that’s not strictly true.

If Franklin were alive today, he’d be amazed by the internet. The sheer wealth of information at our fingertips is impossible to comprehend, and the growth in online material over the past decade has been extraordinary.

One of the most impressive developments in this time has been the abundance of free education courses – but not just any type of course, courses supplied by Ivy League universities, no less.

That’s right, some of the finest universities in the world are now giving their knowledge away for free, and here are seven interesting ways you can take advantage.


1. The Computer Technology Inside Your Smartphone – Cornell University

Computer Technology Inside Your Smartphone

Ever wondered what’s exactly behind that black screen that we use to organize our lives? Well, the simple answer is a powerful computer processor, but it’s much more complex than that.

Cornell University’s 10-week course takes you through the key elements of smartphone tech, from application software to advanced performance techniques.

If this feels a little complex, lecturer Dave Albonesi has received rave reviews for his calm, considered teaching style. The course is also self-paced, so no pressure.


2. Indian & Tibetan River of Buddhism – Columbia University

Indian & Tibetan River of Buddhism

Columbia University was recently ranked as the second-most expensive institution in the United States by CBS, with average course fees of $79,752 per year and an extremely low acceptance rate of 3.9%.

One Columbia course that doesn’t require you to win guess the right right lottery numbers to study, however, is the Indian & Tibetan River of Buddhism. By river, it doesn’t mean a body of river, but rather the ‘flow’ of the religion from the Indian subcontinent to its presence across the world today.

Like many online courses, it’s self-paced so you don’t have to rush through the abundant material available, plus you can pay $49 for a certificate once you successfully complete it, if you wish.


3. Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin Technologies – Princeton University

Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin Technologies

Whether you like cryptocurrency or not, many experts are predicting that the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum are shaping the future of currency.

Arvind Narayanan’s 11-week in-depth look at the technology that powers crypto looks at several key questions: How does it work? How secure is it? Can crypto be regulated?

Not only that, but you’ll learn the basics needed towards creating the software that works with the Bitcoin network, so you’ll have the ability to integrate the technology into your personal projects.

Like crypto, this course is truly international, being available in eight languages – an impressive feat for the translators seeing as there’s 23 hours of coursework involved.


4. The Path to Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches us about the Good Life – Harvard University

Path to Happiness

Harvard is the oldest university in the USA, dating back to 1636, but that journey back in time is a short step compared to the origins of Chinese Philosophy.

This course examines how the teachings of Confucious and Lao Tzu over two thousand years ago can be translated into today’s world and help us to improve our personal happiness.

Lectures, animations and even reflection diaries help students look at the main tenets of the ancient Far Eastern teachings, and it’s all packaged expertly by award-winning professor Michael Puett.


5. Leading the Life You Want – University of Pennsylvania

Leading the Life University of Pennsylvania

Not many courses hold Bruce Springsteen up as one of its role models, but maybe more should.

Stewart D. Friedman, best-selling author and respected Wharton professor, shows us the life skills we need to control our own life narrative. Students learn how to find a sense of purpose and combat stress, as well as hone their leadership in a host of real-life situations.

While you might not made it as an international rock star by the end of course, you will have acquired tools to grow as a leader in several areas of your life – something that might prove invaluable.


6. Sharks! – Cornell University

Sharks Cornell University

Isn’t the title enough? You’re gonna learn about sharks! But this does a disservice to this informative Cornell course into shark biology.

In four weeks packed with activities, you’ll learn how scientists observe sharks in their natural habitat, how they have evolved to their present form, and how to categorize them according to different traits. That’s not to mention interesting snippets such as how shark scales have influenced boats, planes and swimsuits.

In a broader sense, the course teaches beginners how to think like an animal biologist, which opens up a world of potential new opportunities for animal lovers.


7. How to Apply to College – University of Pennsylvania

Apply to College University of Pennsylvania

Higher education teaches us just about everything we can possibly think of, but one area has been traditionally overlooked: how to actually get into college in the first place.

The best people possible give the course: the Dean of Admissions at the UoP and the president of a student organization, both of whom are experts at the application process as they’ve helped thousands of students get into college in the past.

The course’s material is impressive and a result of a collaboration with nearly 700 colleges. Students learn how to deal with each stage of the application pr0cess, right up to the first few days of college as they adapt to their new surroundings.

So, take a course to get onto a course! It’s completely free, so why not?

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