9 best online science courses to expand your mind
Millions of people now use virtual courses to get a taster of what it’s like to learn from experts. Here’s our pick of some of the best STEM offerings out there.
Boost your scientific know-how with our selection of the best science courses you can join online. Whether you want to get up to speed on the nature of time, learn how to simulate a self-driving car, or dive into the chemistry of modern medicines, there is a range of online science courses available. Hosted by top experts, you can expand your knowledge without setting a single foot on campus.
Best online science courses
Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity
Here you’ll learn what inspired Einstein and get expert insight into his theories. Led by Stanford science historian Larry Lagerstrom, it addresses problems such as whether time can run more slowly for one person than another. Over 100,000 students have enrolled to tackle the 81 hours of course content.
Learn for free or get a certificate for £34.
Conservation with Jane Goodall / Space Exploration with Chris Hadfield
MasterClass works differently to other online classes in that it’s subscription-based. For £170 a year, you get access to all its eclectic range of courses.
Some of the experts are top-level – renowned chimp expert Jane Goodall teaches conservation, while the space class is led by ex-International Space Station commander, Chris Hadfield.
- Buy the Conservation with Jane Goodall course now from MasterClass
- Buy the Space Exploration with Chris Hadfield course now from MasterClass
The Science of Medicines
In this course designed by pharmacists, lecturer Ian Larson takes a dive into the science of common medicines such as those used to treat heart disease, depression, diabetes and pain, covering everything from their chemistry to side effects and addiction.
Access to the 18 hours of course content is free for eight weeks or you can get lifetime access and a digital certificate for £52.
University of California San Diego
With this two-part course from the University of California San Diego, you play the role of a bioinformatician investigating the outbreak of COVID-19, first piecing together the coronavirus genome and then using it to design a test for the virus. Along the way, experts will help you understand core concepts in genome sequencing and diagnostics.
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Each part contains six hours of material for free, or £35 with a certificate.
- Buy the COVID-19 genome assembly course now from Coursera
- Buy the COVID-19 genome annotation course now from Coursera
Climate Change: Solutions
University of Exeter
This popular FutureLearn class covers sustainable energy and agriculture, carbon sinks and geo-engineering. It’s led by scientists including Tim Lenton, the University of Exeter’s Chair in Climate Change/Earth System Science.
You get 12 hours of study for free, or for £42 if you want the certificate.
AI for Everyone: Master the Basics
edX / IBM
This primer covers machine learning, deep learning and neural networks, as well as addressing AI ethics and impacts on society. It takes about four weeks to complete at a rate of one to two hours per week.
Enrol for free, or pay £72 to take graded assignments and exams and get a shareable certificate at the end. More than 87,000 students have already registered.
The Complete Self-Driving Car Course
In this £50 Udemy course, you’ll simulate a fully functional self-driving car and train it to recognise 43 different road signs. You don’t need to know a programming language, as you’ll get a crash course in Python as part of the deal.
The lectures are bite-sized at just a few minutes each, but there are 171 of them, totalling 18 hours of learning. Over 18,000 students have taken this class with Canadian software developer Rayan Slim.
Understanding the Body
University of Aberdeen
Earn credits towards higher level qualifications with this 11-week biology programme taught by lecturers from the University of Aberdeen. It features courses on DNA, organs and tissues, and bodily systems, as well as an optional assessment to gain 10 credits towards a Scottish Vocational Qualification.
It’s £156 for the course, plus £344 for the assessment.
Fibonacci Numbers and the Golden Ratio
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
You can polish off this tempting 10-hour maths course all in one go. Focusing on the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 etc), it explains why the numbers are related to the so-called ‘golden ratio’ and how this ratio pops up in in nature, such as the arrangements of leaves on certain plants and the pattern of seeds in a sunflower head.
This course comes with 10 quizzes and costs nothing to enrol.