Tag Archives: Summer

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Your education doesn’t have to stop once you leave school. We’ve put together a curriculum of some of the best free online classes available on the web this fall for the latest term of Lifehacker U, our regularly-updating guide to improving your life with free, online college-level classes. Let’s get started.

Orientation: What Is Lifehacker U?

Whether you’re headed to college for the first time or you’re back in classes after a relaxing summer vacation, or long out of school and interested in learning something new, now’s the time to turn it on and amp up your skills with some interesting and informative classes and seminars. Anyone with a little time and a passion for self-growth can audit, read, and “enroll” in these courses for their own personal benefit. Schools like Yale University, MIT, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, and many more are all offering free online classes that you can audit and participate in from the comfort of your office chair, couch, or computing chair-of-choice.


If you’ll remember from our Spring 2016 semester, some of these classes are available year-round, but many of them are only available during the a specific term or semester, and because we’re all about helping you improve your life at Lifehacker, we put together a list of courses available this summer that will inspire you, challenge you, open the door to something new, and give you the tools to improve your life. Grab your pen and paper and make sure your battery is charged—class is in session!

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Computer Science and Technology

  • Stanford University – Principles of ComputingThis course is self-paced, geared completely towards beginners, and requires no computer science or technology background to really appreciate. If you’ve ever wanted a super simple, basic primer to computing technology—something you could send to a completely tech-phobic friend (or maybe that’s you!) this is it. You’ll learn basic lingo like CPUs and chips, GPUs and memory, disk and megabytes and gigabytes and so on, but you’ll also learn the nature of computers and code, how digital images work, and you’ll eventually dive into the basics of logic, how the internet itself works (IP addresses, routing tables, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and so on), and the basics of computer security.
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem – Build a Computer from First Principles: From Nand to Tetris – Professors Shimon Schocken and Noam Nisan - By “first principles,” this course means teaching you the basics of elementary logic and how logic gates work, and you’ll use that knowledge to work through six hands-on projects that will have you building a completely functioning computer by the end of the course. You won’t need previous computer engineering or science knowledge to get the most out of this, either. All of the tools and the hardware simulator you need will be supplied with the course. In the process, you’ll learn exactly how computers work on a ground level, in probably the best way possible.
  • Harvey Mudd College – CS For All: Introduction to Computer Science and Python Programming – Professor Zachary Dodds - Python is one of our favorite programming languages for first-time learners, and this course will introduce you to both the language and to computer science in general. The course covers concepts around computer science from both a high and ground level, showing you how circuits work as well as how computers handle information in general. You’ll then learn the basics of Python to see how computers process and handle instructions, sift through data, and how to design algorithms to make computers do your bidding. Of course, no programming knowledge is required in advance.
  • The University of British Columbia- How to Code: Systematic Program Design – Part 1 – Professor Gregor Kiczales - This course is part one in a short series of classes that will walk you through concepts like how to represent information as data that a computer can understand, and the basics of how to structure code and commands in a way that computers can understand, how to properly test a program, and how to simplify and streamline code. The first part of the series focuses on how to make sure your code is as tight and well-structured as possible. If you follow all three parts of the series, you’ll end up at the final project, where you’ll make an interactive game, and learn a ton along the way.
  • Microsoft – Introduction to Windows Server – Professor Cynthia Staley - If you’re going to work in technology as a sysadmin or an analyst, you’ll probably have to work on Microsoft’s Windows Server at some point or another—and even if you don’t, having it in your back pocket is a valuable skill. This course will introduce you to the technology and its capabilities, help you learn the basics of installing and administering a Server 2012 system, and get the fundamentals down you may need for future classes (or an MCSA certification!) on the topic. You’ll learn about server roles and features, learn to install and monitor Windows server, and choose between Server 2012 editions based on you and your needs.
  • The University of Maryland at College Park – Software Security – Professor Michael Hicks – Learn the foundations of software security and common attack vectors like SQL injections, buffer overflows, and session hijacking and sidejacking in this course. The course takes the approach that you’re learning to build a system with security in mind as a practice, so while you’re learning how threats work and how exploits are used against common platforms, you’ll learn how to design systems to protect against them and minimize risk at the same time. At the end of the course, you’ll get a great introduction to penetration testing, which is a great aspect of cybersecurity often saved for expensive certification courses.
  • Cornell University – The Computing Technology Inside Your Smartphone - Professor Dave AlbonesiYou probably have a smartphone in your pocket already, and it’s likely a very powerful computer in its own right. But how much do you know about that tech, aside from that it’s just smaller and lighter than what you may use in your desktop or laptop computer? This course will explain all of that to you, including concepts like how smartphone CPUs work, how mobile computer systems are designed, and common methods to speed up computing for smaller, mobile platforms. It’s still a computer science course, so you’ll design your own small, working computer in the process, and you’ll also learn about logic, instruction sets, and application software along the way.
  • IBM – A Developer’s Guide to the Internet of Things (IoT) – Professors Brian Ines and Yianna Papadakis Kantos – You probably haven’t missed all of the fuss and furor around the “internet of things,” and what it means for the future of technology. This course does actually require you have a little computer science knowledge first, and be familiar with Python and JavaScript, both of which you may know if you’ve been following Lifehacker U for a while. Over the course of the class, you’ll use IBM technologies like Bluemix and Watson to build connected devices, and if you have a Raspberry Pi (again, if you’ve been with us for long you probably own one) you’ll use it to build your own IoT solution. In short, you’ll build your own connected appliance, program it yourself, and get a developer’s perspective on the potential of connected homes and devices.
  • Code School – Learn HTML/CSS - This is actually a course series from Code School on learning to build web sites and manage front ends of web platforms, but we’re focusing here on the first two classes in the series, Front End Foundations and Front End Formations. Both courses will teach you up to date HTML and CSS, how to build basic web sites with those technologies, and how to customize web pages and sites accordingly based on specific needs or design choices. From there though, the sky’s the limit, and you can move on through the course path to more complex technologies, like intermediate CSS and SVG.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Finance and Economics

  • Purdue University – Personal Finance Planning – Professor Sugato Chakravarty - I always like to include a personal finance course in Lifehacker U, mostly because it’s such an under-taught set of skills that can be super useful once you’ve made the decision to start managing your money better. In this course, you’ll learn the basics of managing your money, you’ll learn about the time value of money, how to study and read the stock market and make smart investments, how to use credit judiciously and make smart use of it, how insurance works, and of course, why you should start saving for retirement sooner rather than later.
  • The Open University – Managing My Money – Professor Martin Upton - This popular finance course has made a couple of appearances in Lifehacker U in the past, but it’s still great, and packed with useful information for managing the basics of your money. The class starts with the basics of how to manage your money, making good and smart spending decisions, how to tackle debts and investments, and more. The class is based in the UK and uses a lot of UK-relevant data, but the skills are applicable anywhere in the world.
  • The University of Pennsylvania – Microeconomics: When Markets Fail – Professor Rebecca Stein – Markets are imperfect, and subject to all sorts of errors, whether it’s in the judgement (or perception) of its human operators, or something else. This course in microeconomics explores why markets fail, what makes them fail, whether it’s always human error, and some of the solutions to market failure (like regulation, anti-trust policies, government intervention, and so on) and how they’ve performed in the past.
  • IESE Business School – Finance: Building a Robust Business – Professor Miguel Antón - If your interests in finance extend past personal finance and into business and organizational finance, this course is for you. You’ll learn how to read a balance sheet and understand intuitively what it’s trying to tell you about the health of an organization, even if all the numbers look good. You’ll understand the financial consequences of managerial decisions on the operations and departments of an organization, you’ll understand how assets and liabilities work, and you’ll understand the concept of working capital.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Science and Medicine

  • Université Paris Diderot- Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes – Professor Pierre Binétruy – We all know gravity as that fundamental force that keeps us all on the ground, as it were, and that keeps the Earth moving around the Sun, but this course dives deeper into how gravity works, and how this fundamental force in the universe is important and common whether we’re talking about the Big Bang and how the universe was formed, how black holes are formed, and of course, all this recent fuss about Gravitational Waves. Einstein predicted them 100 years ago, and this course will talk about them in detail—along with the other topics we mentioned.
  • The American Museum of Natural History – Our Earth’s Future – Professors Debra Tillinger, Ph.D. - Our Earth’s Future is a course about climate change, how it’s changing the planet, the multiple lines of evidence for the human-induced climate change we’ve already observed, and what it means for the future of our planet. You’ll hear from climatologists, oceanographers, anthropologists, and other experts, and by the end of the course you’ll be able to understand the key scientific principles at play in climatology, and identify and respond to climate misconceptions.
  • Macquarie University – Big History: Connecting Knowledge – Professors David Christian and David Baker - One of the most interesting things about history is exactly how any single milestone can be considered important on its own, but said milestone is always really a long string of events that build on things that happened before it, take advantage of the circumstances around it, and of course, impact the future beyond it. This course is a journey across almost 14 billion years of history, connecting the dots between events in both natural and human history, and uncovering important links in the origins, nature, and future of humanity.
  • The University of Virginia – How Things Work: An Introduction to Physics – Professor Louis Bloomfield - Physics is the science of the universe around us, and this introductory course in the topic studies the physics of everyday objects around us so you can understand how such a basic series of rules, laws, and mathematics so perfectly describes the way objects fall from heights to the way walls and buildings stand up. If you’ve ever had a passing interest in physics, this is a great starter course for you.
  • Duke University – Music as Biology; What We Like to Hear and Why – Professor Dale Purves - In this course, you’ll study tone combinations that humans consider consonant or dissonant, and why, biologically speaking, we consider them so beautiful or jarring. The course studies concepts of why (and what kinds of) sound has such a huge impact on it, from making us feel tense and troubled to making us feel calm and at ease—and why as a species we tend to prefer only a subset of the billions of scales and tones that are possible.
  • The University of Leeds- Anatomy: Know Your Abdomen – Professor James Pickering - Do you know where your liver is in your torso? What about your kidneys, or where your stomach actually is? This course will help you identify where your organs actually are, their structures, and their positions relative to one another. You’ll study the gastrointestinal tract (and learn that sometimes “stomachaches” are nothing of the sort), and hear from an abdominal surgeon about the work he does with his patients.
  • Lancaster University – Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet – Professor Carly Stevens – The earth beneath our feet is more than just the stuff plants grow in. It’s actually a thriving ecosystem of its own, complete with tons of life and a complex environment that’s necessary for plants to grow, animals to thrive, and virtually every fundamental environmental process. This course will introduce you to that world, why it’s so interesting, and show you how soil resources are finite ones that are constantly under threat.
  • SUNY – The University at Buffalo – ADHD: Everyday Strategies for Elementary Students – Professor Greg Fabiano - Aimed at parents and teachers who have young ones who show signs and symptoms of ADHD, this course examines some evidence-based diagnosis and coping techniques and skills that both you and your child can learn to help manage ADHD, and explain the current state of diagnosis and treatment options for it. By the end of the course, you’ll have the skills required to understand and examine the current medical science on the topic, and come up with strategies to cope at home and make sure you’re getting the best care for your child.
  • The University of Pennsylvania – Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us – Professor Connie B. Scanga, Ph.D. - The basic signals the body has for telling us that it’s working properly—heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration, and pain—this course examines each of them in detail, the anatomy and physiology underlying them and through them you’ll gain a systemic understanding of how the body functions and how to tell if the body is functioning in a normal state. You’ll learn the mechanisms that cause changes in those vital signs, and how to objectively measure them in yourself and others.
  • The University of California, Davis- Autism Spectrum Disorder – Professor Patricia Schetter - Anyone working or interacting with people on the Autism spectrum need a solid understanding of the characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and its implications for behavior, learning, and comprehension in individuals affected by it. This course will introduce you to the topic, give you a fundamental understanding of ASD and how it’s diagnosed, and why prevalence—and awareness—is increasing. The course is evidence and science-backed as well, so you’ll also study up to date literature and studies and treatments around the ASD system of care.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016


  • The University of Michigan – Sampling People, Networks, and Records – Professor James Lepkowski - The hallmark of good statistics and data collection is in good sampling, and yet so many people have a poor understanding of how sampling works, how data is collected, how selective groups are chosen to represent larger populations, and how data is chosen to be exemplary of a larger whole. This course will show you how that process of selection takes place, whether it’s for people and studies, or records and historical data.
  • Weizmann Institute of Science- Maths Puzzles: Cryptarithms, Sybologies, and Secret Codes – Professors Aviezri Fraenkel, Yossi Elran, Sabine Segre, and Michael Elran - If you like puzzles and brain teasers, this course is for you. The class studies three types of major puzzles in mathematics, including cryptaritms—or puzzles where digits have been replaced by letters and you’ll need your math skills to solve them, symbologies—a similar type of puzzle where the numbers are replaced by symbols, and operator puzzles, where the numbers are given but the actual operators and operations are hidden and you’ll have to sort them out. Start from easy, and work your way to hard—with the help of the people who created the puzzles, of course.
  • Stanford University – Introduction to Logic – Professor Michael Genesereth – You would think that things like information and systematic reason would be things that everyone would understand on some level, but they absolutely require training, and this course from Sanford delivers it in spades. The course will show you how to formalize information in logical sentences, how to reason and drive to logical conclusions, and the applications of logical technologies in math, science, engineering, and more.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities

  • Harvard University – The Book: Book Sleuthing: What 19th-Century Books Can Tell us About the Rise of the Reading Public- Professor Leah Price- This course is actually one of a series on the rise of literature and reading in global societies, but this particular class stood out because it addresses a specifically interesting topic—what books can tell us about how the people who lived when they were published. You’ll look over those old books to get clues to the lives of the people who read them, and get a little historical perspective on the shift from print to digital media by studying how quickly people take to mass-produced media.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill- Positive Psychology – Professor Dr. Barbara L Frederickson - We all like to believe in the power of positivity, but positivity has its limits. This course will examine the topic, study positive psychology with the help of a forerunner who studies it, and shares practical applications for your everyday life that you can put to good use on your own.
  • The University of Edinburgh – Introduction to Philosophy – Professors Dr. Dave Ward, Duncan Pritchard, and Michela Massimi - This introduction to philosophy will walk you through major topics, like epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy or mind and science with the philosophers who studied and wrote about each. You’ll ponder the same questions they did, read their writings and thoughts on the topics, and try to reach the same—or at least your own—conclusions.
  • Michigan State University – Journalism, the Future, and You! – Professors Joanne Gerstner, Jeremy Steele, David Poulson, Eric Freedman, Joe Grimm, and Lucinda D. DavenportA lot of people have strong feelingds about journalism who also have no idea what good journalism looks like, or what it means to actually be a journalism. This course is designed to help you get a feel for the job, the types of careers where journalism skills are useful—or necessary—and the future of journalism on an international scale.
  • Boston University – The Art of Poetry – Professors Robert Pinsky, Duy Doan, Laura Marris, Calvin Olsen, Tomas Unger, and Sarah Handley – From the epic poems of ancient history to Shakespeare’s sonnets to modern poetry slams and hip-hop, poetry takes many forms, and this course helps you fully understand the beauty of poetry beyond simply hearing or seeing it performed, and instead learning to hear it in your own mind, interpret it your own way, and examine how each poem makes you feel.
  • The University of Nottingham – Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life Professors Maiken Umbach, Ian Cooke, and Mathew Humphrey - This course examines how words and phrases come to take on their very specific meanings, whether they’re slogans, images, or symbols. The class examines how those messages pick up political connotations, what needs to exist for a message to be considered propraganda, and how we express our own convictions and ideals through propaganda, whether we know it or not.
  • The University of Pennsylvania – Social Norms, Social Change – Professor Cristina Bicchieri - This course discusses social norms, or those spoken or unspoken rules that come to define a community, from which deviation is usually met by the group with punishment. You’ll study what makes norms different from other social constructs, how they’re created, and how harmful ones are sidelined, and how social change takes place to eliminate those old and potentially harmful norms—not to mention how you can play a role in that social change.
  • The Smithsonian Institution – Smithsonian’s Objects That Define America – Professor Dr. Richard Kurin - The Smithsonian Institution has a wealth of artifacts and objects in its catalog that many would consider emblematic of American culture and society. In this course, you’ll study many of them, from the Star Spangled Banner to the Statue of Liberty, the Declaration of Independence to the Greensboro Lunch Counter, the Model T to the Mercury Capsule—all of them are in the Smithsonian, and you’ll get a unique perspective on each one, learning the stories behind them, and why each of them is essential to US History.
  • Harvard University – Islam Through Its Scriptures- Professor Ali Asani - This course aims to build bridges of understanding and help educate people outside of the Islamic faith to what the religion is really about, using the Quran as the foundation of the lessons. You’ll learn about the challenges—seen in just about every religion—involved with interpreting the meanings behind an often-translated, millennium-old series of documents shrouded in history and myth. This course will introduce you to the place of the Quarn in muslim cultures, major themes of the text, the time and place contexts in which it was written, and the skills necessary to interpret it for modern times, along with the approaches muslims today take to engage with it.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016


  • Yale University – A Law Student’s Toolkit – Professor Ian AyresYou don’t have to be a law student to appreciate this course, but if you have an interest in it, or if you are, it certainly helps. This course will help you build the foundations you need to study law, and to succeed in law school. You’ll learn the basic terminology, concepts, and tools that lawyers use every day, and if you plan to put it to use yourself, you’ll get some invaluable knowledge. Otherwise, you’ll just be able to actually understand aspects of the legal system, and not just comment on them like you do.
  • The University of Glasgow – Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime – Professor Donna Yates - When someone steals something extremely valuable, like a painting or sculpture that can be easily identified as stolen, how does it get around? Who buys that kind of thing? This course examines the grey market for antiquities and art, the shady—but often wealthy—buyers involved, and how authorities investigate those crimes and return those stolen antiquities to their rightful cultures, museums, and peoples.
  • The Open University – Forensic Psychology: Witness InvestigationProfessor Graham Pike - This course won’t open for a few weeks, but it’s worth signing up for now if you’re interested. You’ll learn how your own mind works, watch videos of real witnesses and police investigations, and understand the psychology of eyewitness testimony, when it’s reliable and when it’s not, and you’ll even get the opportunity to try your hand at solving a crime using nothing but evidence from witnesses.
  • Harvard University – JuryX: Deliberations for Social Change – Professor Charles Nesson - The jury is a unique and fairly recent invention. The idea that laypeople, or a group of people who are representative of a cross-section of society, can and should have the final say over a legal matter once it’s been presented to them by experts in the field, is unique to modern democracies. In this course, you’ll participate on a faux “jury” yourself, in both live and asynchronous discussions, on very real and important topics, like the decriminalization of marijuana use to the militarization of police—all couched in terms of real deliberations, designed to help you understand how the jury process works, why it works, and when it really doesn’t.
Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Cross-Disciplinary Courses and Seminars

  • The University of Queensland – Question Everything: Scientific Thinking in Real Life – Professors Noel Chan, Scott Jones, Derek McDowall, and Anthony Mewing - Math and science are more than just tools to study the world around us and explain the natural phenomenon we see in the universe—they’re also excellent tools to use in your everyday life, from making smart decisions, learning the difference between logic and opinion, handling misconceptions, and learning the basics of measurement and estimation. This course will explain how you can apply scientific thinking to all aspects of your life.
  • Soundfly – Demo Recording 101 - Fancy yourself a musician? Thinking about cutting your own demo tape, so the world can hear how skilled you are? Whether you’re recording an instrument or just getting your rhymes down on tape, you’ll need to know the basics of recording the best possible representation of your sound for others to hear, and this short course will walk you through it. You’ll learn how to use a DAW, why you need two microphones, and how to get your recording in sharable shape—don’t worry, all the gear isn’t required, and they’ll make suggestions.
  • Soundfly – Getting Started with Chip Music - If you’re a fan of chiptune, or you’ve wanted to get into making it yourself, or maybe you’re just one of those people who loves the nostalgic sounds of video games from the 80s and 90s, this course is for you. You’ll study under a musician who loves and makes chiptune music himself, Chipocrite, and he’ll show you how he makes music, how you can too, and the tools you need to get started.
  • University of California, Irvine – Interfacing with the Raspberry Pi – Professor Ian Harris - It’s no secret that we love the Raspberry Pi around here—but if you’re not familiar with the tiny, portable, affordable computer, all of those pins and sensors can be difficult to understand. This course will introduce you to the Pi, all of its input and output devices and ports, as well as the world of connectable devices like GPS sensors, motors, LCD screens, and so on that you can connect to it and make it do even more. By the end of the course, you’ll definitely have a use in mind for a Pi of your own.
  • University of Leeds – WW1 Heroism: Through Art and Film – Professor Alison Fell - The centenary of World War I is a perfect time to look back at the events leading up to, the madness that was, and the aftermath of The Great War—the war that many thought would end all wars. You’ll explore posters and media of the time calling people to action and calling for support for the various war efforts, and you’ll look back through the lens of history, studying modern depictions of World War I in media and film.
  • Berklee College of Music – Pro Tools Basics – Professor Chrissy Tignor-Fisher - If you’re looking for more of a direct primer to the basics of a DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, than the previously mentioned demo recording class, try this one. Whether you’ve used a computer to create music before or you’re just curious how it would work for you if you decided to, you’ll get the basics of Pro Tools First and Avid Pro Tools through this class, and learn enough to help you decide if it’s right for you and your projects.
  • California Institue of the Arts – History of Graphic Design – Professors Louise Sandhaus and Lorraine Wild - Everyone thinks they know good design when they see it, and even those who actually do and have studied design have a poor understanding of why people find certain types of design are good or bad. This course will help you understand the factors that influence and shape the way we see things, why certain elements are “timeless,” and you’ll have assignments to help you understand the major areas of design (typography, image-making, interactive media, and branding) and how they’ve changed over time.
  • The University of California, San Diego – Social Computing – Professor Scott Klemmer - Technology has given us more ways than ever before to communicate and share ideas, thoughts, or nonsense across vast distances. It’s closed the distances between us, but it’s also presented its own world of challenges, and this course examines how computer technologies have embraced social aspects, and how future technologies will continue to do so.

Extra Credit: How To Find Your Own Online Classes

The curriculum at Lifehacker U is rich and deep, but it may not reflect all of your areas of interests or expertise. If you’re looking for more or more varied course material, here are some resources to help you find great, university-level online classes that you can take from the comfort of your desk, at any time of day.

  • Academic Earth curates an amazing list of video seminars and classes from some of the world’s smartest minds, innovators, and leaders on a variety of topics including science, mathematics, politics, public policy, art, history, and more.
  • TED talks are well known for being thought provoking, interesting, intelligent, and in many cases, inspiring and informative. We’ve featured TED talks at Lifehacker before, and if you’re looking for seminars on the web worth watching, TED is worth perusing.
  • edX is a collection of free courses from leading Universities like the University of California, Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. There aren’t many, but the ones offered are free, open to the public, and they rotate often.
  • Coursera has a broad selection of courses in-session or beginning shortly that you can take for fun or a certificate of completion that shows you’ve learned a new skill. Topics range from science and technology to social science and humanities, and they’re all free.
  • Udacity offers a slimmer selection of courses, but the ones offered are not only often for-credit, but they’re instructor led and geared towards specific goals, with skilled and talented instructors walking you through everything from building a startup to programming a robotic car.
  • Udemy is an online learning marketplace and resource that packs tons of free and paid courses in a wide variety of topics. Some are taught by amateurs and experts in their field, while others are backed by higher education institutions and taught by university professors. You’ll learn everything from how to master Microsoft Excel to how to learn another language here.
  • FutureLearn offers regularly updating classes on topics like computer science and technology, history and humanities, political science, and culture from leading universities like the University of Birmingham, the University of Groningen, the University of Cape Town, and others.
  • Sliderule maintains a massive course database that’s easy to browse and search from many of the other institutions listed here. They also offer their own skill paths and collections of courses designed to help you learn specific things and achieve your own learning goals, as well as their own hosted, mentor-led courses.
  • The Saylor Foundation offers a wide array of courses and entire course programs on topics from economics to political science and professional development. Interested in a crash course in mechanical engineering? The Saylor Foundation can help you with that.
  • Class Central aggregates some of the best courses available from open universities and programs around the web in an easy to sort and search format. Just search for what you want to learn, and if a course is available and starting soon, you’ll find it.
  • Education-Portal.com has a list of universities offering free and for-credit online classes to students and the public at large.
  • CreativeLIVE features a number of interactive courses in business, photography, and self-improvement, many of which are free and available to listen in on at any time of day.
  • Open Culture’s list of free online courses is broken down by subject matter and includes classes available on YouTube, iTunes U, and direct from the University or School’s website.
  • The Open Courseware Consortium is a collection of colleges and universities that have all agreed to use a similar platform to offer seminars and full classes—complete with notes, memos, examinations, and other documentation free on the web. They also maintain a great list of member schools around the world, so you can visit universities anywhere in the world and take the online classes they make available.
  • The Khan Academy offers free YouTube-based video classes in math, science, technology, the humanities, and test preparation and study skills. If you’re looking to augment your education or just take a couple video classes in your spare time, it’s a great place to start and has a lot of interesting topics to offer.
  • The University of Reddit is a crowd-built set of classes and seminars by Reddit users who have expertise to share. Topics range from computer science and programming to paleontology, narrative poetry, and Latin. Individuals interested in teaching classes regularly post to the University of Reddit subthread to gauge interest in future courses and announce when new modules are available.
  • The Lifehacker Night School is our own set of tutorials and classes that help you out with deep and intricate subjects like becoming a better photographer, building your own computer, or getting to know your network, among others.

The beautiful thing about taking classes online is that you can pick and choose the classes you want to attend, skip lectures and come back to them later (in some cases – some classes require your regular attendance and participation!), and do examinations and quizzes on your own time. You can load up with as many classes as you choose, or take a light course load and come back to some of the classes you meant to take at another time that’s more convenient for you.

With Lifehacker U, you’re free to take as many or as few of these classes as you like, and we’ll update this course guide every term with a fresh list of courses on new and interesting topics, some of which are only available during that academic term.

If you have online course resources or your university offers classes that are available for free online that you know would be a great fit for Lifehacker U, don’t keep them to yourself! Send them in to us at tips+lifehackeru@lifehacker.com so we can include them in the next semester!

Title photo remixed from an original by aslysun (Shutterstock).

Charcoal Grill Anything With This Visual Guide

When it comes to grilling over charcoal, timing is everything, and it can be difficult to know exactly when to start cooking that juicy steak or ear of corn. To help solve this dilemma, the good people at Bon Appetit mapped out a grilling timeline, and put it on a handy printable graphic.

This wheel of charcoal wisdom walks your through the entire life cycle of your briquettes—from lighting to re-lighting—and provides guidelines for exactly which foods should be thrown on the grill when. Click the link below to read about how to ignite and arrange your charcoal, and then print out the graphic below to use as a quick reference all summer long.

An Illustrated Guide to Charcoal Grilling | Bon Appetit

Illustration by Hisashi Okawa.

Charcoal Grill Anything With This Visual Guide

Make an Effective DIY Mosquito Repellent With Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

If you don’t want to use DEET to keep the mosquitoes away, lemon eucalyptus-based repellents actually do a pretty bang-up job. Here’s a way to make your own spray at home and keep those bloodsuckers away.

This video from the HouseholdHacker YouTube channel explains how to whip up your own homemade mosquito defense. All you need is lemon eucalyptus oil, vanilla extract, and some witch hazel. The menthoglycol in the lemon eucalyptus oil has been shown to be almost as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitoes, the witch hazel acts as an emulsifier, and the vanilla extract makes the spray smell nice. Add around 30 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil to your mixing container, followed by one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 4 ounces of witch hazel (you can also use rubbing alcohol, vodka, or cooking oil). Mix it all up and pour it into a spray bottle, and your homemade mosquito spray is ready. The repellent should work for about four hours before you need to re-apply.


How to Make the Ultimate Mosquito Repellent | YouTube

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

The days of hot, sweaty workouts are upon us. It’s time to upgrade your after-exercise snack from a boring protein bar and a swig of lukewarm water to one of these refreshing protein popsicles. The formula is simple: blend, freeze, enjoy.

Any liquid can be frozen into popsicle form, but protein smoothies are perfect for after a workout. Eating protein within an hour after exercising may help you build more muscle in the long run. Meanwhile, carbohydrates from sugar or starchy foods help to replenish glycogen in your muscles. That’s not a big deal after a short workout, but it can help you recover after a really taxing one.


Although smoothies can be sugary, adding protein to the fruit keeps them from being too much like candy, and when you make them yourself, you can keep the sugar to a minimum and include whatever healthy ingredients you like. You can meet your post-workout protein and carb requirements with almost any meal or snack, but on a hot day, the popsicle format is nutritious and refreshing. Convinced? Here are some smoothie-sicles to try.

Banana Mango

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

This is my go-to smoothie recipe, fresh or frozen. Just put the ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth.

  • 1 large banana
  • 2 cups frozen mango chunks
  • 2 heaping scoops of unflavored whey powder
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups water
  • Cinnamon and ground cardamom to taste

Divide into four servings and freeze. This smoothie also refrigerates well, if you want to keep both your options open. Just put the extra into a jar, and shake before drinking.

Chocolate Coconut

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

This one comes from from Men’s Fitness. It’s extremely low carb and high fat—but some of you are into that sort of thing. It’s also just two ingredients:

  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk

Blend these together, pour into five popsicle molds, and you’re done. The resulting popsicle is creamy and smooth, if a little bland. The taste will depend a lot on your protein powder, so sample the smoothie before you freeze it and consider adding a little more sweetener or maybe some vanilla extract or spices to punch up the flavor a bit.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

Here’s one for you crafty folks. A peanut butter smoothie gets layered with fruit and juice to make a sweet treat reminiscent of a PB&J sandwich. To be really fancy, you can make it like DailyBurn does, with an extra layer of peanut butter and a sesame seed garnish. We went for the simpler, two-layer option. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 teaspoons honey (they recommend three tablespoons, which seems like a bit much)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 cups juice

Blend everything except the fruit and juice together, and fill eight popsicle molds half-full. Let them freeze for an hour. Then, top off each pop with a few raspberries and some of the juice. DailyBurn calls for unsweetened raspberry juice, but we used strawberry lemonade.

The extra work pays off: this popsicle is creamy in the peanut butter layer (with a little tang from the yogurt) and tart and sweet in the “jelly.”

Or Build Your Own

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

You’re probably catching on to the theme: Make any smoothie, then freeze it. To bring your wildest popsicle dreams to life, check out this smoothie formula infographic. In short, you choose a liquid, scoop in your favorite protein powder (or another protein source, like yogurt), and then add fruits and vegetables. Most smoothies will benefit from a little bit of sweetener, so taste a spoonful and see what you think. To find the nutrition content of your creation, use a recipe analyzer like the one at CalorieCount.com.


The Logistics

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

To freeze a smoothie without any special equipment, grab a paper or plastic cup, fill it about halfway, and add a stick. A chopstick snapped in half will do the trick, or try a plastic fork or spoon. Thicker smoothies (like our banana-mango recipe) will hold the stick upright while it freezes.

If you’re going to be doing this on the regular, it may be wise to invest in a set of popsicle molds like these reusable ones that’ll set you back about ten bucks. With either a store-bought or home-kludged popsicle mold, don’t forget that it’s easiest to remove the frozen treat if you run the outside of the cup or mold under warm water.


You can also buy disposable sleeves, to make something similar to those freezy pops you may remember from your childhood—you know, the ones that came in giant room-temperature boxes. You can either knot the sleeves and lay them flat to freeze, or attach the tops of the sleeves to a shelf in your freezer with binder clips so they hang straight. When it’s time to eat, just push the popsicle out of the wrapping and enjoy.


While your home freezer is obviously the best place to store popsicles, a well-packed cooler may be able to keep frozen treats cold in your car while you run or hike or work out far from home. If you’re training with a group, an ice chest filled with popsicles will make you an instant team favorite. Slurp and enjoy.

Blender photo by Daniel Lee. All other photos by us.

Five Brain-Boosting Books Bill Gates Suggests You Read This Summer

The summer is just getting started, which means it’s about time for a few good books—and Bill Gates himself has five great suggestions for books that’ll expand your mind on topics of science, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science fiction. He runs them down in this quick video.

Bill elaborates on some of his specific thoughts on each book in the video, so it’s well worth a watch. Here’s a quick list of the five books:

From the origins of life, the history of mitochondria, the history of consciousness and a past to present to future look at human civilization, to mathematics and the world of math, all the way to entrepreneurship and business, and finally to science fiction (respectively,) there’s a book here for everyone, although we’d honestly suggest reading all five. After all, the summer’s just now starting.

Five Books to Read This Summer | Gates Notes via BoingBoing

Keep Your Picnic Table Ant-Free With Some Pie Tins

Ants love the messes that are associated with outdoor meals, so there’s always an anthill near every picnic area. If you want to keep them from crawling on your seat and into your food, you can make some mini ant moats with pie tins.

This video from the HouseholdHacker YouTube channel is filled with great ideas for keeping ants away, including a simple method for keeping them off your picnic table. Get four pie tins and rest each of the table’s legs in one. Then fill the tins with water so ants won’t be able to climb up the table and ruin your meal. Even if they do manage to climb over the lip of the pie tins, they’ll end up taking a bath.


7 Genius Ways to Get Rid of ANTS! | YouTube

Five Things to Do Now to Prepare Your Home for the Summer Heat

Five Things to Do Now to Prepare Your Home for the Summer Heat

We’re weeks away from sweltering temperatures, hurricane warnings, and bug invasions. And this year is expected to be an especially hot one in many areas. Before summer hits at full force, make sure you and your home are prepared.

Give Your Air Conditioner a Checkup

Now’s the time to make sure your air conditioning is in perfect working order. If you test your HVAC system today and find out it’s not functioning properly, you need time to come up with a solution before the weather gets unbearable.

First, replace your air filter to make sure the whole system runs smoothly. Clear any debris on or around your vents or exhausts, and clean off any dirt from the main unit outside. From there, test the unit itself to make sure it’s doing its job. SafeElectricity.org says you can simply leave your AC on while you’re away and test it out. That should do the trick, but if you’re looking for a test that’s a little more detailed, you can turn on the unit and check its efficiency with a simple thermometer. The Family Handyman explains:

…set a thermometer on the supply register that’s closest to the inside cooling equipment. Keep it there for five minutes and note the temperature. Do the same thing at the return vent. The air coming out should be 14 to 20 degrees cooler than the air going in. An air conditioner that’s not cooling to those levels could be low on refrigerant or have leaks. A unit cooling more than 20 degrees could have a severe blockage.

If your unit isn’t working properly or efficiently, it might be time to call in a professional. They’ll test the unit itself and test your air ducts for any potential leaks.

If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, now might be a good time to bite the bullet and invest in one. You may also consider a smart thermostat, that does the thinking (and programming) for you to save energy and keep you comfortable. Depending on how often you use your air conditioning in summer, you can cut your electric bill quite a bit. If your AC unit is more than 15-20 years old, you might consider replacing it with a more energy-efficient, Energy Star unit (bonus: you get a tax credit).

If you’re installing a window AC for the first time, it’s probably easiest and safest to call in a professional. If you want to DIY, the instructions will vary depending on the unit and what kind of window you’re working with. Generally, though, you’ll have to install extensions around the unit, fasten it down with brackets and with the upper window pane, then fasten the extensions and seal the unit. Here are more detailed instructions.


Test for Ventilation Leaks

Your air conditioner is functioning efficiently—great! If you have leaks in your home, though, it doesn’t really matter, because that perfectly cooled air is slowly leaking out. You can call in a professional, but it’s simple enough to conduct your own home energy audit first.


First, look for actual leaks: drafts in your windows and doors. If you do find any leaks, you can seal them up with caulk and weather stripping. Speaking of windows, MyHomeIdeas suggests a few additions to keep them cool: reflective film, sunscreen-fabric curtains, roller shades.

If you’ve never checked the attic or basement insulation in your home, it may have compacted over the years, which means it’s not covering everything it should. Check your insulation for leaks and gaps. Former Lifehacker contributor Timothy Dahl suggests you look around pipes and ductwork, specifically, and fill those areas using expanding foam. You should also make sure the attic floor is insulated without blocking vents. When it comes to adding large amounts of your own insulation, keep in mind: it can be a pretty messy job.

Set Up a Barrier for Bugs

Summer weather seems to bring out the bugs, and San Joaquin Pest Control explains why:

For the most part, many bugs and insects go into some form of hibernation during the colder months. Other insects migrate someplace warm to wait out the colder months. Still others decide the best way to stay out of the cold is to camp out in your home. You may see more bugs in your house in the winter months, although many of them make their homes inside walls and attics where you are unlikely to encounter them…The minute it starts warming up, the bugs of summer will begin to flock to your area.

In my old apartment, we’d get an influx of ants every year. If you don’t have a landlord to take care of pest control, or you just want to do it yourself, there are a number of ways to keep bugs from coming in.


First, make sure everything is properly sealed. And if you checked for leaks, you’ve already done this. Check the caulking around your windows and doors, then fix any drafts or gaps with new weather stripping and caulking. Spray your outdoor perimeter with a pesticide, along with baseboards, sinks, windows, and doors. There are specific options for creating an insect barrier, too: Ortho Home Defense and Raid Bug Barrier, for example.

Read all the applicable warnings on the pesticide and make sure your pets don’t get into it. It’s easy enough to make your own DIY natural repellant, and Apartment Therapy offers a simple solution here.

Change Your Ceiling Fan Direction

Yes, your ceiling fan is designed to rotate differently depending on the season. In winter months, it should rotate clockwise to help distribute heat that’s risen. In the summer, though, you should run your fan counter-clockwise at higher speeds to get a breeze going.

Check to see which direction the fans in your home are moving, and, if necessary, hit the small black switch near the base to change directions.


Prevent Water Damage

Summer weather isn’t just hot and sticky. It can also be stormy and, sometimes, dangerous. For example, hurricane season hits in the summer months, and with it often comes flooding. Make sure your house is protected, and as Quick and Dirty Tips points out, this starts with your foundation:

check your basement for cracks and leaks. Build up dirt or place grates outside your house to direct water away from the foundation. If the dirt you currently have has settled around your house, water will start running toward your house. As a general rule, a grate of one-inch-per-foot will ensure proper water runoff.

Again, make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed and caulked, too. You should also test your gutters. Turn on your garden hose and place it inside the gutter so water begins to run. Then, walk around your home’s perimeter and check the gutter. Look for water coming out of any places it shouldn’t. You should also check your gutters for dips or sags where water might pool near your house.

Inspect your roof to ensure it’s in good working order (remove any debris and leaves while you’re up there). You can call a professional, but if you want to do it yourself, HouseLogic lists a few issues to look out for:

  • Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing.
  • Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering.
  • Missing or broken shingles.
  • Cracked and worn rubber boots around vent pipes.
  • Missing or damaged chimney cap…
  • Masses of moss and lichen, which could signal the roof is decaying underneath. Black algae stains are just cosmetic.

You can check your indoor ceiling for early signs of leaking, too. You might notice dark water stains or peeling paint. If you do find a leak, you want to call in a professional as soon as possible, especially if you live in an area that gets hit hard with summer rain.

Now is the time to make a few changes around your home to prepare for the extreme weather. With a few tweaks and inspections, it’s easy enough to make sure you’re in good shape by the time summer arrives.

Illustration by: Sam Woolley

The Best Time to Book a Campsite Is Six Months in Advance

The Best Time to Book a Campsite Is Six Months in Advance

You probably know you need to reserve a campsite if you want to visit a popular park or specific site, especially during summer’s busy season. What you may not realize is that you can book the site you want months in advance, whether you think your vacation plans will pan out or not.


Recreation.gov mentions that in general you can make reservations six months in advance, except for Yosemite National Park, which takes reservations in windows due to high demand. So if you want to go on a camping trip to a popular site or during a high demand time (like July 4th or Labor Day weekend), book as soon as reservations open. Sites like previously mentioned Reserve America and old favorite FreeCampsites.net can help You should still book ASAP even if you don’t have details like who you’ll go with and how long you’ll stay figured out, because you’ll have months to sift through the details, and by then, it would otherwise be too late.


FAQs – Reservation Information | Recreation.gov

Image from mypubliclands.

This Interactive Map Shows Exactly How Much Daylight Saving Time Affects You

This Interactive Map Shows Exactly How Much Daylight Saving Time Affects You

Daylight saving time always causes a pretty sudden shock to our internal clocks, but if you’ve every wondered exactly how much it changes things, cartographer Andy Woodruff created an interactive map that shows just how many sunless evenings (and mornings) you get.

Daylight saving time has a pretty big impact on sunrises and sunsets across the country, but the effect isn’t even across time zones. For example, the sun rises about 40 minutes earlier in New York than it does in Detroit. So, to illustrate the effect of daylight saving time, Woodruff created a bunch of different visualizations alongside an interactive map you can play with yourself. He shows how the country would look with daylight saving time abolished (nicer sunrise times) as well as if it were in effect all the time (dark sunrise times and late sunset times).

This knowledge certainly isn’t enough to get over Seasonal Affective Disorder, but at least it gives you a better visual of exactly what the days are like.


Where to hate daylight saving time and where to love it | Andy Woodruff

Winterize Your Grill to Protect it from Insects and Moisture 

Winterize Your Grill to Protect it from Insects and Moisture 

When the temperature drops and you aren’t grilling outdoors anymore, it’s time to prepare your grill for a few cold months under cover. Here’s how to make sure it will be primed and ready to fire up in the Spring.

First, give your grill a thorough cleaning both inside and out. Remove the grates, heating element, and gas tubes. Then clean each piece individually to remove all food which can attract insects and rodents.


Coat the burners and metal parts with cooking oil to help repel moisture and prevent rust and wrap the end of the gas line with a plastic bag to keep spiders and bugs from nesting in the gas tubes.

The Family Handyman has a few more tips for winter grill storage, so check out their full article below.

Grill Storage Tips for Winter | The Family Handyman

Photo by Charles & Hudson.

Workshop is a new blog from Lifehacker all about DIY tips, techniques, and projects. Follow us on Twitter here.