Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Spring Semester 2015

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Your education doesn’t have to stop once you leave school?freedom from the classroom just means you have more control over what you learn and when you learn it. We’ve put together a curriculum of some of the best free online classes available on the web this spring (yes, and winter) 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 Fall 2014 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!

Computer Science and Technology

  • Grovo – Introduction to Digital Security and Privacy – If you’re looking for a benchmark course that you can take yourself to dive into topics like encryption, staying safe on Wi-Fi networks, protecting your personal information from scammers and identity thieves, and more, this series of short lessons at Grovo on information security and privacy will do the trick. The lessons are about a minute long each, followed by quick quizzes that will reinforce what you’ve learned. They’re not super in-depth, and many of you may be familiar with the material already, but it’s a good basic primer to the importance of and risks around security and privacy-related issues, in a nicely presented package.
  • University of Maryland at College Park – Hardware Security – Professor Gang Qu – Often security topics are discussed in terms of software security?hackable applications, vulnerable networks, and so on, but there’s a whole other side to making sure information systems are secure: Hardware. This course, part of Coursera’s Cybersecurity Specialization, touches on security and trust from the other side of the coin, including the fundamentals of digital logic design, how the role of hardware has changed over the years, security systems like smart cards and FPGA-based systems, and the attacks that have become ever more common to compromise them.
  • Udacity – Introduction to HTML/CSS – Professors Cameron Pittman, Jessica Uelmen, and Gundega Dekena – You can argue whether or not HTML is a programming language, but you can’t argue about its utility. Learning HTML and CSS are important, whether you plan to design and develop for the web or you just want to build a personal website. Sure, you could always just toss up a pre-packaged content management system and get the job done, but knowing HTML and CSS gives you an understanding and level of control that a GUI or content editor simply can’t?and you’ll be able to fix what those systems inevitably break. This course at Udacity will teach you everything you need to know, starting from zero and eventually ending with your own personal personal framework for web projects, and an understanding of responsive design.
  • Udacity – JavaScript Basics – Professors Cameron Pittman and James Williams – When you’re ready to move beyond the basics like HTML and CSS, JavaScript?what some people would call the “language of the web”?awaits, and this class will teach you what you need to know. You’ll start with nothing, again, although a basic understanding of web technologies will help you. By the end of the course you’ll have designed a personal website, complete with a resume. You’ll learn all about data types, strings, arrays, objects, and JSON, among other topics. Most importantly, you’ll have all the tools you need to keep practicing and keep developing.
  • Harvey Mudd College – Programming in Scratch – Professor Colleen Lewis – Learning to code can be difficult enough without having to choose a great starter language. Of course, the favorite around here is Python, but even in those conversations many of you pointed out that Scratch is a great first language for people looking to try their hand as well, and it’s easy and fun to learn. This course from Harvey Mudd College will have you designing animations, games, and short programs in no time, and learning the kinds of habits that will serve you well whether you plan to be a software developer in the long haul, or just want to know how to design and build your own projects.

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