The best free online courses of 2017 according to the data

Originally published on on February 21, 2018 By Dhawal Shah

The results are in! In 2015, Class Central first published a ranking of the best online courses of the year based on reviews from our users. I did it again in 2016. Now I’m back with a list of the best online courses of 2017. Like last year and the year before, this year’s list is based on thousands of reviews written by our users.

The methodology is simple. I made a list of all the courses that were offered for the first time in 2017 (which comes out to be over 2,000 courses), ranked the courses by the Bayesian average of their ratings, and filtered out the ones with less than ten reviews.

As you will see below, some of the highlights of this year’s ranking include: a new course by the team that created Learning How To Learn, one of the most popular MOOCs of all time; a new course from Andrew Ng, one of the founders of the modern MOOC movement; and, for you Italian speakers, three new courses from Italy’s University of Naples Federico, which started offering its MOOCs on the edX platform in 2017.

So without further ado, here are 2017’s best free online courses:

Python for Data Science
University of California, San Diego via edX

In the information age, data is all around us. Within this data are answers to compelling questions across many societal domains (politics, business, science, etc.). But if you had access to a large dataset, would you be able to find the answers you seek?
★★★★★ (37 ratings)

Neural Networks and Deep Learning via Coursera
If you want to break into cutting-edge AI, this course will help you do so. Deep learning engineers are highly sought after, and mastering deep learning will give you numerous new career opportunities. Deep learning is also a new “superpower” that will let you build AI systems that just weren’t possible a few years ago.
★★★★★ (10 ratings)

Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential
McMaster University via Coursera
Mindshift is designed to help boost your career and life in today’s fast-paced learning environment. Whatever your age or stage, Mindshift teaches you essentials such as how to get the most out of online learning and MOOCs, how to seek out and work with mentors, the secrets to avoiding career ruts (and catastrophes) and general ruts in life, and insights such as the value of selective ignorance over general competence.
★★★★★ (1250 ratings)

Whole genome sequencing of bacterial genomes — tools and applications
Technical University of Denmark (DTU) via Coursera
The course will give the learners a basis to understand and be acquainted with WGS applications in surveillance of bacteria including species identification, typing and characterization of antimicrobial resistance and virulence traits as well as plasmid characterization.
★★★★★ (17 ratings)

Quantum Mechanics for Everyone
Georgetown University via edX

Quantum Mechanics for Everyone is a four-week long MOOC that teaches the basic ideas of quantum mechanics with a method that requires no complicated math beyond taking square roots (and you can use a calculator for that). Quantum theory is taught without “dumbing down” any of the material, giving you the same version experts use in current research.
★★★★★ (24 ratings)

Mountains 101
University of Alberta via Coursera

Mountains 101­­ is a broad and integrated overview of the mountain world. This 12-lesson course covers an interdisciplinary field of study focusing on the physical, biological, and human dimensions of mountain places in Alberta, Canada, and around the world. Specifically, we’ll study the geological origins of mountains, how they’re built-up and worn-down over time; we’ll learn about their importance for biodiversity and water cycles, globally and locally; we’ll explore their cultural significance to societies around the globe, and how that relationship has evolved over time; and we’ll learn how mountains are used, how they’re protected, and how today they’re experiencing rapid change in a warming climate.
★★★★★ (273 ratings)

Extinctions: Past and Present
University of Cape Town via FutureLearn

This free online course explores how life on earth has been shaped by five mass extinction events in the distant past. At present, biodiversity is facing a crisis, with the prospect of a sixth extinction event today.
★★★★★ (42 ratings)

Viruses & How to Beat Them: Cells, Immunity, Vaccines
Tel Aviv University via edX

Learn how our immune system fights viral disease and make better vaccination decisions with a clearer understanding of Cells, Viruses, and Immunity.
★★★★★ (21 ratings)

Basic Spanish 2: One Step Further
Universitat Politècnica de València via edX
Beginner’s course for learners of Spanish that focuses not only on language, but also on cultural aspects, specifically designed for English speakers.
★★★★★ (57 ratings)

Positive Psychiatry and Mental Health
The University of Sydney via Coursera
In this course, we will explore different aspects of good mental health as well as provide an overview of the major kinds of mental disorders, their causes, treatments and how to seek help and support. The course will feature a large number of Australian experts in psychiatry, psychology and mental health research, and we will also hear from “lived experience experts”, people who have lived with mental illness, and share their personal stories of recovery.
★★★★★ (13 ratings)

Introductory AP® Microeconomics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

This economics course is an introduction to basic microeconomic principles. You will learn how individuals make decisions ranging from what type of goods to buy to how many hours to work, and how firms make decisions ranging from how many workers to hire to what prices to charge.
★★★★★ (31 ratings)

EU policy and implementation: making Europe work!
Leiden University via Coursera
People have become more critical of European policy and often seem to prefer local policy solutions in response to globalisation problems. How do you experience EU policy? Does it help? And if not, how can we change this?
★★★★★ (35 ratings)

Quantum Mechanics: 1D Scattering and Central Potentials
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

In this quantum physics course you will learn the basic concepts of scattering — phase-shifts, time delays, Levinson’s theorem, and resonances — in the simple context of one-dimensional problems. We then turn to the study of angular momentum and the motion of particles in three-dimensional central potentials.
★★★★★ (11 ratings)

Patrick Henry: Forgotten Founder
University of Virginia via Coursera
Patrick Henry, who helped to ignite a revolution, deserves better. This course will explore how he overcame challenges to reach the pinnacle of Virginia politics and unite Americans behind a challenge to Britain — the eighteenth century’s super-power, why he opposed the U.S. Constitution, and why he then came out of retirement to defend the people’s Constitution against the attacks of Jefferson and Madison.
★★★★★ (13 ratings)

Deciphering Secrets: Unlocking the Manuscripts of Medieval Toledo (Spain)
Universidad Carlos iii de Madrid via edX

This course evaluates the medieval history of Toledo from the reign of King Alfonso “The Wise” (1252–1284) until the creation of the blood purity statutes in the 1450s.
★★★★★ (11 ratings)

And here are the best non-English free online courses of 2017:

Introducción a la programación orientada a objetos en Java
Universidad de los Andes via Coursera
¡Le damos la bienvenida al curso de Introducción a la programación en java por objetos de la Universidad de los Andes! El propósito de este curso es ofrecerle un ambiente interactivo orientado a construir aprendizajes sobre el lenguaje de la programación en Java para la creación y manipulación de objetos.
★★★★★ (17 ratings)

L’Italiano nel mondo
University of Naples Federico II via edX

La diffusione dell’italiano nel mondo è veicolata da canzone, cinema, teatro, opera lirica, gastronomia, design che diffondono anche per la lingua un’immagine legata alle eccellenze italiane. Questo corso ti guiderà nella comprensione della lingua italiana, nel suo evolversi nell’uso quotidiano ed in rapporto alle diverse funzioni cui è destinata.
★★★★★ (21 ratings)

Introdução ao Controle Moderno
Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica via Coursera
Este curso lhe dará a base necessária para entender técnicas mais avançadas de controle moderno.
Você aprenderá como representar a dinâmica de um sistema no espaço de estados, como analisar um sistema no espaço de estados, como projetar uma realimentação de estado e como projetar um observador de estado.
★★★★★ (11 ratings)

Comprendere la filosofia
University of Naples Federico II via edX

Che cosa è la filosofia? Questo corso offre un racconto del pensiero filosofico attraverso quattro epoche da quella antica cosidetta della contemplazione a quella più recente.
★★★★★ (21 ratings)

Dante tra poesia e scienza
University of Naples Federico II via edX

La Commedia di Dante è una delle opere più tradotte e stampate nelle lingue e nei dialetti del mondo. Un testo scritto nel 1300 che affronta temi ancora oggi attuali, e che può rendere l’uomo del nostro tempo più vicino «a quell’amore che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Dhawal Shah

Founder of Class Central.

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