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Our 10 Favorite Online Courses from Stanford University

Stanford University is one of the leading universities in the world. With the help of MOOCs and online courses everyone can participate in its high-class education.

Our 10 Favorite Online Courses from Stanford University
Picture: t_watanabe/Pixabay

Stanford University is an undergraduate and graduate private research university located in Stanford, California. It was originally founded in 1891, and is consistently one of the most highly ranked universities in the world, both for quality of education and for student life. While not everyone can be one of the 16,424 students currently partaking in their world-class education in person, there is luckily a host of engaging Stanford online courses on the web for free for everyone to access. Here, we break down 10 of our favorite online courses from Stanford University. 

(Here you can jump directly to all Stanford online courses that are in our directory.)



How Do Stanford Online Courses Work?

Most Stanford online courses are provided via the MOOC platform Coursera. (More on Coursera)

  • The courses are free and open to all.  
  • The courses run around 4-6 weeks and require about 4-10 hours work per week
  • Content is delivered via video lectures. You can download supplementary written handouts (available as PDF). 
  • There are practical exercises like quizzes.
  • So far, more than 10 million participants from around the world have enrolled in Stanford online courses.

(Do you want to know how to study most effectively using MOOCs? Get the key facts about successful learning with MOOCs here.)


How to Participate in Free Stanford Online Courses

  • 1) Create an account on the website of Coursera or another MOOC platform that offers Stanford courses.
  • 2) Browse Stanford online courses and click on "enroll".
  • 3) The videos and written course materials can be accessed completely free of charge. You will only be charged if you choose the verified-certificate option (about $50).


In this video, Andy Saltarelli, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives, explains how Stanford uses MOOCs and online courses to share its intellectual richness with the wider public and to give back to society.


These Are Our Favorite Ten Online Courses From Stanford University

1. Game Theory

Game theory is essentially about how to develop a winning strategy under uncertainty. Whether you want to feel like John Nash in "A Beautiful Mind", or want to make your weekly poker game the best among your friends, this free online course from Stanford University will be highly stimulating, fun and educational.

2. Organizational Analysis

The Stanford MOOC on Organizational Analysis is taught by Professor Daniel McFarland. It explores multiple theories of organizational behavior and then applies them to actual cases of organizational change. The course is applicable to many types of business. Since organizations can run the gamut from corporations to not-for-profits, to associations, to grocery stores, people from various careers and backgrounds can gain valuable insights from this course. Participants will 1) studyhow various businesses operate, 2) understand various theories about business organization and structure, and 3) how to best apply these management practices. 

3. Writing in the Sciences

Writing in the Sciences is for people in science and those who wish to get there. Understanding the STEM topics themselves is not enough to build a successful career in science. Almost every job in science requires you to relay the information you found to someone else, whether that is write a grant, give a presentation to a client, publish an academic research paper, etc. This course aims to teach scientists how to become better writers through practical examples and exercises. You may not currently consider writing your greatest strength, but by the end of this course you might be amazed at how much better your scientific writing has become. 

4. Introduction to Mathematical Thinking

Introduction to Mathematical Thinking teaches you analytic thinking skills for professional or general life purposes. You do not need to be a mathematician or aspire to become one. The course aims at people from all walks of life with diverse professional backgrounds. Everyone who wants to learn how to think like a mathematician to solve problems will enjoy this course.

5. Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity is a very comprehensive course that makes the difficult topic of special relativity accessible to people with no prior background in science. The course already had 30,000 participants. The instructor Prof. Larry Lagerstrom received very positive feedback on the Coursera website.

6. Audio Signal Processing for Music Applications

Audio Signal Processing for Music Applications makes it on our top ten list of Stanford online courses for being a fun mix of music and programming. Taught by Professor Xavier Serra, this class aims to educate students about audio signal processing for use in music and other real life applications. It is an intermediate course that is helped by having a background in Python and music theory. By the end of the course you will have developed a practical and theoretical knowledge to analyze, synthesize, transform, and describe audio signals through various music applications. 

7. Cryptography

There has perhaps never been a time in history where understanding Cryptography has been more important. With life in the 21st century completely reliant on technology, computers, and the internet it is vitally important to protect data. This free online courses teaches you the workings of cryptographic systems, while also illustrating their real-world applications. This course is made for beginners. There is a follow up class appropriately titled Cryptography II

8. Giving 2.0: The MOOC

Almost all of us give to charity. But how many people actually take the time to think carefully how to use their resources to help others the most rather than just doing what feels right? Giving 2.0: The MOOC teaches you how to select and assess non-profits and to develop your philanthropic strategy to have the most impact with your donation. 

9. International Woman's Health and Human Rights

This course gives an overview of issues that women face from childhood over adolescence to old age. The course teaches about various factors that affect girls and women including education, AIDS/HIV, work and economic empowerment, women in war and refugee settings, as well as women's old age and end if life. The course is especially relevant for those employed in the health sector.


10. Machine Learning

Machine learning is the technology behind self driving cars and automatic speech recognition. Machine learning engineer is one of the most exciting and lucrative jobs that emerge due to digitization. The Machine Learning Online Course by Stanford University  gives a broad introduction into machine learning and is suitable for beginners

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