from the world's big
Over 400 Ivy League courses are free online right now
With the coronavirus pandemic upending summer plans, now's the perfect time to learn something new.
Even as states begin to reopen, the coronavirus pandemic has already derailed our traditional summer plans. Around the world, airplanes remain grounded. Festivals, performances, and destination spots will be closed or severely restricted. And though we've hoped the warmer season would suppress the virus, one study found that variations in heat and humidity had little to no effect on its transmission.
Summer has been all but canceled, and as millions of parents are already aware, summer school is in session.
That doesn't have to be a raw deal, though. As we spend more time at home, we can dive into hobbies we love or learn about subjects that prod our curiosity. To help, Ivy League universities are offering hundreds of free MOOCs.
What's in a MOOC?
Harvard and MIT founded edX, a massive open online course platform, in 2012.
MOOC is the unfortunate acronym of "massive open online course." I say unfortunate because there's no way to say it aloud without sounding like you're impersonating an old-timey mafioso ("This guy, what a mook!").
Thankfully, the idea is better than the acronym. A MOOC is an online class that explores a specific subject, topic, or skill. Most are self-paced, while some parcel out material over the course of several weeks. Because they're online, they can be open to anyone and support hundreds of students the world over.
That online nature also means teaching methods lean heavily on readings and lecture videos—though some incorporate assessment tools such as quizzes and class discussions. Discussions are with other students on a forum, and quiz grades really don't matter much. Even the most anxious of test-takers needn't fear a "See me after class…" scribbled next to their name.
For instructors, teaching is typically a pre-recorded, hands-off affair. For students, it's self-motivated.
MOOCs are provided on a variety of platforms. One of the most popular is edX, founded by Harvard and MIT, which has more than 20 million users. Other platforms include Udemy, Coursera, Udacity, Skillshare, and FutureLearn.
When choosing a platform, know that some only produce classes guided by university professors or experts in their field, while others open their platform to anyone with a desire to teach.
Education free of charge
Granted, universities have been creating MOOCs for longer than novel coronavirus has been around. edX and Coursera were both introduced in 2012. But in light of the need induced by the pandemic, universities and course providers have stepped up their efforts to issue free, far-reaching education materials.
Class Central, a listing for online courses, maintains a page dedicated to free courses issued in response to COVID-19. Continuously updated, it's a massive resource for those looking to upskill or increase their knowledge while shelter-in-place restrictions remain in effect.
The website maintains a robust catalog of free online classes and the universities offering them, too. As of this writing, it lists more than 400 free online courses from Ivy League universities. Available subjects were as diverse as mythology, Linux basics, data science, religious literacy, Roman architecture, and the ethics of eating. The catalog is simply too expansive to do it justice here.
Because these courses are from Ivy League schools, many are taught by instructors at the top of their field. For example, Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt teaches the currently available classes on "Othello" and "Hamlet." He's also the general editor to the "Norton Anthology of English Literature."
But how free is free?
Most MOOCs listed on Class Central are free to audit, but they do come with monetary upsells. Users can often earn certificates for completing courses, but the option is tucked behind a paywall. Some courses also limit access to certain materials and content unless unlocked with a credit card.
Users also pay in other, less direct ways. In place of money, edX users pay their tuition in the form of data, the currency of the 21st century.
The universities use data generated through student participation in research and to improve the quality of their educational endeavors. Collected data is free of personally identifiable information (PII); however, it's worth noting that edX retains the right to share aggregate data with other parties (again, without PII).
Will coronavirus change education?
Summers will return as we remember them, but many experts wonder whether education has been irreversibly changed by the pandemic.
"The horrible loss and fallout of the pandemic are unmistakable, but for so many in education, this is a crisis that simply cannot be wasted. Historically, transformation comes primarily when there are forcing conditions— when the current model simply cannot be sustained," Craig Vezina, executive director of Z-17, wrote.
As schools and parents scramble to teach children spread across towns, and university students increasingly receive their education through screens, online learning will continue to expand its share of educational systems. Whether online learning is better or worse than traditional education is a question with many nuances—one too complex to answer here. Either way, the barriers to online education will continue to become more permeable, allowing more people to access it.
- 8 Harvard University courses you can take right now, for free - Big ... ›
- 8 Yale University courses you can take online, for free - Big Think ›
- 10 great physics courses you can take online right now, for free - Big ... ›
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.
- The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
- Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
- Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Is focusing solely on body mass index the best way for doctor to frame obesity?
- New guidelines published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argue that obesity should be defined as a condition that involves high body mass index along with a corresponding physical or mental health condition.
- The guidelines note that classifying obesity by body mass index alone may lead to fat shaming or non-optimal treatments.
- The guidelines offer five steps for reframing the way doctors treat obesity.