14 Duke University classes you can take online for free, from machine learning to dog psychology

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  • Like other great schools, Duke offers a number of affordable courses online.
  • The e-learning platform Coursera has a long list of paid programs and free online courses led by Duke staff.
  • Below are 14 Duke classes you can take online for free, from biology to data science.

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University is a private research university ranked as one of the top 30 colleges in the world, according to US News. At the same time, CBS News reported in 2020 that Duke ranks #12 in the most expensive US colleges, charging undergraduates an average of $77,029 per year.

But, like many prestigious universities, such as Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Yale, and Stanford, Duke offers many online programs and courses for an affordable price. Through Coursera, you can take Duke’s certificate programs such as Java Programming and Software Engineering Fundamentals or Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking for $49 per month until you finish — so the faster you learn, the more you save. 

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Duke also offers a 3-4 month MasterTrack program in Blockchain Applications for $3,000, which makes students eligible for a scholarship and fast-tracked application process if they apply to Duke University’s Master of Engineering in FinTech program after finishing the MasterTrack.

On top of Duke’s lower-cost online offerings, the school also has a plethora of online courses that are completely free, from introductory courses in machine learning and English composition to highly specialized courses such as behavioral finance and the science behind dogs’ emotions. You can access video lectures, readings, and forums without a fee, or pay a one-time $49 fee for a certificate of completion to add to your resume or LinkedIn.

14 Duke University online courses you can take for free:

Introductory Human Physiology

Length: 10 weeks (33 hours total)

This is a beginner’s overview of the human body’s nine organ systems, starting from homeostasis and dedicating a week to better understanding each system. It’s a course you can take if you’re interested in a medical career, or just want to know how the body functions.

English Composition I

Length: 10 weeks (25 hours total)

For anyone interested in gaining college-level writing knowledge and experience, this course teaches students how to effectively read and summarize texts, make a persuasive argument, understand the stages of the writing process, and properly cite sources.

Data Science Math Skills

Length: 4 weeks (13 hours total)

If you want a career in data science, there’s no getting around the fact that you’ll need to feel comfortable around math. This course is ideal for those who are familiar with math but never took algebra or calculus (or have a very rusty memory of them).

Medical Neuroscience

Length: 13 weeks (71 hours total)

Whether you’re considering a neurophysiology career or just want to know more about neuroanatomy, this course walks students through the organization of the brain’s neural systems and how they control sensations, actions, memory, and cognition.

Dog Emotion and Cognition

Length: 8 weeks (22 hours total)

Perfect for dog lovers, this fascinating course explores the cognitive psychology of your furry best friend, from the role evolution played in dogs’ cognition to how the canine mind actually works. By the end of the course, you’ll have a profound understanding of how dogs think and feel about humans.

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution

Length: 11 weeks (25 hours total)

For those interested in evolutionary biology, this course covers the fundamentals of topics like genome sequences, natural selection, and behavioral science in animals, so that students can leave the course with a greater understanding of these subjects.

Behavioral Finance

Length: 3 weeks (5 hours total)

This relatively short (but mind-blowing) course reveals how the financial decisions we make intuitively and with little thought can make us lose out in the long run, such as holding on to the wrong investments or buying insurance plans we don’t need.

Introduction to Chemistry: Reactions and Ratios

Length: 7 weeks (18 hours total)

Designed for students with limited chemistry background, this course covers the basics of chemical reactions, stoichiometry, the periodic table, periodic trends, nomenclature, and chemical problem solving.

Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why

Length: 6 weeks (17 hours total)

Fusing art and science, this course explores the tones that humans find consonant and dissonant as well as the broader emotions music can elicit. It also examines common tonalities across different cultures, as well as the sensory purpose music fulfills in people.

Introduction to Machine Learning

Length: 6 weeks (25 hours total)

Complete with hands-on practice exercises, this course addresses the basics of machine learning models — including logistic regression, multilayer perceptrons, convolutional neural networks, and natural language processing — as well as the industries that use them.

The Brain and Space

Length: 6 weeks (10 hours total)

Even simple tasks like recognizing a person you know or playing an instrument require sophisticated coordination between various sensory and motor sources in your brain. This course unpacks how the brain’s spatial focus impacts the way we process and recall information.

Renewable Energy and Green Building Entrepreneurship

Length: 3 weeks (18 hours total)

This course is great for anyone who wants to start a new business or career in the energy, finance, real estate, design, engineering, or environmental sectors while also considering environmental and human health.

Visual Perception and the Brain

Length: 5 weeks (14 hours total)

This course on vision science covers the human visual system, the main problems and setbacks our vision has, and what our physical perceptions say about how our brain is functioning, from how we process color to how we view objects in motion.

Advertising and Society

Length: 7 weeks (12 hours total)

This course examines the role advertising has played economically, culturally and socially throughout history. Students cover the creation of advertising, how advertising has portrayed sex, gender, and race; and whether or not consumers are manipulated by ads.

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