Photo: Galymzhan Abdugalimov / Unsplash
Photo: Galymzhan Abdugalimov / Unsplash

Happy New Years! With a fresh new start comes fresh opportunity to boost up your knowledge and take some new courses. Coursera is one good option. It offers online courses from some of the top universities such as Yale, Brown, Columbia, etc. Best of all, they’re free for anyone to take! Here are Coursera’s most popular courses from 2015:

10. Introduction to Financial Accounting

Photo: Pictures of Money / Flickr
Photo: Pictures of Money / Flickr

If you want to understand business, financial basics are a must. Taught by Professor Brian J Bushee of Wharton School of Business, the course teaches you how to read a financial statement. You’ll learn basic concepts such as income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows. The course is useful for anyone thinking of a new career in finance or starting a small business. The total cost is $595 if you want to receive a certificate of completion, but it’s totally free if you just want to learn.

Take the course (Wharton Business School)


9. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills

Photo: Flickr
Photo: Flickr

If there’s one skill you can master that will increase satisfaction in all parts of your life, it’s negotiation. Whether it’s renting a new house, buying a car, or determining your salary at your new job, being a good negotiator will help you get better results. This course is taught by Professor George Siedel of University of Michigan and runs 7 weeks long. The course is broken down into a series of short videos (5 – 20 minutes each) that show you step-by-step instructions on what to do in each situation. Students commonly “binge-watch” these instructional videos and say they’re “as good as Breaking Bad.” The certified course costs $49, but again, it’s free if you don’t want the certificate.

Take the course (University of Michigan)


8. An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python

Photo: hackny / Flickr
Photo: hackny / Flickr

Programming is all the rage right now. Everywhere you turn, you hear about whiz kids getting $100k+ salaries right out of college to do simple programming at startups in Silicon Valley. That could be you, since Python is one of the most popular programming languages that startups use. This course will teach you the essential ins and outs of good programming practices. Taught by various Computer Science professors from Rice University, the 5-week course will take you from learning what a semicolon does, to building full-blown games such as Pong, Asteroids, and Blackjack. There’s a part II of the course if you want to expand your knowledge even further.

Take the course (Rice University)


7. Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World: Lesser Vehicle

Photo: Moyan Brenn / Flickr
Photo: Moyan Brenn / Flickr

Ahhh meditation. Started as an ancient sedative practice to ease the sufferings of common folks, meditation has become a full-blown rage in the Western world. Companies such as Google, General Mills, and Goldman Sachs are catching onto the benefits of focused minds and actively encourage their employees to take meditation courses. This Tibetan Buddhist meditation is taught by Professor David Germano and Professor Kurtis Schaeffer of University of Virginia. It runs 6 weeks long (with about 4-9 hours of effort per week) and teaches you the history and the scientific research behind long term meditations. The course is great not just for those who are looking to practice, but for those who are interested in the history, and how Tibetan Buddhist meditation differs from the rest. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy the course.

Take the course (University of Virginia)



6. The Data Scientist’s Toolbox

Photo: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig / Flickr
Photo: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig / Flickr

When I was in high school, I sat in on a guest lectur by a long time research scientist from the NIH. He said that one of the best things you can do to boost your hiring desirability in almost any field is to show statistical training on your resume. This is particularly true today. Even hotter than software developers, statisticians and data scientists are in enormous demands by companies as we move in the “Big Data” era. This course is just one part in a 10 part series, but it introduces you to some of the most important tools that data scientists use: version control, markdown, git, GitHub, R, and RStudio. It’s taught by three biostatistics professors from Bloomberg School of Public Health and it’s free for anyone to take. If you enjoy learning about statistics, consider going through the entire series. It’s long, but worth it for your career!

Take the course (Bloomberg School of Public Health)


5. R Programming

Photo: hackNY / Flickr
Photo: hackNY / Flickr

This course is the 2nd part of the 10-course Data Science series, coming right after the Data Scientists’ Toolbox course. R is a programing language frequently used by statistics to organize information, plot graphs, and make sense of data. After you get a firm grasp on basic statistical knowledge, knowing R is a must if you want to do any practical work with data. The course will teach you how to read data from a file, how to plot them into graphs and charts, and how to debug your program when something goes wrong. It’s taught by the same three professors from Bloomberg School of Public Health, so you won’t go through the trouble of adjusting to new professors!

Take the course (Johns Hopkins University)


4. Machine Learning

Photo: Marius B  / Flickr
Photo: Marius B / Flickr

Besides statistics, machine learning is another hot field that’s in high demand right now. While it involves working with data, machine learning is less about using them to model probabilities, and more about using them to help computers “learn” patterns and predict future outcomes. While most software have to be programmed to do something specific, machine learning allows software to learn and adapt, making (hopefully correct) decisions without any guidance from human beings! Whether it’s predicting weather, driving autonomous vehicle, or recognizing human speech, scientists are constantly pushing the boundaries on this relatively new field. This 11-week course taught by Prof. Andrew Ng from Stanford University will walk you through the basics of machine learning, how computers recognize patterns, and how they apply those patterns to real world cases. Some linear algebra knowledge is helpful in understanding the course.

Take the course (Stanford University)


3. Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)

Photo: Rachel Johnson / Flickr
Photo: Rachel Johnson / Flickr

Yet another course about programming, so we don’t need to reiterate the benefits you add to your resume. Notice that Python comes up again. This is because that while Python is such an easy-to-grasp language, it allows you to program very advanced websites and applications. This course is slightly different from the #8 Introduction to Interactive Python course in that this one deals with more technical aspects of Python – conditionals, for loops, functions, and best practices – instead of just speeding toward a usable project. The bottom line is, if you just want to get your hands dirty in programming, take the other course. If you want more advanced foundation in Python so you can move toward a professional career, take this one. The course is taught by Professor Charles Severance of University of Michigan.

Take the course (University of Michigan)


2. Mastering Data Analysis in Excel

Photo: chatterstone / Flickr
Photo: chatterstone / Flickr

If you work in finance, you’ll understand that Excel is a spouse you can’t do without. Banks, hedge funds, and insurance companies all use Excel to build models, calculate interest rates, and more. If you want to work on Wall Street, having advanced Excel knowledge will instantly put you ahead of many of your peers.

This 6-week course teaches you practical Excel skill to model risks, uncertainty and other important financial data. Be aware, this course requires some understanding of difficult math concepts such as sigma (summation) notation, logarithmic scales, and probability theory concepts such as conditional, product, and joint probabilities. If you’re confident in those concepts, join this Duke University course and excel your Excel skills.

Take the course (Duke University)


1. Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Photo: Anna Demianenko / Unsplash
Photo: Anna Demianenko / Unsplash

Of course, no course list is complete without the meta listing of Learning How to Learn. Believe it or not, most people who start online courses don’t end up finishing them. Whether it’s due to lack of commitment or lack of time, people complete them with less frequency as they do in live courses. Don’t be one of those people!

With so many important skills to learn, you might as well bite the bullet and learn the correct way to learn. Learning How to Learn is taught by two professors from UC San Diego and explains how to break up topics into “chunks” so they’re more easily stored in your long term memory. The course will also walk you through techniques on dealing with procrastination, advanced memory techniques, and counterintuitive test-taking insights that will help accelerate your learning in all subjects. If you’re up for it, learn how to learn first before tackling the other courses.

Take the course (UC San Diego)