14 Cornell classes you can take online for free, from how to structure a business agreement to the ethics of food

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  • Cornell University is one of the top 25 schools in the world — and offers free online courses.
  • You can access courses in everything from engineering and big data to the ethics of eating.
  • Below are 14 free online Cornell courses you can take through edX, or you can browse them all here.

Cornell is one of the most prestigious schools in the world. To set foot on campus as a student, you need to be in the 11% of applicants who had the test scores, extracurriculars, and je-ne-sais-quoi-factor to be accepted. 

But, thanks to partnerships with e-learning companies like edX, you can also take a handful of Cornell courses for free — without relocating, adhering to strict class times, or spending a dime. You can also do the same with other Ivy League institutions and top schools including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, UPenn, MIT, Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, Duke, Stanford, NYU, and more.

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Below, you can find 14 of the best free Cornell courses available online. Some have the option to pay a small fee for certificates of completion that you can show potential employers or add to your LinkedIn or resume.

14 free Cornell courses you can take through edX:

A Hands-on Introduction to Engineering Simulations

Length: 6 weeks

This hands-on intermediate engineering course teaches you how to analyze common problems involving different physics — structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, and heat transfer — using ANSYS simulation software.

Teaching and Learning in the Diverse Classroom

Length: 5 weeks

Learn how to create inclusive, student-centered learning environments with tools such as inclusive course design and student-centered pedagogical practices. Students listen and reflect on lived experiences — including their own — as well as explore key research on learning and diversity and its importance in education. 

Sharks!

Length: 4 weeks

Learn about what makes sharks fascinating through activities — tracking the movements of a wild shark, observing shark habitats and behavior, diving into the fossil record — as well as their functional anatomy, biology, ecological role, impact on human behavior, and conservation efforts among other things.

Relativity and Astrophysics

Length: 4 weeks

This course combines relativity and astronomy to give students insight and quantitative skills to better understand the universe — from analyzing paradoxes in special relativity to pinpointing daily instances in which relativity is important.

This class is archived, which means you’ll have access to course materials but you won’t be able to upgrade for graded homework or earn a certificate of completion. 

Structuring Business Agreements for Success

Length: 5 weeks

Learn the laws, principles, and guidelines needed to structure business agreements and assess the merits and challenges of different choices.  

This class is archived. 

The Ethics of Eating

Length: 4 weeks

This course leads students into an exploration of the ethical issues at play every time we consume or purchase food. Using insights from a diverse group of philosophers, food scientists, activists, industry specialists, and farmers, you’ll consider the morality of food: how it’s produced, distributed, marketed, and consumed.

This class is archived.

An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching

Length: 8 weeks

Future STEM faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows learn about effective teaching strategies and supporting science, specifically for STEM classrooms, in this course. Students consider expertise from experienced STEM faculty, educational researchers, and university staff as they tackle course design, teaching strategies, and key learning principles. 

This class is archived. 

Advancing Learning Through Evidence-Based STEM Teaching

Length: 8 weeks

This course prepares current and future STEM teachers in effective teaching strategies and accompanying research to create active, impactful classrooms — including the import of diversity and how to incorporate it into a classroom. This course builds upon the introductory course above.

This class is archived.

American Capitalism: A History

Length: 4 weeks

Take a close look at how economic development fueled the US’ rise to power In the end, you should be able to recognize and criticize public policies that interact with American capitalism and have a solid understanding of it as an ever-changing system, even if basic features remain unchanged. 

This class is archived.

Networks, Crowds, and Markets

Length: 10 weeks

To understand the interconnectedness of modern life, students get into game theory, the structure of the Internet, social contagion, the spread of social power, and information cascades.

This class is archived. 

The Science and Politics of the GMO

Length: 5 weeks

Learn the basics of genetic engineering and biotechnology in this introductory Food and Nutrition course. Students delve into the political debate surrounding GMOs, evaluate how social science concepts affect biotech development and usage, and learn to form good research questions and assess research reports, among other things.

This class is archived. 

The Computing Technology Inside Your Smartphone

Length: 10 weeks

Explore the powerful computer processor that enables smartphones to be so indispensable. Students start with the fundamentals of computing technology and then move into advanced performance techniques and details of processors. 

This class is archived.

Reclaiming Broken Places: Introduction to Civic Ecology

Length: 6 weeks

In this course, you use many lenses — psychological, sociological, political, educational, and ecological — to examine how people care for nature and their communities. Among other things, students learn how civic ecology can enable communities with limited resources to cope with disaster and struggle. 

This class is archived. 

Wiretaps to Big Data: Privacy and Surveillance in the Age of Interconnection

Length: 6 weeks

How does cellular technology enable massive surveillance? Do users have rights against surveillance? This social sciences course grapples with these big questions surrounding privacy issues in modern life and introduces students to related issues in WiFi and Internet surveillance. 

This class is archived. 

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