Online courses have come a long way from the shady and questionably useful “e-colleges” of just a few years ago (we’re looking at you, Trump U). For the cost of a textbook, these days you can take entire courses with credentialed professionals. Our advice: Skip Orgo and learn something that you can actually use — like how to serve beer like a pro, Mexican cooking from Rick Bayless, or, sure, first aid basics. Here’s some coursework you can actually use.
What You’ll Learn: New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss offers a holistic life strategy that features the best of his books The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. Learn lessons, principles, and hacks for becoming, and remaining, “healthy, wealthy, and wise,” including risk assessment, facing your fear of failure, and efficient time management.
The School: CreativeLive is a school for wannabe professionals by professionals, offering hundreds of classes taught by successful entrepreneurs and working artisans. Courses run the gamut from photo & video to art & design to craft & maker to computer & business to money & life. A great place to jumpstart your career — or indulge your passion.
The Class: Music Production (four sections, $39 each)
What You’ll Learn: Sure, you could do the prudent thing and take Management Principles or some other useful skill. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned thus far in the 21st century, it’s this: anyone can be a rock star. So chase that dream! Let pros from the revered Berklee College in Boston show you the basics of music production: artistic concepts, recording, editing, and mixing, ProTools, and everything else you need to turn your aural imagination into reality.
The School: Coursera partners with hundreds of higher-learning institutions to provide university-level instruction in everything from machine learning to grammar, taught by tenured professors at such revered schools as Duke and Stanford. Classes are reasonably priced — most under $100 — and range from one-time seminars to weeks-long lectures.
The Class: Essentials of Mexican Cooking ($39.99)
What You’ll Learn: All the traditional cooking techniques you’ll need to make flavor-packed Mexican dishes, taught by celebrity chef (and Men’s Journal contributor) Rick Bayless. Learn how to make everything from guacamole and ceviche to tacos and tamales. The streaming HD video lessons are accessible from any device and include short bonus courses on proper knife skills and the perfect margarita.
The School: Some websites are just aptly named. Sure, Craftsy has stuff like embroidery and scrapbooking, but there are some real dude-worthy lessons here, including a large drawing and painting selection and a seriously legit woodworking department that includes classes on power tools (table saws!) and expert-level courses on cabinetry, doors, and drawers.
What You’ll Learn: While it would surely be fun to draw and paint comics, predicting the stock market is a far more practical skill. Learning the famed Elliott Wave Theory is valuable for anyone who wants to make money either as a day or swing trader. And even if you’re not convinced trading is for you, it can’t hurt to find out why the markets work the way they do — even if it’s just to keep your 401k secure.
The School: Like Coursera without the institutional ties, Udemy is one of the largest online marketplaces for both students and instructors. With 15 million students and more than 45,000 courses — many totally free — in everything from programming and development to real estate to gaming to test prep, Udemy may be the most comprehensive e-school around. It’s certainly one of the most affordable.
What You’ll Learn: Hit better on the range than on the course? Always missing easy putts? How can the same swing get such wildly varying results? Learn the mental keys to consistent play from one of the premier golf and fitness instructors around. And don’t worry about your buddies mocking you; take the class in the privacy of your own home or yard, and no one has to know you were schooled by LPGA Teacher of the Year Karen Palacios-Jansen.
The School: Powhow is a cool platform that allows private trainers and instructors to run their instructional studios online via live webcams and on-demand video. All you need is a webcam. Don’t be put off by the pastel motif of the home page; while it’s true Powhow traffics heavily in fitness, dance, yoga, and wellness classes, there are plenty of cool courses in martial arts, dog training, and even magic.
What You’ll Learn: A Cicerone is to beer what a Sommelier is to wine — an expert. Learn everything there is to know about beer, including styles and characteristics of various brews, types of hops and malts, the major regions of production and their distinctions, good storage practices and appropriate serving temperatures, different draft systems, proper food pairings, the right glassware for every brew, etc.
The School: The Chicago-based Cicerone Certification Program is the industry standard for assessment and certification of beer knowledge. While cicerone certification might be fun for beer enthusiasts and certainly useful for homebrewers, servers, and bartenders, it’s an absolute must for current (and prospective) bar and restaurant owners.
What You’ll Learn: Essentially, you learn how to be a hero. This course teaches basic first aid techniques including how to treat choking, bleeding, and common wounds and an introduction to CPR. You’ll develop an improved awareness of safety at home and in the workplace, and increased confidence in dealing with life-threatening situations — skills that may even help your professional career.
The School: E-Careers is the U.S. version of Blue Mountain Training, a popular U.K. e-school. With a wide variety of courses in a vast array of specialties, E-Careers provides instruction in everything from accounting and office skills to sewing and mixology.
What You’ll Learn: You may think you’re overweight, but it’s more likely you’re just out of shape. But this ain’t no fitness training session, bucko; in 24 half-hour lectures, Dr. Michael Ormsbee explains why the proportion of fat to muscle is a better gauge of health than weight. He’ll also teach you how to develop proper eating habits and keys to staying fit and healthy as you age. Great for those who work in a cubicle.
The School: The Great Courses began more than 25 years ago, selling mail-order cassettes and videotapes of traditional academic lectures by real professors at respected colleges and universities. Today, the school embraces not only modern technology by offering courses via download but contemporary sensibilities with classes on everything from meditation to astronomy to gardening.