20 Free Online College Courses for Senior Citizens

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The World of learning does not stop at a specific age. As we grow older with age, keeping a sharp mind is essential to how we perceive life and learn new things about a wide variety of subjects. Many colleges and universities offer college admission for all ages, including a variety of free online college courses for senior citizens. In fact, the rate of older adults entering college has continuously increased over the past few years. According to a study taken from the U.S. News and World Report, approximately 60 percent of educational degree institutions now offer tuition free waivers to senior citizens who desire to go to college. There are numerous reasons why seniors choose to continue their educational goals. Some may feel they want to learn a new skill and become more knowledgeable about a specific field. Others may want to advance their current career. However, some seniors may just want something to do outside of being “empty nesters”. Whatever their reasoning may be, college will provide them with learning new topics, building strong social connections, and giving them a worthwhile experience as they enter retirement. Whether it be their first time entering a higher education institute, looking for a career change, or going back to finish a degree that had long been forgotten, seniors have access to many free online programs and courses to help them with their college or career goals. Below are twenty free online college courses for Senior citizens.

1. Social Psychology

Learning about human behavior can be an intriguing topic to discuss.  The human mind is so complex, and we all reflect, comprehend, and develop our own thought processes in different ways. The course on Social Psychology will discuss classic to contemporary ideas, topics of decision-making, group behavior, persuasion, personal attraction, and the health or wellbeing of the mind.  The focus of the course will also introduce research findings that apply to real life situations. The total course is seven weeks long and take approximately thirty-eight hours to complete. The course also provides flexible deadlines and is available in Spanish and Chinese as well. Students of all ages, including senior citizens can take the Social Psychology course. Students are thirty-three percent more likely to start a new career and thirty-three percent likely to receive a tangible career benefit from taking this course. The Social Psychology course is offered by Wesleyan University and taught by Scott Plous, a recipient of the American Psychological Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching.

2. Introductory Human Physiology

Another great course for seniors to take online is Introductory Human Physiology by Duke University. The course will help students of all ages learn to recognize and apply basic concepts of how the body functions within the body’s nine organ systems. Skills learned through this course include Metabolic Pathways, Biology, Organ Systems, and Medicine. There are also very interactive videos that help seniors visualize the information better. The complete course is 100% online, provides a sharable certificate, and offers flexible deadlines. The course is only ten weeks long and can be completed in thirty-three hours. After taking this course, students are 14% likely to receive a promotion or raise from the knowledge learned or 47% chance to start a new career. The course on Introductory Human Physiology is taught by two exceptional instructors and has a high success rate by many students who have taken the course.

3. Moral Foundations of Politics

This course on Moral Foundations of Politics is focused on exploring the different political theories of Enlightenment from past histories, such as Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition. The course will look at modern society and what brought us to where we are now. Topics of classical and contemporary formations will also be discussed, including the nature of democratic politics and how they are justified. Contemporary debating on political issues of today, such as economic inequality, affirmative action and the distribution of health care will all be subject to discussion. Talks on the limits of state power regarding the regulations of speech and religion, and the emerging threats of global environmental decay will be the last topic mentioned through the eight-week course by Yale University.  The course is 100% online and provides certification of completion. The total course takes about forty-five hours to complete. The course is available in English, Romanian, and Spanish languages. The course is taught by Ian Shapiro, an author of He has written several influential books on democracy, justice, and the methods of social inquiry.

4. Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life

Here is another course focused on the human body, or more specifically, the brain and how it functions throughout our everyday lives. This course called Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of everyday life, will explain how the nervous system produces behavior, how we solve common problems through neuroscience emitters, and what is neuronal communication and comprehending neuroanatomy. The course is 100 percent online and will also explain how our brain helps us move our bodies, interact with others, and simple stay alive and healthy. Topics discussed in the class are neurological disorders, neurobiology, and neurology. This course is great for seniors that want to learn more of their changing behaviors as they age. The course is only twenty-nine hours long and can be completed in ten weeks. Certificates are available and the completed course is at a beginners level of education and sponsored by the University of Chicago and taught by Dr. Peggy Mason, a graduate of Harvard.

5. Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs

Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs are online courses, teaching students and senior citizens about the importance of health systems and how to design and optimize better programs so they will have a lasting effect on humanity. The Strengthening Community Health Worker programs are provided by Harvard University. Courses will introduce the need to build and strengthen programs with a high-quality outcome for all who use health services. The curriculum provides information on how to design community systems, discusses management challenges, and offers a contributor’s point of view. In addition, the course will show studies of how training high -performing community health workers have helped with the health worker shortage gap; by doing so, it can save over three million lives per year. Students will also learn the importance of advocacy for said programs, with the help of stakeholders and the need to build coalitions to support government-led programs. The total course is six weeks long and offers a self-paced instruction. Seniors should dedicate two to four hours per week towards their studies.  

6. Introduction to Digital Humanities

Most of the world’s historical artifacts or collections of work can be seen through digital databases. For example, if a student needs to do a report on Michelangelo’s David, all is needed is a computer and the digital website to find out everything about the author and his magnificent work of Art. The Introduction to Digital Humanities course is designed for students that desire to understand the importance of digitalizing written or visual artifacts and books within the field of humanities. By using digital tools, humanities professionals can create, gather, and organize data from the main source, so it can be available for all to experience and see. Whether you are a young adult or young at heart, this course will show students what digital humanities is and how to best manage all the aspects of digital humanities research and scholarship. The total class is a seven-week course, with a commitment of two to four hours of studying per week. The course program is sponsored by Harvard University.

7. Cities X: The Past, Present and Future of Urban Life

Growing up in the Urban cities is dramatically different compared to several years ago; even decades in the past has been challenging to some individuals living in many big cities, to say the least, and life in these cities are continuously changing. In this introductory- level course, CitiesX: The past, present and future of urban life, students will explore what has made urban cities throughout US history handle challenging issues, create an energetic attitude within the community, and show evidence that either unity or chaos between local and national governments exist. The course will address how cultural contributions have affected the way people live, work, or learn within urban city life. The CitiesX program will also cover the different approaches to analyzing cities through public policy and how transportation has played a role throughout urban city life. The course is considered one of the best free online college courses for senior citizens, giving seniors a look back to their past and where the future looks like. The total course program can be completed in eleven weeks, with a five to seven hour per week commitment.

8. Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination

This next course, Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination, may hit home to many senior citizens. No one wants to be a victim to fraud; yet many seniors today are affected by this horrific crime, preying on the elderly, including established businesses. In this course, which is sponsored by West Virginia University, students will learn more of who commits these crimes, why they do it, and how to prevent them from continuing in fraud actions against all types of victims, especially the elderly. Students will also develop skills in learning how to catch these perpetrators and stop them from continuing the fraud cycle. Topics discussed in the course are Fraud detection, Internal Control, Fraud Investigation, and forensic Accounting. The Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination program is 100 percent online and takes only five weeks to complete. A time commitment of seven hours is suggested. The course provides flexible class scheduling for deadlines to help seniors succeed in the program.

9. The Strategy of Content Marketing

In today’s world, getting your name or brand out to the public is one of the main keys to success, whether you are a blogger, writer, or business owner. The Strategy of Content marketing course provides students information of how to acquire and retain profitability from customers. For seniors, this may help them understand how marketing works and learn to develop, organize, and implement strategies through content marketing. The course has partnered with the University of California in Davis to present this course to seniors and all students wanting to explore new ideas of content marketing and learn to build their own personal profile brand. In addition to content marketing, student will learn skills such as copywriting, management, and writing. The intermediate-level course is available completely online and provides approximately 21 hours of coursework over five weeks.

10. Get a Business Online

Starting a Business is a full-time commitment, whether in a storefront in your downtown neighborhood or online. However, with everything going mobile, choosing to provide services or products online is becoming the norm in this day of age. People of all ages own businesses throughout the US and globally. For senior citizens who probably have had a physical store for some time, and now want to go mobile, it may feel a little apprehensive to follow through. The good news it is not as hard as others may believe. There are many website building management systems that make the process of getting your name and business online in a fast, easy, and affordable way. This course, simply called “Get a Business online”, will provide business strategies that help students learn to define and track clear goals, analyze data to improve marketing techniques, and collect data by using analytics to see how your site compares to other similar businesses online. The course will also introduce the method of using display ads, which help businesses identify the right audiences and ad networks. The “Get a Business online” course will provide students, and even senior citizens with Video tutorials, Easy-to-implement tips, End-of-topic assessments, and Unlimited access.  The course is set for beginner level education and take approximately three hours to complete.

11. Citizen Science and Global Biodiversity

Identifying and Recording wildlife is a great way to explore nature, while learning how to contribute to wildlife conservatories and provide academic resources for scientific research across the globe.  The Citizen Science and Global Biodiversity course, sponsored by Dangoor Education, provides students with a free study on how to become a citizen scientist. The course looks at what a citizen scientist is, and how individuals can learn and build skills through public involvement in scientific research activities. The online recordings of wildlife are used through the iSpotnature.org platform. Students will learn how a species is identified and the importance of its ecology plays in the research. After taking this course, students will be able to observe, record, and analyze Biodiversity, post observations to the iSpot community, and learn how to identify organisms from real examples. Students will also understand how to best use online ads in identifying nature. This introductory-level course is perfect for seniors, since many older adults have more time to explore nature while in their retirement years.

12. Climate Change: transitions to sustainability

Climate Change has been a focal point of interest to many scientists, especially over the past fifty+ years. There is some controversy or public opinion on the existence of climate change itself; however, despite the ongoing political tension, there is definitely evidence that our world is too dependent on certain types of gases, resulting in high levels of nitrogen pollutants rising into the air that both humans and animals breath each day. This course, Climate Change: transitions to sustainability, will address how human societies must urgently take action to end their fossil fuel dependency and alter our development and decision-making protocols, so our societies become environmentally adaptable and sustainable for future generations. This course will help both young and old to appreciate our world and work to make a better tomorrow. Once the course is complete, students will be able to understand the four dimensions of Globalization, in regard to climate change; distinguish between the three approaches in achieving sustainability; know the difference between ‘government’ and ‘governance’; identify what makes ecological citizenship distinctive; and understand how the medium of the web can aid transitions to sustainability. The total course is completely free, provides five hours of study time, and students can start this course without the need to sign up.

13. An Introduction to Web Applications Architecture

In today’s world, there are many technological advances being developed to help increase the way we live and interact with people in society.  With more people online, the need for more powerful web application architecture. The use of web applications is necessary for active user engagement and faster loading times. In this course, the Introduction to Web Applications Architecture, offers an overview of design and implementation of computer software to run on web servers; compared to running on desktop computers, laptops, or mobile devices alone. Web applications can be accessed by networks using a web browser. The course is available offline or through other devices such as Microsoft Word, Kindle, PDF form, or EPub2. The course is designed for intermediate learners and takes eight hours to complete. After students or adult learners finish the course, they will have a better understand the development of web application architecture- using a modular approach, sketch out the components that would be used in a range of approaches to web application architecture, outline a variety of benefits and potential problems associated with web application architecture, and contrast developments in architecture, such as SOA and Cloud, using tiered approaches.

14. Caring for Adults

Many young and middle-aged adults tend to forget what our parents went through in raising us when we children. Now that they (our parents) are in their later years of life, we are the ones taking care of them, and so the cycle begins all over. Therefore, it is so imperative that we are prepared for the changes of caring for the elderly and loved ones who have reached old age. In this course, Caring for Adults, is an introductory course, designed for anyone who is a caregiver or in some form of caring role. The course is completely free and gives you a better understanding of what it means to be a caregiver. It may also support your own well-being and provide the participate ways in dealing with stress. Whether you are a paid or unpaid caregiver, this course will provide the skills and knowledge of the responsibilities in becoming a carer-both physically and legally, recognize the basic concepts to care for someone through a person-centered approach, identify the many needs of a cared-for person, and understand the impact of caring for an older person and how to manage it. The course is a total is six weeks long.

15. Understanding media: The celebrity in the text

We all get a glimpse of what goes on with celebrities by reading the latest trends; either online, in newspapers, magazines, or even the tabloids. Some may express information that is factual, while others are a matter of opinion. In this course, Understanding Media: The Celebrity in the text, it will discuss where the creation of celebrities takes place, how they are portrayed in the different types of “texts”, while examining everyday evidence of celebrity activity, and how to analyze media’s involvement and influential presence. Examples of specific celebrities of today, such as George Clooney, Kylie Minogue, and Nicole Kidman are mentioned. Once finished, participates will identify various techniques used by media, show examples of how celebrity activity is represented in the media, define specific media terms such as genre and tabloidization, and understand the term celebrity in relation to its representation in the media. The complete course is a 12-hour study, made for Intermediate learners.   

16. Introduction to Mathematical Thinking

As grade school students we are taught basic school mathematics, allowing us to think inside the box, meaning that we learn a certain way to solve the problems in front of us. However, the idea of Mathematical thinking is changing our young mind view by teaching us to think outside the box, in a more creative way of solving problems. This course, the Introduction of Mathematical Thinking, will introduce students and adult learners to weekly tutorials, problem-based work assignments, and problem-set questions from expert mathematician instructors. A two-week extended course option is available for math learners who are looking for a more intense way of learning about mathematical thinking and will focus on the development of mathematically based thinking skills for everyday life. The full course is a total of ten weeks and is sponsored by Stanford University. Senior citizens can also benefit from this course, as to challenge their mathematical reasoning and improve the way they solve problems. A course certificate is also available to those who meet educational requirements.

17. The Health Effects of Climate Change

For those who want a little more information of climate change, then this next course is for you. The health Effects of Climate Change course will help students learn more on how global warming, and how it impacts human health, while showing us ways we can diminish these impacts. The course will provide the learner on how increases in greenhouse gases impact public health and how climate change’s impact has affected areas such as nutrition, migration, and infectious diseases. Seniors taking this course, will learn about the strategies to mitigate and adapt to the health impacts of climate change and how changes in Earth’s atmosphere affect health outcomes. According to the course information, rising global temperatures have put the worlds inhabitants in higher risks of diseases, climate change is still a solvable solution.  The Health Effects of Climate Change course is seven weeks long, completely online, and is free for all students and adult learners.  It is sponsored by Harvard University.

18. Social and Economic Networks: Models and Analysis

To most seniors and adult learners, this course will be very interesting to take. The course is called, the Social and Economic Networks: Models and Analysis. It provides students with an overview and synthesis of research on both social and economic networks that draws on the studies found by experts in the field, such as sociologists, economists, computer scientists, physicists, and mathematicians.  This eight-week course will cover an empirical background of social networks, specific definitions related to Homophily, Dynamics, and Degree distributions, and explain strategic network formations in both social and economic societies and provide different social network models as examples. An overview of concepts used to describe, and measure networks will be discussed. Random Networks, such as Poisson Random Networks, Exponential Random Graph Models, Growing Random Networks, Preferential Attachment and Power Laws, Hybrid models of Network Formation will also be explained throughout the course. There are recommended readings for the course, as well as some suggested readings offered to the participate. The course is free of charge and available completely online. The course is provided by the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences.

19. Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

This course, Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, will explore how entrepreneurship and innovation can tackle our society’s complex social problems throughout the nation’s apparent economic status. Whether you are a new college student or a senior citizen wanting to venture into a new chapter in business, this course will provide awareness of opportunities for entrepreneurship in markets that are constantly growing, offer an understanding of a conceptional framework for evaluating these markets, and allow participates to have an appreciation of the types of problems that lend themselves to entrepreneurial solutions. Both seniors and adult learners will also learn about identify points of opportunity for smart efforts in entrepreneurship, while understanding methods of proposing and developing their own creative solutions to economic problems. The full course is an introductory-level, online business course that is self-paced. The free course takes about six weeks to complete and requires a three to five hour per week time commitment. The platform used is the edX format and sponsored by Harvard University.

20. Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking

In today’s world, knowing how to create a theory, construct opinions, and defend compelling arguments is essential when getting your point across to others. This course, Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking, will introduce the theory and practice of rhetoric. Students or Seniors taking this course will learn about rhetorical devices in writing and speaking, and when and how they are used. They will also learn how to differentiate between argument and rhetorical techniques, how to write a persuasive opinion piece for an editorial or short speech, and how to identify logical fallacies in arguments. The course is at an introductory level and can be completed in eight weeks with a time commitment of two to three hours per week. All participates in the course will gain critical thinking skills in writing and public speaking. The course is free; however, to earn a certificate of achievement, a charge of $99 is required. Whether you are inside or outside the political arena, a convincing message to convey to others can be a great advantage to carry through your personal, public, and professional lives. The course is available on edX and sponsored by Harvard University.

Those who Supports the Learning of Online programs and courses

Seniors and adult learners will enjoy learning about the many types of online courses that are available to them. And, as you can see, there are a huge variety of options in a wide range of topics to choose from. Each one of these courses listed above, are available online and most are free of charge; however, there may be a small fee if the older adult chooses to receive a certificate of completion, which some courses do offer. The types of courses available online range from Business and e-Commerce education, social and ethical studies, the humanities, and climate change responses. There are also courses that express how to get involved in scientific research and how to help care for our own aging parents.  Most of these courses are at an introductory level of education, making them easy to comprehend and follow along with the instructor’s lesson plans or definitions of specific course content.  Deciding to learn or study from an online course does come with some responsibility and commitment. Most courses do provide a required amount of time each week to practice or study while in the course. The free online college courses for senior citizens will deliver a flexible learning experience, be sponsored, or provided by top Universities and institutions nationwide and may offer certificates of achievement for completing the course.

These free online college courses for seniors are backed by well known and highly ranked Colleges and Universities. Below are a few of the institutions who has participated and some information about them.

Wesleyan University, founded in 1831, provides many online options for senior citizens and adult learners through their interdisciplinary-style learning format. Wesleyan challenges students of all ages, to explore new ideas, while changing the world they live in. Graduates of Wesleyan go on to become leaders and innovators in a wide range of fields and industries, including government, business, entertainment, and science.

Duke University has almost 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students participating in their programs. The college offers a world-class faculty, working hard to help expand the frontiers of knowledge to all their students. Duke is strongly committed toward applying knowledge in service to society throughout the North Carolina campus and around the world.

Yale University has inspired the minds of both men and women for more than 300 years. Yale is a research university, focused on the students, while encouraging learning as a way of life. The University works to connect others together, offers creativity, and builds innovation among cultures and across disciplines.

University of Chicago is considered one of the world’s primary academic and research institutions. Since its beginning in 1890, the college has driven new ways of thinking. UChicago inspires scholars to both their Hyde Park and international campuses, for an intellectual learning experience.

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