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Ten MOOCs for Busy Researchers: Online Learning—Spring Catalog

Amy Volpert

The holidays are over, and now it's time to buckle down. Why not expand your horizons with a free or low-cost online course? Here we list currently available or upcoming massive open online courses (MOOCs) that could be useful for your work, research, or professional development. Learn more...

Some new developments in the growing MOOC field that we are particularly excited about:

  • The increasing number of participating institutions across the globe.
  • The growing availability of courses taught in languages other than English. (Video subtitles in other languages are also available for many English-language courses.)
  • The debut of Coursera's Specializations, collections of courses on specific topics. Students completing all courses in a Specialization plus a "Capstone Project" receive a Specialization Certificate.

1. Biology and Chemistry (Multiple courses at is a non-profit MOOC platform that offers many university-level courses organized into “majors.” Maybe you’re a chemist working in a molecular genetics lab, or perhaps your research has moved from animal to plant models, and you need to brush up on botany—this is your chance to do it for free on your own schedule.

Start date: On-Demand open enrollment

2. Model Thinking

Although it focuses on modeling behavior in the social sciences, one of our editors has taken this course and highly recommends it to those interested in the basic principles of modeling systems.

Platform: Coursera
Start date: February 3, 2014
Duration: 10 weeks
University: University of Michigan

3. Statistical Mechanics: Algorithms and Computations

For a more "scientific" approach to modeling, this course covers Markov-chain techniques, Monte Carlo sampling, molecular dynamics, and other topics.

Platform: Coursera
Start date: February 3, 2014
Duration: 10 weeks
University: École normale supérieure

4. Microbiology and Forensic Science

This course provides an introduction to the science behind microbiology techniques used in forensic studies.

Platform: Open2Study (sponsored by Open Universities Australia)
Start date: February 17, 2014
Duration: 4 weeks
University: Jordan University of Science and Technology

5. Statistical Analysis of fMRI Data

This course covers "the intersection of statistics and functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which is a non-invasive technique for studying brain activity."

Platform: Coursera
Start date: February 24, 2014
Duration: 6 weeks
University: Johns Hopkins University

6. Fundamentals of Immunology Part 1

An understanding of the immune system is vital for the study of many diseases, as well as drug discovery and development. Part 2 of this course will be offered in April, 2014.

Platform: edX
Start date: March 2, 2014
Duration: 8 weeks
University: Rice University

7. Genomic Medicine Gets Personal

This cross-disciplinary course presents basic concepts and techniques in the field of genomics as well as the impact of genomics advances on individual patients and society as a whole.

Platform: edX
Start date: March 4, 2014
Duration: 8 weeks
University: Georgetown University

8. Моделирование биологических молекул на GPU (Biomolecular modeling on GPU)
(Russian language only)

This course is offered only in Russian at the present.

Platform: Coursera
Start date: Start date: March 14, 2014
Duration: 7 weeks
University: Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

9. Bioinformatics: Introduction and Methods
生物信息学: 导论与方法
(Lectures in Mandarin Chinese and English; slides in English )

For those interested in the ever-growing field of bioinformatics, this course offers an overview of basic principles and methods in this discipline.

Platform: Coursera
Start date: March 17, 2014
Duration: 7 weeks
University: Peking University

10. Introduction to Systems Biology
(Systems Biology Specialization )

This is the first course offered as part of the System Biology specialization. Those interested in earning the Specialization Certificate must pay the $49 "Verified Certificate" fee for each individual course ($294 total).

Platform: Coursera
Start date: March 31, 2014
Duration: 10 weeks
University:Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Other courses in this Specialization:

For more on MOOCs, see the following: