By Maura Deering
Free online psychology courses appeal to psychology students seeking a deeper understanding of a specialty area or topic outside regular classroom learning. Prospective psychology majors who want to test the waters before committing to a degree program or learn psychology basics also enroll in these classes. While free online psychology courses usually do not confer credit, they provide access to knowledge and information.
Most courses use self-paced learning through video lectures, assignments, quizzes, and exams. Courses often include online discussions and reading materials. The list below offers free online psychology courses exploring many different topics.
Adolescent Health and Development
Students interested in developmental psychology online courses can explore aspects of adolescence through JHSPH OpenCourseWare offered by Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. Content delivery includes lecture slides and MP3 recordings, readings, online discussions, a midterm exam, and a final paper that addresses a public health problem faced by adolescents. The eight-week curriculum covers adolescent brain development, risk-taking and decision-making, family dynamics, juvenile violence, and mental and physical health issues.View Course
Buddhism and Modern Psychology
Coursera offers this Princeton University class based on the Dalai Lama's premise of the compatibility of Buddhism and science. The course introduces Western students to Buddhist thought regarding the human mind and the role of meditation. Learners should expect to spend 18 hours studying and completing assignments on their own schedules. Course content delivery combines videos, readings, and quizzes on the concept of the self, and Buddhist and Darwinian enlightenment.View Course
How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime
Students searching for child psychology courses online can learn about the effects of childhood trauma on brain development and health through TED-Ed. The TED Talk discusses how childhood abuse and neglect can also result in a threefold increase in the risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease later in life. Online comprehension questions take place after the presentation. Related TED Talks cover how stress affects the brain and the psychology of post-traumatic stress disorder.View Course
Introduction to Psychology
This free online psychology course for beginners covers all the basics in an independent-study format. Offered by MIT OpenCourseWare, learners proceed at their own pace through video lectures, lecture notes, and reading assignments. Students test their knowledge with multiple-choice/short answer questions, along with exams and solution keys. Topics include the bases of cognition, emotion, learning, memory, and perception.View Course
Introduction to Psychology as a Science 3 - Normal and Abnormal Behavior
Class Central's listing of this complex normal and abnormal psychology online course includes six weeks of pre-recorded Coursera video lectures from Georgia Institute of Technology. Students watch them on their own schedules, complete assignments and quizzes, and participate in online discussions. Offered free of charge, unless learners want to purchase a certificate, course content covers psychological theories of personality, how other people influence our behavior and cognition, and diagnosis and treatment of disorders.View Course
Introduction to Psychology: Developmental Psychology
Class Central lists this developmental psychology online course from Monash University through Coursera. Students learn about the physical, cognitive, and social stages of development to consider the transitions between the phases and associated psychological changes.
The two-week, 12-hour course delivery includes videos, articles, peer reviews, and quizzes, along with an optional paid certificate of achievement. Upon completion, students can use developmental psychology terms, describe various research designs, and compare and contrast theories.View Course
Managing Stress and Overcoming Anxiety
For those with limited time, the University of Oxford Podcasts offers a 40-minute video discussing why and how some people remain mentally healthy under times of stress, while others encounter anxiety. Viewers learn about employing seven stress- and anxiety-management tools, along with the science behind them. The video culminates with a question-and-answer panel session with faculty from Oxford's experimental psychology department. This video introduces a series of podcasts offered by the department.View Course
Offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill through Coursera, this course covers positive psychology, such as gratitude, kindness, and meditation. The nine-hour curriculum features videos, readings, and quizzes that explore the positive emotions and outcomes of positivity, the delicate art of pursuing happiness, and concepts in positivity resonance. Each student can purchase a course certificate to post on social media or include on their resume.View Course
Through a 10-minute YouTube video that features an instructor and animated graphics, Crash Course outlines defining psychological disorders, considering historical and current perspectives on mental illness, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and recognizing the constant evolution of DSM to incorporate new thinking. Rather than an in-depth examination of psychological disorders, the short and accessible video introduces the subject and sparks interest in learning more.View Course
Offered by Wesleyan University through Coursera, this course takes approximately six hours to complete. Four modules, in which students watch a series of short video lectures, cover an introduction to schizophrenia, symptom assessment and the history of treatment, neuroanatomy and neuroimaging using MRI brain scans, and the psychological science of the disorder. Students complete assignments online and can opt to purchase a certificate to share on social media, such as Linkedin, or list on their CV.View Course
In this course, Khan Academy asks students to consider what causes people to act against their beliefs. Through videos, literary works, and informational texts, learners explore compliance with and resistance to oppressive environments and psychological experiments.
Students answer questions and expand their academic vocabularies while examining what motivates people to harm others, how the rise of authoritarian societies happen, and why people act against their conscience. The course follows a self-paced learning model.View Course
The Arts and Science of Relationships: Understanding Human Needs
Coursera offers this University of Toronto course for students interested in the Strategies and Skills Learning and Development System (SSLD) conceptualization of relationships. Videos cover the foundations and relevance of SSLD, practice principles and methods through case studies, the SSLD framework, and core competencies.
Learning time averages about 22 hours of study on students' schedules. In addition to viewing videos, students complete assigned readings and quizzes. Learners can purchase an optional course certificate.View Course
The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food
This semester-long Open Yale Courses class examines the study of eating and includes topics in sustainable agriculture, obesity, nutrition policy, malnutrition, and eating disorders. Students download recorded video lectures from on-campus classes and reading materials.
Graded assignments include concept sheets, an op-ed piece, and midterm and final exams, along with a final project or paper, which can take the form of a research proposal, volunteer experience in the community, or an independent project.View Course
Trends in e-Psychology
Available through EdX, this four-week course teaches e-based strategies to promote mental, physical, and social health. Course content follows three modules: e-cigarettes, e-mental health applications, and e-mediation.
Students consider the pros, cons, and implementation of each method, such as the benefits and health risks of using e-cigarettes to reduce tobacco use. Instructors lead scheduled online class sessions and assign readings from scientific journals. Demonstration videos, virtual discussions, and knowledge clips also facilitate learning.View Course
Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life
The University of Chicago makes this class available through Coursera with the option to purchase a certificate. The course takes approximately 28 hours to complete and features flexible deadlines. Course content delves into the nervous system's effect on behavior, brain functions, and neuroscience's role in explaining human challenges.
Students learn by watching videos, reading assigned materials, and taking quizzes, gaining knowledge in neurological disorders, neurobiology, and neurology.View Course