COVID-19: Sign up for free online courses offered by Harvard and Stanford Universities, Educative, Skillshare and more

By Radhika Chandhok 16 May, 2020
Online courses

This handy cheat sheet will not just allow you to pick up a new skill during this circuit breaker, you may even find yourself discovering a new passion

There’s just three more weeks to the end of our circuit breaker. For those with the luxury of staying home, we’ve been blessed enough to enjoy workouts, podcasts, virtual cooking sessions, and even having fine-dining meals and cocktails delivered to our doorstep. Businesses have been doing their bit to help the larger community, either through providing aid, or placing their materials online for free, encouraging the public to upgrade their skill sets, pick up a new hobby, or discover a new passion. Here are our top picks.


Harvard University is offering a plethora of free courses across all faculties. There are over 90 free courses to choose from; select your difficulty level, duration, and preferred subject area such as programming, humanities or business. Lessons include an introduction to accounts and financial statements, how to develop a mobile app (a 13-week course, with an intermediate difficulty level), and even updates from the medical field, where you’ll understand how researchers worked to stop the spread of Ebola. Stanford University is also providing free courses in the fields of health & medicine, education, engineering and Arts & Humanities. Those who’ve completed the online courses and wish to take it further can do so by enrolling in the university’s online degree.


In anticipation of the day we can pack our bags and jet off to a country halfway across the globe, get a head start by learning a language. Of the numerous apps online, the two most popular companies are Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. Duolingo is a free app for casual language learners. It covers a variety of practical, everyday topics such people, travel, greetings and activities. You can learn multiple languages at once too. The app also offers podcasts, though those aren’t as useful for beginners. Rosetta Stone tackles a more traditional approach to learning. You’ll take part in 30-minute lessons that primarily cover grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. While this is a paid-for service, you can sign up for a three-day trial.

Hands-on Learning

If there’s one thing the pandemic has highlighted, it’s how reliant we are on technology. Enter Educative, a site that teaches you basic coding and fundamentals of web development. Fifteen courses are available, and you’ll learn about the interactive approach of front-end web development, from HTML and CSS to JavaScript. The experts at General Assembly are also sharing their skills in coding, data marketing, UX design every Friday. Apart from that, they also offer career development advice, such as how to be proactive with job hunting. The workshops are available till the end of June.

Skillshare focusses on animation, photography, writing and other creative fields. There’s a complimentary two-month trial, and you can attend short courses that include adding movement to animation, writing creative nonfiction, and how to execute a successful side project. For those into photography, Nikon is offering 10 courses, starting with the fundamentals, leading up to nailing a landscape/macro shot. Nikon Ambassador Tamara Lackey, a photographer with works featured in Vogue, provides some tips and tricks for photographing children and pets. Musician turned filmmaker Chris Hershman also gets in on the act, teaching viewers how to create a music video. 

Yet another interesting platform is MasterClass, a celebrity-driven site. Pick up an acting skill or two from  Natalie Portman, learning about the art of fashion design from Marc Jacobs or cooking from Gordon Ramsey. Classes are priced at $180 for two people. 

Mental wellness

The current situation’s impact on our mental health is a growing topic of discussion. The University of Toronto has designed a course – available on Coursera – specially to tackle that. Called Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19, it delves into breaking down anxiety and understanding how the consumption of media has implications on our wellbeing. Closer to home, Singapore Emergency Responder Academy is also conducting a talk on mental resilience and wellness. Simply called ‘The Talk’, Dr John Lim, president of Singapore Counselling Centre will share about the impact of COVID-19, teaching viewers how to adopt positive habits when it comes to managing stress, and supporting those around you. The course charges a nominal fee and a session is allotted upon signing up.