Informative, introspective, and inspiring: 12 interesting Ivy League courses you can take online this fall

Welcome to the world of online learning. Perhaps you’ve recently discovered the benefits of learning or working online, or perhaps you were already enjoying the increased flexibility that accessible online courses can offer—in which case, welcome back! Whether you’re looking for exciting electives to fill out your Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) degree or just testing the waters of individual course-taking, you’re probably already thinking about your fall schedule. So are we: our accelerated 8-week terms this fall include a wide variety of new and returning courses for you to explore—with the guidance of expert Penn faculty and the convenience of learning at home.

Fall course registration is open now, and there’s still time to enroll as a certificate or course student. Fall 1 courses start on September 1 and fall 2 courses begin on October 29, but don’t wait to sign up—some courses fill up quickly. To help you get started, here are 12 interesting courses you can take online this fall!

Level up your professional prowess

APOP 200/LEAD 360: Positive Psychology at Work

Consider how many of your waking hours are dedicated to completing work tasks, thinking about work problems, and managing work relationships. Whether you’re polishing up your management skills or meditating on your personal well-being, you could probably use some research-informed strategies for flourishing in those hours on and off the clock. This Applied Positive Psychology course, which is cross-listed with our Leadership and Communication course block, can be taken on its own, but you’ll get more out of it if you’ve already taken APOP 100: Introduction to Positive Psychology (which runs in the fall 1 term).

PROW 200: Writing with Data

Data can be a vital tool for any industry, whether that means advocating for change, measuring impact, or making predictions. This Professional Writing course is designed to increase your data literacy and help you understand and think critically about how to interpret information as well as when and how to use data visualizations to enhance your organizational storytelling.

ORGC 201: Virtual Collaboration

The pandemic plunged some workers into a digital workplace they may or may not have been prepared for. Within the discipline of organizational anthropology, which explores the structures and best practices of workplaces and communities, the Virtual Collaboration course tackles the particular social and technological challenges of working together online. Students take lessons from the social sciences and put them into immediate practice observing, analyzing, and working together as a group. To learn about this course’s approach to virtual collaboration, visit the Penn LPS Online feature “We’re all virtual collaborators now… but do we know how to be?”

Sharpen the tools in your critical thinking kit

SPRO 100: Scientific Reasoning

Science is the observation of the natural world, but scientific knowledge is a human creation—and therefore is influenced by human values, behaviors, and beliefs. This course puts scientific method and logic into action and also explores the history and context of how scientific theories developed over time. The course offers foundational knowledge for anyone interested in pursuing scientific studies, but also anyone whose creative or professional work entails sharing and interpreting knowledge.

  • Instructors: Daniel Singer, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Michael Weisberg, Professor and Chair of Philosophy
  • 8-week course, offered in fall 1 (September 1 – October 26, 2020)
  • May be taken as an individual course
  • May be applied to the BAAS concentration in Individualized Studies
  • Fulfills the BAAS foundational requirement Scientific Process

PHYL 120: Foundations of Life Sciences

Maybe you’d like to take courses in neuroscience or climate science but worry that it’s been too long since your high school biology class. Maybe the urgency of the pandemic has made you wish you knew more about the body’s systems and how they work together. Students with little or no prior exposure to college-level science courses can benefit from this foundational course, which explores topics such as metabolism, membrane transport, genetics, physiology, and ecology. With an intensive multimedia approach involving video and animation, the course introduces students to the mechanisms and methods of life science and prepares them to learn more.

  • Instructor: M. Ruth Elliott, Instructor
  • 8-week course, offered in fall 1 (September 1 – October 26, 2020)
  • May be taken as an individual course
  • May be applied to the BAAS concentrations in Individualized Studies or Physical and Life Sciences
  • Fulfills the BAAS foundational requirement Scientific Process

ETHC 200: Ethics & Society

How do you know right from wrong? How do you choose the best action in a morally ambiguous situation? These questions have animated centuries of philosophical debate. This course introduces students to the theories and methods of moral philosophy and invites students to apply them to some of the most pressing ethical questions that confront us today, from climate change to abortion to charitable donations.

  • Instructor: Errol Lord, Associate Professor and Graduate Chair of Philosophy
  • 8-week course, offered in fall 2 (October 29 – December 22, 2020)
  • May be taken as an individual course
  • Fulfills the BAAS foundational requirement Ethical Reasoning

Understand the world we live in

GLBS 100: Introduction to Global Studies

Some say that the 21st century is an era of increasing globalization: as digital technologies make international connections more possible, pressing challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have shown how interconnected we are across the globe. But people across oceans have been sharing information, culture, and trade goods for centuries. This course is designed to bring history to life with rich, interactive media and help you understand global transactions within critical economic, political, and philosophical context.

  • Instructor: Deborah Harrold, Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science and Liberal and Professional Studies
  • 8-week course, offered in fall 1 (September 1 – October 26, 2020)
  • May be taken as an individual course
  • May be applied to the BAAS concentrations in Individualized Studies or Literature, Culture, and Tradition

DIGC 120: Digital Literacy & Cultural Change

We’re all immersed in digital culture from when we check our messages in the morning to the moment we plug in our phones for the night. But digital technology itself is changing rapidly, and the way its users create and share messages is changing too. The difference between being exposed to digital culture and becoming fluent in it is an ability to analyze digital media and understand its diverse contexts. This course offers tools to explore digital communication in many different forms, and to create or remix your own—helpful skills in navigating the digital world as a consumer, but invaluable to anyone who uses these channels as a communicator or content creator. 

  • Instructor: Clayton Colmon, Associate Director of Instructional Design, Penn Arts & Sciences Online Learning
  • 8-week course, offered in fall 1 (September 1 – October 26, 2020)
  • May be taken as an individual course
  • May be applied to the BAAS concentrations in Individualized Studies or Literature, Culture, and Tradition
  • Fulfills the BAAS foundational requirement Qualitative Analysis - Digital Culture

CLCH 160: Oceanography

The world’s oceans are many things to many people: food source, waterway for trade and travel, attractive coastal destination, mysterious frontier of deep sea exploration, or endangered domain in climate change concerns. In this course, you’ll go beneath the surface of this human activity and learn about the geology and chemistry of the ocean, from plate tectonics to atmospheric interactions. Not only will you leave the course understanding more about the hydrosphere, you’ll establish a foundation in climate science that can position you for success in future online courses about climate change.

  • Instructor: Jane Dmochowski, Senior lecturer, Earth and Environmental Science
  • 8-week course, offered in fall 2 (October 29 – December 22, 2020)
  • May be taken as an individual course
  • May be applied to the Certificate in Climate Change
  • May be applied to the BAAS concentrations in Individualized Studies or Physical and Life Sciences
  • Fulfills the BAAS foundational requirement Scientific Process

Develop your understanding of the arts

CRWR 370: Journalism

Whether or not you’re a consumer of written or televised news, the way news stories are written and circulated profoundly impact the information you have access to. These skills of hooking the reader and bringing facts to life while reporting information ethically and accurately are useful for any nonfiction or professional writer—and under the guidance of a working journalist in the field, you’ll also learn interviewing skills, discuss real-world challenges in journalism, and get peer and instructor feedback in this Creative Writing course.

NEUR 160: The Neuroscience of Music

Music is a mystery as well as a pleasure: why do we like it? How do we make it? This course explores musical concepts such as scale, dissonance, and emotional affect through a neurobiological lens: in other words, how the brain and ears apprehend and understand music. You need to have completed NEUR 100: Introduction to Neuroscience before taking this course; NEUR 100 is offered in fall 1, so you can get up to speed on the foundations of neuroscience before NEUR 160 in fall 2.

CRWR 240: The Art of Editing

The title says it all: like writing, editing is an art form that you can cultivate with the right knowledge, practice, and inspiration. This course introduces students to editing tools such as style guides, provides technical experience in developmental editing, line editing, and proofreading, and explores different philosophies of editorial intervention through famous literary examples. Whether you hope to establish clear editing guidelines for your organization or look forward to reviewing your own writing with fresh eyes, you’ll emerge with your grammar polished and your red pen ready.

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