Free Online Writing & Journalism Courses

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Writing & Journalism Courses

Note: This section includes a lot of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). If you want to enroll in a free version of a MOOC, please select the "Full Course, No Certificate" (edX) or "Audit" (Coursera) option. If you opt to take the course for a certificate/credential, you will be charged.

See our meta collection--1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities--for a complete list of online courses, covering nearly every subject.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication in a New Online Course

One doesn't normally get into astrophysics for the fame. But sometimes one gets famous anyway, as has astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. But that title doesn't even hint at the scope of his public-facing ventures, from the columns he's written in magazines like Natural History and StarDate to his hosting of television shows like NOVA and the sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos to his podcast StarTalk and his high-profile social media presence. Has any other figure in the annals of science communication been as prolific, as outspoken, and as willing to talk to anyone and do anything?

Here on Open Culture, we've featured Tyson recommending booksgiving a brief history of everythingdelivering "the greatest science sermon ever," chatting about NASA's flyby of Pluto with Stephen Colbert, "performing" in a Symphony of Science video, inventing a physics-based wrestling move in high schoollooking hip in grad schooldefending science in 272 wordsbreaking down the genius of Isaac Newtontalking non-Newtonian solids with a nine-year-olddiscussing the history of video gamescreating a video game with Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martinselecting the most astounding fact about the universeexplaining the importance of arts education alongside David Byrnepondering whether the universe has a purposedebating whether or not we live in a simulationremembering when first he met Carl Saganinterviewing Stephen Hawking just days before the latter's death, and of course, moonwalking.

Now comes Tyson's latest media venture: a course from Masterclass, the online education company that specializes in bringing big names from various fields in front of the camera and getting them to tell us what they know. (Other teachers include Malcolm Gladwell, Steve Martin, and Werner Herzog.) "Neil DeGrasse Tyson Teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication," whose trailer you can watch above, gets into subjects like the scientific method, the nature of skepticism, cognitive and cultural bias, communication tactics, and the inspiration of curiosity. "There's, like, a gazillion hours of me on the internet," admits Tyson, and though none of those may cost $90 USD (or $180 for an all-access pass to all of Masterclass' offerings), in none of them has he taken on quite the goal he does in his Masterclass: to teach how to "not only find objective truth, but then communicate to others how to get there. It's not good enough to be right. You also have to be effective."

Note: MasterClass is currently running a holiday special where two people can get an annual pass to the entire MasterClass course catalog for the price of one. Get details on that here.

If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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An Animated Neil deGrasse Tyson Gives an Eloquent Defense of Science in 272 Words, the Same Length as The Gettysburg Address

Neil deGrasse Tyson Says This Short Film on Science in America Contains Perhaps the Most Important Words He’s Ever Spoken

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

David Sedaris Teaches Storytelling & Humor His New Masterclass

For more than 25 years, the holiday season has brought to the radio not just Christmas carols but a diaristic monologue by a writer with, in every sense, a distinctive voice. When it first aired on Morning Edition, "Santaland Diaries" made David Sedaris' name, not that he holds the piece in esteem as high as some of his fans do. "People will say, 'Oh, I loved that Santaland thing,'" Sedaris said in a recent interview, but "that thing is so clunkily written. I mean, it’s just horribly written, and people can’t even see it." Most are "listening to the story, but they’re not paying attention to how it’s constructed, or they’re not paying attention to the words that you used. They’re not hearing the craft of it." Sedaris fans who do hear the craft of it may well be in the target audience for a new Masterclass taught by the man himself.

Here on Open Culture we've previously featured Masterclasses by writers as intellectually and stylistically various as Joyce Carol Oates, Malcolm Gladwell, Margaret Atwood, and Dan Brown. But we've never conducted investigations into any of their writing processes in the same way we have into Sedaris' writing process, his own view of which constitutes the core of his Masterclass' content. "If you write about people, you have to be interested in people," he says in the trailer above. For him that means asking unexpected questions, like "Do your children shower?" or "Who's the drunkest customer you've had today?" It also means keeping a diary in which to record the answers, and with which, even more importantly, to maintain a daily writing habit.




Even now, with a full schedule of readings to give around the world, Sedaris writes every day without fail. But he also did it for fifteen years before "The Santaland Diaries" brought him the attention that got his first book published. "I meet a lot of young writers and I say, 'Do you write every day?'" he mentions in one lesson. "They say, 'No, but just — you know, I write when it strikes me.' I don't know. I suppose that might work for some people." But it certainly wouldn't work for him, nor would doing fewer than his customary twelve to eighteen rewrites of each piece. In other lessons he covers such aspects of the craft as "observing the world," "connecting with the reader," "ending with weight," and "writing about loved ones."

For that last lesson Sedaris brings in a special guest: his sister Lisa, there to talk about what it feels like to be written about by her famously observant brother. That will come as a special treat for anyone who recognizes her from all her appearances in Sedaris' family stories, but each lesson seems to play to Sedaris' strengths as a writer as well as a performer: he gives readings of diary entries and published pieces, but also gives his students advice on how to handle readings of their own in the future. As with every Masterclass, you can take this one for a one-time fee of $90 USD or with an all-access pass to every course on the site for $180. Sedaris makes no promises that the course will bestow upon all who take it a worldview as distinctive as his, to say nothing of a fan base as lucrative as his, but it will surely make them better at "hearing the craft of it," a skill as worthy of cultivation as it is rare.

Note: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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David Sedaris Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Jazz Tracks: Stream Them Online

Steve Martin Teaches His First Online Course on Comedy

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinemaand the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Doris Kearns Goodwin Teaches U.S. Presidential History & Leadership

FYI: Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin--author of Leadership: In Turbulent Times, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt--has just released a new online course on MasterClass. Here's the ground that the course covers:

Altogether, she’s spent more than 50 years studying great American presidents and leaders of the past, writing several award-winning, bestselling biographies, including No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History. Now she’s sharing her knowledge and teaching you to lead like a president.

In Doris’s MasterClass, you can learn to develop the characteristics and human skills of exceptional American leadership, from Lincoln to Obama. Doris brings to life the stories and experiences of four presidents she knows by heart—Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ—and shares a template of human skills that make great leaders: humility, empathy, resilience, self-awareness, self-reflection, the ability to create a team and communicate through stories, and sharing your ambition for the greater good. She also uses examples from other historical figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr., to teach effective leadership qualities and practical wisdom for every day. Learn how to make better decisions, manage a crisis, and get a message across, whether you’re interacting with the media, communicating to a team at work, or delivering a speech meant to inspire and empower thousands of people.

In this class, you’ll learn about:
• Developing emotional intelligence
• Experiences and stories of U.S. presidents
• Building resilience
• Building and leading a team
• Making better decisions, big or small
• Navigating a crisis
• Delivering a message and considering an audience
• The power of speeches
• Replenishing your energy
• Civic engagement

Purchase a pass ($90) to the course here. Or, for $199, get an All Access Pass to the 70 courses in the MasterClass catalogue.

As a free unrelated bonus, you can stream Kearns Goodwin's long interview with Tim Ferris. There, she takes an engaging look at the leadership skills of four American presidents--Lincoln, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and LBJ. It's well worth a listen...

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour Teaches a Course on Creativity & Leadership

Imagine a famous magazine editor, and smart money says the image that comes to mind has a bob haircut and sunglasses. No one has defined the role of magazine-editor-as-cultural-force, and so consistently lived it, more than Anna Wintour, and the online education company Masterclass has somehow convinced her to take her hand off the wheel of Vogue — and put aside those oversized shades — just long enough to star in a course about how she steers that behemoth of a publication through the waters of fashion. "I know many people are curious about who I am and how I approach my work," Wintour says in the trailer above. "This is a class for those who want to understand my leadership style, and then understand the experiences that have helped me become an effective leader."

You may well have already heard a thing or two about Wintour's leadership style, the famously exacting nature of which has provoked different reactions from different people (and possibly even inspired a bestselling novel and its feature-film adaptation).




But as Wintour herself explains it, "you need someone who can push you, that isn't pulling you back" — sensible advice even for leaders of companies, teams, and classrooms who don't mind projecting a somewhat more laid-back image. But even for those who want to project as much individual strength and resolve as possible, "it's really, really important to surround yourself with a team whose opinions that you trust, who are not in any way frightened of disagreeing with you, and you have to listen."

In her Masterclass, Wintour teaches, in other words, "how to be a boss." That phrase appears at the top of its syllabus, whose twelve lessons include "Anna's Management Tips" and "Editorial Decision-Making" as well as "Photographers and Models," "A Look Back at Iconic Covers," and "Transforming the Met Gala." Though geared toward viewers with an interest in the business of fashion (case studies include the careers of Miuccia Prada and Michael Kors), "Anna Wintour Teaches Creativity and Leadership" also offers principles for any human endeavor that requires invention, group work, and meeting hard deadlines over and over again. You can take the course individually for $90 USD, or as part of a $180 yearly all-access pass to every course on Masterclass, including another one on creativity by a similarly productive cultural figure, similarly recognizable by personal style alone: David Lynch.

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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George Orwell Blasts American Fashion Magazines (1946)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Joyce Carol Oates Teaches a New Online Course on the Art of the Short Story

How on Earth does Joyce Carol Oates do it? Since her debut 56 years ago she has put out 58 novels, not to mention her poetry, plays, nonfiction, diaries, and thousands — literally thousands — of short stories. (In recent years, she's also written no small number of tweets.) But though she's spent decades with the adjective prolific attached to her name, none of us would know her name in the first place if her work had nothing more distinctive about it than its sheer volume. No matter how much a writer writes, all is for naught if that writing doesn't make an impact. The question of how to make that impact, in several senses of the word, lies at the heart of Oates' new online course offered through Masterclass.

"The most powerful writing often comes from confronting taboos," Oates says in the course's trailer above. "As a writer, if one can face the darkest elements in oneself, and the things that are secret, you have such a feeling of power." The truth of that comes through in any of Oates' novels, but also in her shorter works of fiction, even the early stories that make up her very first book, 1963's collection By the North Gate.




We might call her one of the writers whose short stories offer distillations of their sensibilities, and so it makes sense that her Masterclass focuses on "the Art of the Short Story." Its fourteen lessons cover such aspects of short-story writing as drafting, revising, and sharing; observing the world with a journal; and of course, "exploring taboo and darkness."

Oates draws examples from her own vast body of work, of course, including her much-reprinted short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" But she also examines the writing of such predecessors as Virginia Woolf, William Carlos Williams, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as stories written by the two students who appear in the class videos. This is as close as most of us will ever get to being workshopped by Joyce Carol Oates, and if that appeals to you, you can take her Masterclass for $90 USD or buy the all-access pass to every course on the site (including courses taught by novelists like Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume, and Neil Gaiman) for $15 per month. But be warned that, however daunting the prospect of tapping into one's own dark memories and forbidden thoughts, the question of how Oates does it has another, potentially more frightening answer: eight hours a day.

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

Related Content:

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How to Write a Bestselling Page Turner: Learn from The Da Vinci Code Author Dan Brown’s New Masterclass

Judy Blume Now Teaching an Online Course on Writing

The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook Collects Recipes From T.C. Boyle, Marina Abramović, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Critical Thinking: A Free Course

In the playlist above, Gregory Sadler presents a 24-lecture course on "Critical Thinking"--something the world could always use more of. Presented at Fayetteville State University, the course features lectures on topics like Deductive and Inductive Arguments, Fallacies, Rhetorical Devices, Appeals to Authority and much more. The textbook used (and referenced) in the course was Moore and Parker's Critical Thinking. The individual lectures are as follows:

  1. Issues, Claims, Arguments
  2. Arguments and Non-Arguments
  3. Value Judgements 
  4. Deductive and Inductive Arguments with Implicit Premises
  5. Complex Arguments, Unstated Premises
  6. Deductive and Inductive Arguments 1
  7. Deductive and Inductive Arguments 2
  8. Deductive and Inductive Arguments 3
  9. Fallacies of Composition and Division
  10. Information Sources
  11. Experts and Appeal to Authority
  12. Critical Thinking and Advertising
  13. Rhetorical Devices 1
  14. Rhetorical Devices 2
  15. Rhetorical Devices 3
  16. Fallacies 1
  17. Fallacies 2
  18. Fallacies 3
  19. Fallacies 4
  20. Fallacies 5
  21. Fallacies 6
  22. Inductive Arguments 1
  23. Inductive Arguments 2
  24. Inductive Arguments 3

Also find the complete playlist of lectures on YouTube here. Sadler's YouTube channel features other courses and a wealth of philosophy lectures.

"Critical Thinking" has been added to our list of Free Philosophy Courses, a subset of our collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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