9 Enlightening Courses You Can Take Online in March 2019

iStock.com/damircudic
iStock.com/damircudic

These days, you can learn just about anything online, whether it's through YouTube videos, independent research, or Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Websites like Coursera, edX, and Udemy offer a wealth of classes that will teach you everything you didn't have the chance to learn in school, whether it's practical kitchen skills, esoteric historical information, or off-beat science. There’s no shortage of unique courses to dive into, and many of them are free—or at least much cheaper than their offline equivalents. Here are some of the most intriguing ones you can take in March 2019.

1. Bake Artisan Sourdough Bread Like a Professional

Baking your own bread is trendier than ever, but that doesn't mean it's easy. From making a sourdough starter from scratch to mixing, shaping, and baking loaves, this course will teach you how to make bread the Old World way. Instructor Teresa L. Greenway will walk you through the process of making your own crispy, chewy bread at home through four hours of video, 28 articles, and 33 downloadable resources you can review at your own pace. Along the way, you'll learn about the basics of fermentation, gluten formation, hydration, and more, including a crash course in the long history of bread-making. While this is one of the pricier online class options, its price tag pales in comparison to what you'd pay for in-person classes somewhere like King Arthur Flour's baking school. (And if you find the class doesn't quite rise to the occasion, Udemy has a 30-day money-back guarantee.)

Sign up on Udemy for $100.

2. The Truth About Cats and Dogs

If you've ever wondered why dogs love to dig or cats love cardboard boxes, this class offered by the University of Edinburgh is for you. The nine-hour course promises to give you scientific insights into these two species’s behavior, exploring how dogs and cats see the world, how they communicate, and how you can improve their lives. Though it's designed to be completed in five weeks, the flexible deadlines can fit whatever your personal schedule allows.

Sign up on Coursera for free. The optional certificate costs $49.

3. Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology

Since it first premiered as an NBC television series in 1966, Star Trek has spawned multiple television series, films, comic books, and novels, becoming a juggernaut of nerd culture like no other. It has had such a big impact on American society, in fact, that you can take a course dedicated to its influence, from fandom phenomena to how it shaped the television we watch today. It's offered by SmithsonianX, the Smithsonian Institution's free course program.

Sign up on edX for free. The optional certificate, which includes bonus course content, costs $40.

4. Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction

Perfect for fans of historical tales like The Favourite (2018), this online class taught by University of Virginia English professor Bruce Holsinger details the rise of historical fiction from the 18th century to today. You'll discuss what exactly makes a work of historical fiction, read classics of the form by writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Charles Dickens, and hear from a modern author.

Sign up on Coursera for free. The optional certificate costs $49.

5. The Science of Happiness

Since it first launched in 2014, this class from the University of California, Berkley's Greater Good Science Center has consistently been one of the most popular MOOCs out there. It provides scientific insight into what it takes to live a fruitful life, all backed by psychological research. Previous participants have reported feeling a boost in positive feelings for months after taking the eight-week class.

Sign up on edX for free. The optional certificate costs $49.

6. Osteoarchaeology: The Truth in Our Bones

You can learn a surprising amount of information about a person just from studying their bones. This course offered by Universiteit Leiden in The Netherlands examines everything we can learn just from looking at skeletal remains, from information about that person's health and diet to where they migrated and the kind of activities they performed when they were alive.

Sign up on Coursera for free. The optional certificate costs $49.

7. Mix World-Class Cocktails: Secrets of a Champion Mixologist

If you've always wanted to be able to get behind a bar and whip up incredibly creative cocktails, award-winning mixologist Paul Martin's course is for you. You'll get 2.5 hours of video instruction plus 16 downloadable resources to help make you the best bartender you can be, whether you're a complete newbie or an established professional. "You will learn key mixing techniques, how to produce the finest examples of the great classic cocktails, the secrets and methods for producing the most popular contemporary cocktails perfectly, and finally how to produce some show-stopping cocktail garnishes to give your cocktails that 'rock-star' presentation," Martin promises. By the end of the course, you'll have mastered 16 different classic cocktail preparations, including the perfect martini, a "sublime" cosmopolitan, and more. The course is expensive for an online class, but it's much cheaper than your standard in-person bartending school.

Sign up on Udemy for $200.

8. Pixel Art for Video Games

Video games have come a long way since the 16-bit era, but there is a unique beauty to pixel art that still makes it appealing today. This course taught by game artist Marco Vale will teach you how to make your own, professional-level pixel art. You'll learn how to draw and animate characters from different perspectives, bringing your bite-sized imaginations to life.

Sign up on Udemy for $70.

9. History of Rock Music I: From the Early Blues to the 1960s

For all those folks that love to rock and roll all night, this introductory course takes you through some of the highlights of rock music history. Taught by Vasilis Kallis, an associate professor of music theory at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, the class looks at rock 'n' roll through theory, composition, and cultural history. Not only will you learn about some of the genre’s most prominent artists and styles, but you will also explore the cultural and economic factors that contributed to the impact these artists had on society at large.

Sign up on Udemy for $60.

These Rugged Steel-Toe Boots Look and Feel Like Summer Sneakers

Indestructible Shoes
Indestructible Shoes

Thanks to new, high-tech materials, our favorite shoes are lighter and more comfortable than ever. Unfortunately, one thing most sneakers are not is durable. They can’t protect your feet from the rain, let alone heavy objects. Luckily, as their name implies, Indestructible Shoes has come up with a line of steel-toe boots that look and feel like regular sneakers.

Made to be incredibly strong but still lightweight, every pair of Indestructible Shoes has steel toes, skid-proof grips, and shock-absorption technology. But they don't look clunky or bulky, which makes them suitable whether you're going to work, the gym, or a family gathering.

The Hummer is Indestructible Shoes’s most well-rounded model. It features European steel toes to protect your feet, while the durable "flymesh" material wicks moisture to keep your feet feeling fresh. The insole features 3D arch support and extra padding in the heel cup. And the outsole features additional padding that distributes weight and helps your body withstand strain.

Indestructible Shoes Hummer.
The Hummer from Indestructible Shoes.
Indestructible Shoes

There’s also the Xciter, Indestructible Shoes’s latest design. The company prioritized comfort for this model, with the same steel toes as the Hummer, but with additional extra-large, no-slip outsoles capable of gripping even smooth, slippery surfaces—like, say, a boat deck. The upper is made of breathable moisture-wicking flymesh to help keep your feet dry in the rain or if you're wearing them on the water.

If you want a more breathable shoe for the peak summer months, there's the Ryder. This shoe is designed to be a stylish solution to the problem of sweaty feet, thanks to a breathable mesh that maximizes airflow and minimizes sweat and odor. Meanwhile, extra padding in the midsole will keep your feet protected.

You can get 44 percent off all styles if you order today.

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No Squawking, Please: A Backyard Bird Library Is the Star of This Livestream

Bird Library, YouTube
Bird Library, YouTube

Many people discovered backyard birding when they were quarantined in their homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you have a vibrant wildlife population in your area, the Bird Library webcam is worth checking out. As Atlas Obscura reports, the bird feeder at the focus of the livestream resembles a tiny library where feathered guests can misbehave.

Librarian Rebecca Flowers and woodworker Kevin Cwalina were inspired to build the Bird Library in 2015. Located in a backyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, it features a miniature reading chair, bookshelves, and a reception desk. The decorations are even updated to match the seasons; the feeder currently sports a banner that says "Summer Reading." The main differences setting it apart from a real library are the bird seed scattered on the floor and the avian visitors.

The Bird Library attracts a diverse collection of patrons. Sparrows, cardinals, and mourning doves have been recorded perching on the librarian's desk and checking out the reading materials. The occasional squirrel has also been known to stop by.

Live video of the feeder streams on the Bird Library's YouTube page and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can play the video below to check in on the current guests. If the backyard Bird Library has inspired you to find birds closer to home, here's some gear for beginner naturalists.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]