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.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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LEGO and IKEA Have Designed a New Line of Storage Boxes With the Help of Child Psychologists

IKEA
IKEA

Putting together IKEA furniture can remind grownups of their days playing with LEGO bricks. The two brands serve very different demographics, and now they've joined forces to create these ready-to-assemble products designed to appeal to both kids and adults.

As ThomasNet reports, BYGGLEK (Swedish for “to build and play") puts IKEA's practical, minimalist spin on the traditional LEGO toy. The key is a plastic storage bin featuring LEGO-compatible studs on its interior and exterior. Instead of using the floor as their play place and making rooms minefields for barefooted parents, kids can contain their creations within the box. When playtime is over, adults simply pick up the box holding the LEGO masterpiece and move it out of the way. The BYGGLEK boxes come in clean, neutral tones, so parents can show off their kids' handiwork on a canvas that fits the style of their home.

Opportunities for artistic expression for children often lead to headaches for the grownups who clean up after them. In order to make play a more organized experience without inhibiting creativity, LEGO and IKEA collaborated with child psychologists. The resulting product is a win for everyone: It allows parents to organize messes without deconstructing their child's work-in-progress.

IKEA and LEGO's BYGGLEK collection includes four products: A large box, a medium box, a set of three small boxes, and a basic 201-piece LEGO set for kids 5 and up. Prices range from $10 to $15; you can order yours today from IKEA.

[h/t ThomasNet]