10 Amazing Online Courses You Can Sign Up For in May 2019

iStock.com/Deagreez
iStock.com/Deagreez

The internet is a near-limitless resource of information and knowledge, but it’s not always easy to consolidate all of that into a structured educational experience. That’s why online courses can be a huge benefit. They offer the convenience of learning in your pajamas with the guidance of the kind of formal curriculum you'd find in a college class.

If you want to acquire a new skillset or become more proficient in a topic this May, there is no shortage of options, with sites like Udemy, Coursera, and edX offering a wide array of subjects. Best of all, most are free, with a fee charged only if you request proof of completion. We’ve narrowed down 10 of the best, including courses on cats, medieval magic, creativity, and more.

1. How to Argue Like a Pro

When you find yourself contesting another person’s reasoning—or someone is contesting your own—it helps to understand how to navigate contentious dialogue. This Duke University course led by philosophy professors Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Ram Neta will teach you how to deconstruct an argument and identify key phrases when challenging someone’s opinion. You’ll also learn how to mount effective reasoning of your own.

Sign up on Coursera for free. The optional certificate costs $30.

2. Learn to Wield Medieval Magic

Revise your stereotypes of magic in the Middle Ages with this course from the Universitat de Barcelona that dives into spells, geomancy, and astrology in medieval Europe, exploring how society alternately revered and persecuted alleged spell-casters. Disclaimer: There’s no extra credit for turning your significant other into a toad.

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

3. Communicate With Your Cat (and Craft Homemade Toys)

Cats are inscrutable creatures, prone to fits of adoration and violence in equal measure. Now you can learn to better relate to their moods and desire for play with this course that advises on good human-to-feline interactions and offers recommendations for cat toys you can craft yourself.

Sign up on Udemy for $11. A certificate of completion is included in the price.

4. Unlock Your Creativity

Hungry to express yourself but not sure how to begin? This course from bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) outlines a path to take your creative spark and organize it into a fulfilling and successful reality. Even if you’re not an artist or writer, Gilbert still has lessons for anyone looking to pursue their curiosity and see their ambition through.

Sign up on Udemy for $45. A certificate of completion is included in the price.

5. Boost Your Brain Power

If your knowledge of increased cognitive performance extends to a double espresso shot, you’ll likely benefit from this course by Karima Benameur, an assistant professor at the Department of Neurology at Emory University. You’ll learn the best diet for brain health, how exercise helps mental performance, and how meditation and sleep can improve your focus.

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

6. Sharpen Your Math Skills for Knitting

To go from knitting novice to knitting ninja requires a basic understanding of math. Measuring yarn and figuring out patterns is the foundation for knitting success, and instructor Kate Atherley will provide the tools you’ll need to make numbers a part of your skill set.

Sign up on Bluprint. The individual course is $40, or you can get access to this many other courses with a subscription for $8 a month.

7. Become a Speed-Reading Machine

Ever wonder how some people can flip through hundreds of pages and still wind up with a working understanding of the text? Now you, too, can unlock the power of speed reading by learning how to read up to three times faster than your average, turtle-like college graduate. In addition to plowing through books, you’ll also learn how to retain your newfound knowledge and develop the ability to grasp new concepts like languages with (relative) ease.

Sign up on Udemy for $11. A certificate of completion is included in the price.

8. See America Through Foreign Eyes

The culture, history, and policies of the United States get a new lens in this course, which examines how foreign countries perceive America. Learn how citizens China, France, Mexico, and parts of Africa regard the U.S. as a result of trade, intervention, and education.

Sign up on Coursera for free. A certificate of completion is included.

9. Discover the Physiology of Fitness

Everyone knows that they should exercise, but few of us know exactly what exercising does to the body. The Science of Exercise, a course from the University of Colorado Boulder, will help you go beyond popular ideas like "run more, weigh less" or "eat protein, build muscle." If you’re interested in understanding why our body reacts the way it does to exertion and nutrition, check out this tutorial on what kind of fuel our body uses to function, the role of the respiratory system, and how to prioritize certain tasks depending on your goals.

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

10. Create an iOS App

Think you have the next big app idea but too intimidated by the programming it would require? This tutorial will walk you step-by-step through the Swift programming language and Apple developer tools so you can make the jump from concept to downloadable product. No previous coding experience is required.

Sign up on edX for free. The optional certificate costs $99.

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The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

How the Trapper Keeper Trapped the Hearts of '80s and '90s Kids

Courtesy of Cinzia Reale-Castello
Courtesy of Cinzia Reale-Castello

No matter when or where you grew up, back-to-school shopping typically revolved around two things: clothing and school supplies. And if you’re an adult of a certain age, you probably had a Trapper Keeper on that latter list of must-buy items.

Like the stickers, skins, and cases that adorn your smartphones and laptops today, Trapper Keepers were a way for kids to express their individual personalities. The three-ring binders dominated classrooms in the '80s and '90s, and featured a vast array of designs—from colorful Lisa Frank illustrations to photos of cool cars and popular celebrities—that allowed kids to customize their organizational tools. 

In this episode of "Throwback," we're ripping open the Velcro cover and digging into the history of the Trapper Keeper. You can watch the full episode below.

Be sure to head here and subscribe so you don't miss an episode of "Throwback," where we explore the fascinating stories behind some of the greatest toys and trends from your childhood.