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Open Online Courses in Psychology

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the study of the functions and behaviors of the mind, and how those affect more general human behavior. Psychologists can occupy three different categories, depending on the focus of their course of study. Psychologists can study cognitive science (the science of how people think), behavioral science (the science of how people act), and social science (the study of how people interact with one another). All of these elements, however, look into the functions of mental processes such as chemical interactions as well as the impact of those processes on how humans go about their lives.

Psychology covers a broad range of concepts, and psychology students can specialize in certain topics as well. Some of these topics include emotion (how mental events affect feelings), attention (how people direct their focus), cognition (how people think), and brain functioning (the biological structures that make the brain work).

What Can Online Courses in Psychology Actually Teach Me?

Psychology has a centralized accrediting body for offline or online courses, the American Psychology Association (APA). Checking for this accreditation is essential at any level, as courses with this accreditation are the best path to jobs in the field. Online courses in psychology are a good choice at the introductory levels, as they can teach theories and definitions very well, but online courses cannot provide laboratory experience or familiarity with research methods or the hands-on clinical experience required to practice psychology. As a result, a good path if you are interested in becoming a psychologist is to take online psychology courses for early topics and then transfer to a traditional university to finish the degree.

An online psychology course can cover topics such as introductory psychology, psychopathology, theories of learning, and human development. By taking online courses in college psychology programs, you can learn the answers to questions like:

  • How do people learn new skills, and how are those skills internalized by the brain?
  • What are personality disorders, and how are they diagnosed?
  • How do people develop memories, and what affects the creation of new long-term memories in the brain?
  • How do children learn life skills, such as coping skills and social skills?
  • How are mental illnesses and diseases commonly treated?

If you are considering an online psychology class, you should be sure to research the course and the university before enrolling. It is, for example, important to make sure that the faculty member teaching the course has a Ph.D. in psychology or a related field like cognitive science. You should also check the school for APA accreditation, and look into the school’s reputation for social and cognitive sciences. By doing your research before enrolling, you can save money and time in the long run, as schools are more likely to accept credits in transfer from accredited universities.

Free Online Courses in Psychology From Around the Web

The following is a compilation of open courseware on psychology topics from around the world. Many universities have chosen to make class notes, lecture videos, quizzes, and other learning materials available for free online. While these do not give you the opportunity to talk to professors about psychology topics, you can use these resources to improve your grasp of the psychology field and determine whether the field is right for you.

Subjects

Psychology (22)

Introduction to PsychologyMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Educational Psychology, Child Development, Sociology
Taught by: John Gabrieli

Course Description:

This 2011 educational psychology online course covers topics like learning, cognition, child development, personality, and social interaction. Taught at an undergraduate level, this online course can help you gain familiarity with the basic concepts of psychology using lecture notes, quizzes, and exams. The course requires a video player, as many of the lectures are provided in video format, and a PDF file viewer, to read lecture slides.

Sociological Social PsychologyUniversity of Notre Dame

Open Courseware

Social Psychology, Sociology
Taught by: Jessica L. Collett

Course Description:

By reading the materials presented in this educational psychology online course, you can gain an understanding of how people interact with groups and develop as a result of those interactions. This course provides lecture notes and readings on topics like critical thinking, research methods, identity, and childhood socialization. Originally offered in the spring of 2008, this course is taught at the undergraduate level and requires no prerequisites or prior knowledge of psychology or sociology.

Understanding the Growth and Core Development of Children and YouthUMass Boston

Open Courseware

Child Development, Early Child Development, Healthcare
Taught by: Professor Mary Lu Love

Course Description:

Through this open courseware, you will learn about and develop the skills to identify the eight core competencies amongst infants, toddlers, preschool children and individuals who are out of school. This child development online course will enhance your understanding of the psychological growth and development of children and introduce you to the competency levels of various youth age groups. Subjects covered in this class include learning environments, child interaction, program planning and core development theories among children.

Collaborative Consultation and Larger SystemsUMass Boston

Open Courseware

Sociology, Family Counseling, Group Counseling
Taught by: Gonzalo Bacigalupe, Ed.D

Course Description:

This open online course focuses on the interaction between smaller groups such as couples or families with larger systems, such as schools, communities and entire cities. In this psychology online course, you will examine the role of the family counselor within this structure, including collaboration and consulting with professionals in other fields. The course was originally presented in fall 2007, and its prerequisites include previous counseling coursework, particularly COU 614 and COU 622. It is especially recommended for family therapy students, though if you are studying school counseling or mental health you will benefit from its materials as well.

Introduction to Social PsychologyUniversity of Notre Dame

Open Courseware

Social Psychology, Sociology
Taught by: Jessica Collett, Ph.D.

Course Description:

This introductory psychology online course is equally suited to undergraduate psychology students as well as those simply interested in social psychology with no background in the field. It comprises lectures, readings (requires JSTOR access), as well as suggested readings from the course textbook, and was originally recorded in spring 2008. During the course you will come to understand how you are affected by your social surroundings, how your personality is influenced by interactions with others and how you influence others around you as well.

Substance Abuse and the FamilyUMass Boston

Open Courseware

Addiction Counseling, Clinical Research, Substance Abuse
Taught by: Gonzalo Bacigalupe, Rd.D.

Course Description:

Students who take this free online course will study how substance abuse of one family member can affect the entire family unit. This class, intended for graduate level students, focuses on clinical research studies that demonstrate how addictive behavior affects relationships and normal family functions. Students will have the opportunity to explore various treatment and counseling approaches used to treat families suffering from substance abuse. To attend this course, you must have already completed COUNSL 614.

PSYCH 335 - Social Attitudes and Public OpinionUMass Boston

Open Courseware

Social Psychology, Sociology, Media Studies
Taught by: Michael Milburn, Ph.D.

Course Description:

Through this online course, students will study how public opinion affects personal attitudes, beliefs and values. During this free open courseware, you will have the opportunity to examine how the media impacts public opinion and attitudes among individuals. Additionally, you will carefully examine various research studies and theories based on the concept of attitude organization. Students in this class will participate in a group project and complete a research paper in addition to taking a midterm and final exam.

Three Faces of Social PsychologyUniversity of Notre Dame

Open Courseware

Social Psychology, Sociology
Taught by: Professor Jessica Collett, Ph.D.

Course Description:

During this class, you will explore the general study of social psychology including how personalities are shaped and how social groups are formed. This psychology online course will give students a broad overview of how the world helps shape individual beings, attitudes and beliefs. Through readings, class activities and exams, you will begin to develop an understanding of individual and group behaviors and how individuals and groups interact with one another in everyday life.

Human Growth and DevelopmentTufts University

Open Courseware

Child Development, Human Development
Taught by: Jonathan Schindelheim

Course Description:

This course, published in 2006, consists of lecture notes on how people develop as children and adolescents, including content on both normal life changes and exceptional situations. Reading the materials presented in this online course has no prerequisites and requires no special software, and can help you become familiar with concepts like cognitive development, child abuse, and domestic violence. This course is designed for undergraduate students, so you need no previous psychology knowledge to read along.

Social EthicsDixie State College of Utah

Open Courseware

Cultural Studies, Social Psychology, Sociology, Political Science
Taught by: Edwin Reber

Course Description:

This online course is a good starting point for students interested in the cultural reasons behind ethical decisions, and how societies shape the ethical beliefs of their members. An undergraduate course originally taught in the fall of 2007, this course provides lecture notes and presentations on philosophers like Kant, Bentham and Nietzsche. Much of the content is offered as PowerPoint presentations, so you will need a means of viewing these to see all the content.

Human Development Across the LifespanDixie State College of Utah

Open Courseware

Human Development, Sociology
Taught by: Tim Eicher

Course Description:

This fall 2007 human development course looks into research from psychology and other fields to explore the changes that occur in human beings as they grow and age. This online course is designed to improve your understanding of human life changes, inform you about ideas and concepts that are typically believed to be important to development, and equip you to discuss topics like social class. To access the content for this course, you will need a program that can view PDF files.

Psychology (Health)University of Ulster

Open Courseware

Health Psychology, Sociology
Taught by: Dr Liz Simpson

Course Description:

This health psychology online course will teach you how to assess the mental health of patients and draw correlations between tumultuous emotional behavior and chronic and acute illness manifestation. This course of study is a graduate-level program so you need your bachelors prior to enrolling. During the program, you are required to complete several essays, practical reports and a practicum logs. The British Psychological Society (BPS) accredits this program, making it a reliable resource for independent study or continuing education credits.

The Ethics of Humanitarian InterventionUniversity of Notre Dame

Open Courseware

Applied Ethics, Humanitarian Intervention
Taught by: Professor Maura Ryan, Ph.D.

Course Description:

If you are curious about the teachings of the Catholic Church on social matters, this intervention online course is a solid choice. Created in 2006, you will explore both classical Christian texts and modern problems in this course, with a particular focus on topics like the ethics of humanitarian interventions and the social teachings of Pope John Paul II. Written for an undergraduate audience, you will need to obtain texts for some readings to get its full benefit.

Human Growth and DevelopmentUniversity of Michigan

Open Courseware

Human Growth, Development, Psychological Development
Taught by: Brent Williams, M.D.

Course Description:

This human development online course – published on January 26, 2010 – highlights the normal function and physiological and psychological development of humans. Specifically, you will examine the different stages of the lifespan as well as appropriate nutrition plans for each. This course is open to both undergraduates and graduate students, but you will be responsible for completing all unit course packs as well as a nutrition self-assessment.

Introduction to Catholic Moral TheologyUniversity of Notre Dame

Open Courseware

Theology, Religion
Taught by: Professor David Clairmont, Ph.D.

Course Description:

While this undergraduate online course from the Department of Theology covers the teachings and morality of the Catholic Church and its doctrines, it is aimed at students of philosophy, theology, psychology or anyone interested in learning more about the Catholic interpretation of the Bible. Through lectures, daily readings and case studies you will cover such topics as happiness, virtue, freedom, conscience, truth, law and the common good, while also examining modern issues such as abortion and racism in depth. The course includes two required textbooks and a course packet of reading materials.

Understanding SocietiesUniversity of Notre Dame

Open Courseware

Sociology, Social Science
Taught by: Jessica Collett, Ph.D.

Course Description:

Social relationships, human behavior, and society at large are some of the concepts covered by this online course, originally taught in 2009. The course includes lecture notes, readings, quizzes, and examinations, some of which you will need a PDF file reader to view. This is an introductory course designed for undergraduate students with no prior social science experience, so even if you do not have any previous understanding of psychology or sociology, you should be able to follow along.

Introduction to Social AnthropologyCapilano University

Open Courseware

Social Anthropology, Sociology
Taught by: Dr. Gillian Crowther

Course Description:

In this online course, you can review an image gallery of previous course fieldwork and try assignments from an anthropology workbook. Originally taught in fall 2007, this undergraduate introductory course uses concepts from humanities and social sciences to improve your understanding of other cultures and their organizational patterns. You will need a PDF viewer to read the workbook content presented for the course.

Environmental PsychologyUniversity of California, Irvine

Open Courseware

Environmental Psychology, Human Behavior
Taught by: Daniel Stokols

Course Description:

This class is designed to provide you with an introduction to concepts related to the theory of socio-physical environments, which asserts that there is an interrelation between human behavior and the physical aspect of one’s environment. Through this introductory online course, you will examine if where a person lives or works can affect their social development, including how they make friends, handle stress or manage resources. This course is open to all undergraduate students from various academic backgrounds.

PsychiatryUniversity of Michigan

Open Courseware

Psychiatry, Clinical Psychiatry, Neurobiology
Taught by: Michael D. Jibson, MD

Course Description:

Through this class, you will examine the symptoms, epidemiology, neuropathy and treatments for the major classes of psychiatric disorders. In addition to learning clinical diagnosis and treatment fundamentals, you will also gain knowledge of specific areas of study involved in psychiatry, including behavioral science, pharmacology and neurobiology all of which are vital to understanding the nature of psychiatric disorders. Originally published in 2010, this psychotherapy online course has no prerequisites, as it is intended to introduce medical students to basic concepts related to psychiatry.

Argument DiagrammingCarnegie Mellon University

Open Courseware

Mediation, Counseling

Course Description:

Argument diagramming is the focus of this online course, and you will learn how to discern what the parts of a given argument are, break them apart from one another, and show how they relate to the argument as a whole. This two-week course has no prerequisites, though accessing the course contents will require you to have Flash and Java installed. The most recent update to the course was performed in August 2011, providing additional instructional material regarding argument diagramming software.

Introduction to Health PsychologyColumbia University

Open Courseware

Health Psychology, Public Health, Environmental Health
Taught by: Prof. Ilan H. Meyer

Course Description:

This health psychology online course will show you the correlations between medical care and psychological wellness. In addition, the course concentrates on the socio-economic and environmental factors that affect human cognition and public health. This course is open to both undergraduates and graduate students; it also has no special academic prerequisites so all that is required of you is a curious mind. During the course, you will also be required to complete 7 small essay assignments as well as a group presentation.

Infant and Early Childhood CognitionMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Child Development, Early Child Development, Healthcare
Taught by: Prof. Laura Schulz

Course Description:

First published in 2005, this undergraduate level child development online course will introduce you to theories of child cognitive development. This introductory open courseware will allow you to discover the fundamental ideology behind children’s understanding and thinking processes. Through lectures, readings and writing assignments, you can expect to learn how children identify and understanding objects, people and relationships. Additionally, upon completion of this course, you should be able to analyze developmental research methods and questions relating to the origin of child development theories.