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Intro to Comp Sci tops list of most-subscribed HarvardX class

Millions of people around the world take advantage of the free Harvard offers online, but what types of subjects are trending these days? Harvard recently released its most popular online courses in 2018, a list that reflects interest in computer science, data science, architecture, and religion.

Edx, the online learning platform launched by Harvard and MIT in 2012, offers courses taught by college faculty from universities around the world. Many courses are free, but to receive a certificate users have to pay.

Harvard also created HarvardX, which functions similarly to edX but focuses solely on the Harvard community. All professors create the online courses from scratch, and many do so in addition to teaching full time.

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Here are some of the top 2018 HarvardX courses (one class) and collections (a group of subject-related courses):

■  Introduction to computer science CS50 collection. Students learn how to program using the modern coding languages Python or JavaScript or explore how computer science manifests in game development and apps. Since its creation in 2012, this collection has over one million users. Two modules, understanding technology and computer science for business professionals, were added this year.

■  Data science collection. Students acquire skills for data science such as data wrangling, R programming, and designing aesthetic visualizations.

■  Buddhism through its scriptures . Classes combine the teachings of Buddhist scripture and academic readings of the religion and demonstrate how to apply these to daily life.

■  Pyramids of Giza: ancient Egyptian art and archaeology. Students learn the historical and cultural significance of ancient Giza and its cemeteries.

■  The architectural imagination. This class analyzes the designs of historic buildings around the globe to assess the social impact of architecture.

Bharat Anand, vice provost for Advances in Learning at Harvard University and a member of the HarvardX faculty committee, said he expected CS50 to come up on top in a world that’s becoming increasingly reliant on technological skills.

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“People want those skills today,” Anand said. The rest of the most popular online courses, he said, “reflect the intrinsic interest and curiosity about the world we live in.”

More courses will be added on a rolling basis in 2019.

“You’ll see a range of offerings. It would span the humanities to the social sciences to the sciences to the professional schools,” Anand said. “It reflects both the breadth and the interest of faculty.”


Annika Hom can be reached at annika.hom@globe.com