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Last updated on September 22nd, 2023.

Being accepted into a prestigious university like Harvard is a rare opportunity for a rich education and range of opportunities. Unfortunately, life sometime has other plans for us and can intrude on such privileges. Whether it’s a question of distance or availability, you may have to turn to online education to make it work.

Thankfully, Harvard offers its students the chance to complete their studies online in a variety of subjects. As a result, students can obtain degrees and earn certificates online to advance their goals.

If you plan on attending Harvard online and are not sure which field to pursue, learning about its online offerings can help you evaluate your future. Read on to get some insight on Harvard’s top online courses.

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About Harvard Courses Online

Through the Harvard Extension School, students can enroll in online courses that best fit their needs. While the learning is done digitally, Harvard ensures its students a very personalized approach to education that caters to their needs.

The Harvard Extension Live Interactive eXperience , or “HELIX,” is a system designed to be flexible and accessible to every student. Helix classrooms can be experienced live or as a recording and come in addition with discussion and learning tools to enhance the learning process. At a satisfaction rating of 4.3/5, Harvard offers 70% of their courses online

Courses are offered all year long and have different lengths depending on their season, as follows:

  • Fall: August to mid-December for 15 weeks long,
  • Winter: takes place during January for 3 weeks,
  • Spring: late January to mid-May for 15 weeks long,
  • Summer: June to August for either 3 or 7 weeks.

While online schooling is usually meant to be part-time and for those with full-time jobs, Harvard’s online courses can be enjoyed by anyone interested in learning.

Are Harvard Online Courses Worth It?

Deciding whether or not attending Harvard online is “worth it” mostly depends on who you are and what your goals are. If you require in-person discussion and interaction to actually learn, then online courses should not be your first choice. You’d be better off getting your degree or certificate the traditional way, even if you need to adjust your lifestyle.

If you’re comfortable and able to perform in online courses, then they are certainly worthy of your time and effort. EdX certificates, which Harvard offers, are recognized as legitimate achievements that attract employers. As life is conducted online more and more, online education is held in high regard, regardless of your academic field.

If you’re only interested in taking a few courses to gain some intrinsic insight and experience, then attending Harvard online is good for you, too. There are some decent online courses that Harvard offers for free, allowing you to explore your interests on a budget. Some of these will be included on the list.

What Are The Best Harvard Online Courses?

Deciding what the best courses are is very subjective and varies for each person’s interests. However, it’s fair to say that there are a few measures most people would consider, including:

  • Cost
  • Accessibility
  • Content
  • Usefulness
  • Credit

These factors will be used to decide which courses make this list and guide you on your way towards an online education. Since everyone’s goals vary, it’s recommended that the items on this list be used as suggestions rather than required classes.

The 7 Best Harvard Online Courses?

The following list of online courses is meant to help you better understand what can be offered by Harvard. It is certainly possible that none of these courses may pertain to you and your plans, but the range shown should help you gauge whether or not you will find something useful to you.

It should be noted that all of these courses are self-paced and most are free to take, but require additional costs for a certificate of completion. Harvard Extension University is not solely meant for degree programs and courses are often for professional development. Therefore, any costs mentioned on the list may not accurately reflect the costs of pursuing a degree.

Conflict, Religion, and Peace

In the subject of humanities, on theology examines how religions have both caused and ended violence in history. By looking at a variety of religions from across the world, both the ideological foundations and societal implications are explored.

Throughout the course, students will develop analytical and thinking skills to evaluate how religion can impact the world around them. This is done by thoroughly looking at real-world examples and a self-directed final project. Students should leave the class with not only broadened horizons, but insight to analyze complex situations.

  • Difficulty: Introductory,
  • Cost: Free, but $99 for a certificate,
  • Time: 4-8 hours a week for 8 weeks,
  • Associated school: Harvard Divinity School.

Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

Under the subject of business, this course teaches students about business development under difficult conditions. By using an interdisciplinary perspective, the course will go over how businesses need to consider different social problems. As entrepreneurs, this is useful when trying to solve complex obstacles.

By the end of the course, students will have the ability to come up with creative solutions that can be applied to their business plans. Emerging markets are rich with opportunity, but require a level of finesse and understanding that this course can help with.

  • Difficulty: Introductory,
  • Cost: Free, but $169 for a certificate,
  • Time: 3-5 hours a week for 6 weeks,
  • Associated school: Harvard Business School.

Introduction to Computer Science

An entry-level course in the subject of programming, this course teaches the basics of working with computers. Designed for all students regardless of major or relevant experience, the knowledge required for practical usage is covered, preparing students for topics ranging from software engineering to game design.

This course is the most popular course for on-campus Harvard students and requires completion of 9 problem sets and a final project for a certificate. Problems are based on realistic scenarios, such as forensics or finance, giving students experience and insight for future careers.

  • Difficulty: Introductory,
  • Cost: Free, but $149 for certificate,
  • Time: 10-20 hours a week for 11 weeks,
  • Associated school: Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Improving Global Health: Focusing on Quality and Safety

In the subject of health and medicine, this course teaches students to think critically about healthcare, especially its availability and quality. The technical and intellectual benefits of the modern age are significant, but not always spread to everyone. The point of this course is to help understand why this is and what could be done to change this.

Part of this course is the insight from different thinkers and voices of healthcare. This includes not only academics and experts, but also those responsible for running healthcare organizations and hospitals. Their experience can open students to new ideas and inspire them to action. Whether you’re planning on entering a career in medicine or are simply interested in how to better obtain healthcare, this course can help you do so.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate,
  • Cost: Free, but $99 for a certificate,
  • Time: 2-4 hours a week for 8 weeks,
  • Associated school: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Online Teaching and Learning in Action

This course in education and teaching deals primarily with how to develop and teach a course online, not to be confused with a course or degree in elementary education.  As the world becomes increasingly digitalized, education will increasingly require teachers that can do their job online. You should know this, considering you’re a prospective online student yourself. Enrolling in this class gives you a supportive community to prepare you to be an online educator.

Throughout the course, you and your classmates engage each other to better explore topics through Yellowdig, a user-focused discussion forum. Pre-recorded and written resources are available to all students, allowing them to learn from and reference such materials as needed. Your understanding will then be enhanced through two facilitated sessions that will allow you to experience online teaching firsthand.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate,
  • Cost: $375 and comes with certificate upon completion,
  • Time: 3-4 hours a week for 6 weeks,
  • Associated school: Harvard Graduate School of Elementary Education.

Shakespeare’s Life and Work

Falling under the humanities subject, this course teaches literature and history as they pertain to William Shakespeare. Through the lens of his life and work, students will learn how to conduct literary analysis and think critically about writing. Additionally, the artistic and political environment surrounding Shakespeare is also looked at, giving students a historical perspective that contextualized his work.

Through readings and videos, the course is taught under three sections: biographical, historical, and presentist interpretation. Respectively, these sections cover Shakespeare’s life and influences, historical analysis of Shakespeare’s work to better understand his meanings, and mastery of understanding his work by placing it in a modern context. By the end of the course, students will be more knowledgeable about literature and how to approach analysis.

  • Difficulty: Introductory,
  • Cost: Free, but $99 for certificate,
  • Time: 5-7 hours a week for 4 weeks,
  • Associated school: Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The Path to Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches Us About the Good Life

The final course on the list is another one from the humanities and covers philosophy, particularly ancient Chinese philosophy. Happiness is a relative concept, varying in definition from culture to culture. Teachings here go over how Chinese beliefs such as Confucianism and Daoism viewed the idea of happiness and how to obtain it.

One of the more popular courses on campus at Harvard, lessons have recently been made available online for the first time. No prior experience with Chinese philosophy is requires, as close readings are covered and analyzed through animations, lectures, and discussions. In addition to the core information vital to philosophy students, the knowledge gained can help anyone navigate and understand their life.

  • Difficulty: Introductory,
  • Cost: Free, but $99 for certificate,
  • Time: 2-4 hours a week for 7 weeks,
  • Associated school: Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.


Pursuing a college education is a big step for anyone that considers it and should be treated as such.  This is whether you’re pursuing your online bachelors degree, an online masters degree or even just an online certification to enhance your profession. This is especially true if one is fortunate enough to be accepted into Harvard, one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. Thankfully, Harvard is assessable online for those that wish to do so.

The Harvard Extension School, in addition to its offerings for professional development, offer what on-campus academics would offer. This includes completion of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in different subjects. In short, completing your Harvard education online is entirely possible and worth fair consideration.

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