Online classes to boost your skills while social distancing

Written by:
May 7, 2020

Online classes to boost your skills while social distancing

Some 65% of Americans were under stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic as of March 5, 2020, according to Business Insider. The pandemic has affected people across the world in drastically different ways. For many, this major shift in day-to-day lives has meant a little more time on their hands as nearly all public and social events around the country have been canceled.

One way you can fill those extra hours is by enrolling in an online class or two. To help trim down the nearly unlimited number of options, Stacker has compiled a list of 50 virtual courses that will help you boost your current skills or teach you something new. The following classes cover a variety of fields, from bread making to Big Data, and come at various price points ranging from completely free to $600.

Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and edX host classes in almost every subject imaginable. Stacker has included some of the most popular offerings, including Yale University’s “The Science of Well-Being” and Northwestern University’s “Social Media Marketing Specialization,” as well as lesser-known options like “Hollywood: History, Industry, Art” and “Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies.” If you prefer more creative pursuits, you’ll find gems like “Bread Baking Techniques for Beginners” and “Photography Masterclass” included in the following slides. Other platforms cover everything from the basics of coding to making homemade pasta with the help of an Italian grandmother.

Whatever your interests, you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy on this list. Enroll in one of these options today, and you’re sure to leave this period of social distancing with more knowledge and skills than you had in the beginning.

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The Science of Well-Being

In 2018, professor Laurie Santos debuted a new course, “Psychology and the Good Life,” in response to the increasing levels of stress, anxiety, and depression reported by the student body. The course quickly became Yale’s most popular course ever. Today, you can audit an iteration of the class called “The Science of Well-Being” on Coursera for free, or you can pay $49 for a certificate of completion. Perhaps the perfect class for this time, the class focuses on understanding happiness and how to increase it in our lives.

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Entrepreneurship Specialization

If you’ve considered starting your own business during this time of social distancing, then this “Entrepreneurship Specialization” might be the perfect course. Taught by seven respected instructors, the majority of whom teach at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, this course will walk you through things like developing your business idea and acquiring financing. While the course typically takes six months to complete, you are free to work at your own pace, meaning that you could complete a large chunk of it as we continue isolating at home.

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Maybe you’re more interested in developing an entirely new skill. If so, Codecademy, which teaches all types of coding from HTML to JavaScript, Python, CCS, and beyond, may be a perfect fit for you. Codecademy’s “Basic” option, which offers 180 hours of content, is completely free, or users can upgrade to the “Pro” version for $19.99 a month, which provides more than 1,800 hours of content.

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Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us

While many medical courses require certain prerequisites to be audited, UPenn’s “Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us” is not one of them. Designed for a broad audience, the free course takes a deep dive into the vital signs, explaining the “anatomy and physiology underlying” these systems so that one can have a better “understanding of how the body functions.” Over the six-week span of the class, learners will spend time looking at everything from pulse and heart rate to metabolism and pain.

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Photography Masterclass: A Complete Guide to Photography

Whether you’re a hobbyist photographer or pursuing it professionally, Udemy’s “Photography Masterclass: A Complete Guide to Photography” is sure to be a valuable source of information. Designed to help photographers who shoot on a range of technology from smartphones to DSLR cameras, the course covers required equipment, composition, editing, and business basics. The standard price of the course is $124.99, but as with many Udemy courses, it’s possible to catch the class on major sale (up to 75% off for new users).

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Mosaic Sushi Rolls

If you prefer to get creative in the kitchen, consider checking out the “Mosaic Sushi Rolls” course on “The Chef & The Dish.” For $299 a professional chef will skype into your kitchen and teach you and your social-distancing partner how to cook an entire Japanese meal, including a variety of sushi rolls and miso soup, over the course of two hours. If sushi isn’t your thing, “The Chef & The Dish” offers a host of classes in all different cuisines, including Spanish- and American-inspired dishes (note: prices for individual classes may vary slightly).

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Effective Altruism

Princeton University professor Peter Singer leads a Coursera course on “Effective Altruism.” The free course is based on the fact that leading a “fully ethical” life involves doing the maximum amount of good. Over 15 hours, you’ll dive into the “philosophical underpinnings” of this idea and examine ways this idea “can be put into practice in your own life.”

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Blake Nissen for the Boston Globe // Getty Images

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has invaded almost every aspect of the modern world—from the face recognition on your iPhone to the self-guided missiles deployed by the military. This Columbia University course, “Artificial Intelligence,” examines the history of AI, illustrates basic techniques for building it, and finally gives an overview of how it has been and can be applied to most modern problems. As with many other edX classes, the course is free to audit, but a verified certificate of completion can be added for $249.

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Stanford Introduction to Food and Health

For many, this time of social distancing has made us more aware of our health and nutrition habits. This short, five-hour, Stanford University “Introduction to Food and Health” arms students with the information and skills they need in order to optimize how they eat. From a general explanation of nutrients to a closer look at modern trends in eating, the class will help you eat your way to your healthiest self from quarantine to beyond.

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Microsoft Excel - Excel from Beginner to Advanced

One skill that can quickly boost a resume is proficiency in Microsoft Excel. This Udemy course, “Microsoft Excel - Excel from Beginner to Advanced,” teaches you how to run and use the program, starting with the basics and moving into more dynamic formulas. The course’s standard price is $149.99, but you can catch it on sale for as low as $23.99, what many former students consider a fair price for the wealth of professional opportunities the program has afforded them.

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Sports and Society

When Professor Orin Starn offered the first version of his “Sports and Society” class on Coursera, it attracted over 40,000 students. This updated version covers much of the same material, still focusing on the “larger questions of money, politics, race, sex, culture, and commercialization that surround sports.” At the end of the 14-hour class, you’ll never think about soccer and mountain climbing the same way again.

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Nonna Live

Nonna Nerina is an 84-year-old Italian grandmother who, for years, has been hosting Airbnb experiences to teach travelers how to make authentic Italian pasta. In light of the near-universal halt to tourism brought on by the coronavirus, Nonna and her friends have taken the pasta-making classes online. In one-on-one classes and group live-streams, home chefs can learn to make lasagna, fettucini, and many more. Class prices range from $100–$600, with some experiences currently on sale for as low as $60.

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Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/picture alliance // Getty Images

Circuits and Electronics 1: Basic Circuit Analysis

The first of three “Circuits and Electronics” courses taught by MIT Professor Anant Agarwal, this class is mandatory for all MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science majors. The self-paced class teaches students how to design and analyze circuits using different methods, through videos, readings, tutorials, and design and lab exercises. While the course is free to audit, a verified certificate of completion can be added for $169.

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Alexander Ryumin\TASS // Getty Images

Music Theory Comprehensive Complete!

Jason Allen teaches music theory at a college level, and in “Music Theory Comprehensive Complete!” he’s turned his curriculum into a beginner-friendly online course priced at $74.99. There are 151 lectures and 28 downloadable worksheets that teach music aficionados how to name octaves, play chords, and read sheet music.

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Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch

While it requires some basic IT knowledge to begin, “Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch” assumes that its students have no previous hacking knowledge. The course aims to teach computer whizzes how to hack and secure systems like security experts. This class teaches you how to use hacking tools, launch Man in the Middle attacks, and edit router systems for maximum security through over 135 videos and 20 downloadable resources.

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Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare

Inspired by modern health care workers and frontline heroes, many may be considering a career change. In light of that, Northwestern University is currently offering this short Coursera class, “Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare,” that offers advice on how to break into the industry. With over 50 guest speakers and lecturers, students will have the opportunity to learn from and connect with many of the field’s leaders.

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Introduction to Classical Music

Taught by Yale University Professor Craig Wright, “Introduction to Classical Music” is a free course that introduces beginners to the “wonders of classical music.” Using the works of greats like Bach, Beethoven, and Puccini, the class begins with the elements of classical music and moves to questions of what makes their music great and why music moves us. A longer course, this class takes an estimated 51 hours to complete, but by the end, you’re sure to have a new and enriched appreciation for the masters and their compositions.

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Chinese for Beginners

With roughly 1.3 billion native speakers, Chinese is easily the most spoken language in the world. Coursera’s “Chinese for Beginners” course, taught by professor Xiaoyu Liu of Peking University, teaches learners how to hold basic conversations in Mandarin, the language’s most common dialect. The free class focuses on speaking rather than reading and writing, meaning that students don’t have to study Chinese characters—which speeds up the learning process substantially so the class can be completed in about 10 hours.

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Critical Issues in Urban Education

Some parents have found a new appreciation for teachers and gained a better understanding of the challenges faced by the education system throughout our country. This University of Chicago course, “Critical Issues in Urban Education,” looks at these obstacles and their political debates, exploring how these issues translate into educational policy and examining ways of changing them for the betterment of public education everywhere.

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Vilppu Academy: Drawing Essentials

Glenn Vilppu is one of the art world’s most preeminent teachers, working with professionals in video game and animation studios, as well as with students in art schools and private studios around the globe. His online course, “Drawing Essentials,” teaches both professional and budding artists the basics of drawing—from how to correctly hold a pencil to how to hone their visual skills in order to perfect their proportions. The six-week course isn’t cheap ($600), but it equips you with valuable knowledge that’s applicable in every artistic field.

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Drawing and Sketching for Beginners

For aspiring artists who aren’t sure about shelling out the big bucks just yet, Robin Slee’s “Drawing and Sketching for Beginners” is a much more affordable option at just $29.99. This self-taught tutor covers much of the same material as Vilppu (even spending an entire lesson on how to properly hold a pencil), in an easy, accessible, and self-paced manner. Additionally, Slee offers tips for artists looking to produce digital sketches—including software recommendations—and peer feedback is available throughout the length of the class.

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The Complete Digital Marketing Course

Touted as “one of the most comprehensive digital marketing courses available,” Udemy’s “The Complete Digital Marketing Course” teaches students how to market a business online through all the major channels. The online class covers everything from SEO to social media marketing and Google Analytics for $114.99 and gives users a lifetime of access to course updates, allowing them to keep their marketing strategies relevant far into the future.

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Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may seem shrouded in mystery to some. The Princeton University course, “Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies,” is here to change all of that, drilling down to Bitcoin at its technical level, helping separate fact from the fiction, and teaching students how to create their own software that can interact with cryptocurrencies. 47% of previous students have reported obtaining a “tangible career benefit” from completing the course.

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Complete Guitar System - From Beginner to Advanced

Millions of people have tuned into guitar teacher Erich Andreas’ YouTube videos over the years. For the first time, this Udemy course, “Complete Guitar System - From Beginner to Advanced” arranges those videos (plus many more) into an easy-to-follow guide for learning the guitar. Perfect for beginners, this course will help turn your quarantine hobby dreams into a reality.

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Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success

According to professor Peter Childs of Imperial College London, creative and innovative thinking are essential skills in today’s world. For many left-brained professionals, however, creativity doesn’t come naturally, which is where Coursera’s “Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success” comes into play. Over the course of 14 hours, this free class teaches professionals in all fields how to think outside of the box, approaching problems from fresh angels and providing new and unique solutions.

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Start ASL

Start ASL provides a complete curriculum for learning American Sign Language through videos and grammar lessons. There are three levels of the ASL course beginning with the basics and moving to the intricacies of storytelling. Students have three price options, all of which cover the same material (with added bonuses in the higher tiers), ranging from free to $49.95 a month.

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Introduction to Big Data

For the Big Data newbie, UC San Diego’s “Introduction to Big Data” will introduce you to the terminology and concepts behind Big Data, its applications, problems, and systems. The course specifically focuses on Hadoop, the most common framework used by businesses. With lots of real-world applications, 45% of learners reported starting a new career after completing the course.

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International Women’s Health and Human Rights

Stanford University’s “International Women’s Health and Human Rights” course is available to learners via Coursera. Over 54 hours, participants will learn about unique issues faced by women around the world from infancy to old age. The content has an abundance of real-world applications and 35% of previous participants reported gaining a tangible career benefit from the course.

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Social Media Marketing Specialization

Like all other types of marketing, social media marketing requires a specific skill set to create and execute an effective strategy. The Northwestern course, “Social Media Marketing Specialization,” gives students the most up-to-date training so they can grow their own businesses and brands. While the course typically takes seven months (at three hours a week), it is entirely self-paced.

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The Complete iOS 10 & Swift 3 Developer Course

If you’ve spent a lot more time on your phone recently, you may have conceived of a brand-new app. Udemy’s “The Complete iOS & Swift 3 Developer Course” will teach you everything you need to know about taking that great idea and turning it into a reality. You’ll get 30 hours of teaching content as well as all of the software you need to build your own iOS apps from the ground up.

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The Complete Android Oreo Developer Course

If you’d rather build apps for the Android operating system, check out Udemy’s “The Complete Android Oreo Developer Course” instead. For $94.99 you’ll learn everything you need to know about building apps on Google’s Android 8.0 Oreo. The most comprehensive course available, there are over 35 hours of educational materials included, and all can be completed at your own pace with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner

If you’ve found yourself reaching for the works of some of America’s greatest writers during social distancing, you might enjoy Yale University’s “Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner” course. Available through Open Yale Courses, this free literature class, which includes 25 pre-recorded lectures, looks at the history of America and modernism through the lens of these three great writers. As you read through the nine selected works you’re sure to gain a better understanding of classic American literature as well as what life was really like on the heels of the last great health pandemic some 100 years ago.

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Gotham Writers

If you’d prefer writing the next great American novel, you should check out Gotham Writers’ list of online courses. From general fiction writing to genre-focused classes (like romance and mystery), these small-group classes help writers hone their craft. The classes range from one-day intensives to 10-week workshops, with prices from $150 to $500. The work can be completed entirely at your own pace and weekly live chats with your classmates are an optional added bonus.

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Public Speaking

Glossophobia, better known as the fear of public speaking, is thought to affect some 75% of the population. Courses like Rochester Institute of Technology’s “Public Speaking” are excellent resources. The class teaches learners how to organize and deliver speeches of all types, as well as teaches strategies to minimize public speaking anxiety and build confidence.

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Hollywood: History, Industry, Art

Film buffs will be intrigued by this free UPenn “Hollywood: History, Industry, Art” course. Beginning with the Hollywood of the 1920s and moving to the film industry today, the class explores how studios work and came to be, as well as some of the industry’s most major players. Over four weeks, find out how Hollywood has reacted to some of the world’s biggest political events and look ahead at how the film world is likely to change in the future.

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Personal Finance Masterclass

Money is a tough topic for many Americans, as millions have filed for unemployment and may have become unequipped to handle their finances. This “Personal Finance Masterclass” has set out to change all of that. The $99.99 (on sale for $11.99) course covers topics like the basics of budgeting to investing 101 and even dives into the psychology behind money.

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The Watercolor Workshop

Beginner and intermediate artists looking to learn the fundamentals of watercolor or perfect their techniques will be intrigued by this Udemy course, “The Watercolor Workshop.” Building gradually over 19 modules, the course includes 18 illustrated ebooks that cover still life, landscape painting, and more. Priced at $34.99, the class leaves some room in your budget for all of the necessary paintbrushes and paints.

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Masterpieces of World Literature

Masterpieces of World Literature” is a Harvard University course available on edX that dives into some of the world’s greatest writers, like Homer and Voltaire. Over 12 weeks, professors David Damrosch and Martin Puchner look at how local and global cultures influenced these works and how the works continue to influence society today. The course is free to audit, or students can opt for a $149 certificate of completion.

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Essentials of Global Health

Issues like public and global health are more applicable than ever. The free Yale course, “Essentials of Global Health,” equips students with a comprehensive, basic understanding of global health, focusing on the challenges faced by middle- and low-income countries. The course is top-notch and even life-changing for some, with 44% of previous students reporting a new career after completing the course and 25% reporting an increase in pay after completing the course.

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Big Brothers Big Sisters

If this global pandemic has inspired you to give back more, consider using this social distancing time to take the courses necessary to become a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. After applying to be a mentor, bigs are required to complete the free pre-match online training. Begin by reaching out to your local chapter, and by the time the country begins to open back up, you could be ready to change a child’s life.

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Bartending Mastery - Cocktail & Bartending Masterclass

For $19.99, the casual drinker or aspiring bartender can learn everything they need to know to make an outstanding cocktail and transform into a confident bar master. “Bartending Mastery - Cocktail & Bartending Masterclass” walks you through the equipment you need, how to make classic cocktails, and trains you in spirit and flavor pairings, enabling you to craft your own, unique creations. To top it off, the course even gives you a little history lesson, walking you through some of the world’s best and most influential bartenders of the 19th and 20th centuries.

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Journey of the Universe: A Story for Our Times Specialization

Created by senior research scholars at Yale University, “Journey of the Universe” weaves together evolutionary sciences and humanities (history, philosophy, art, and religion) in order to better understand the universe and our place in it. Many students report finishing the class in five months, investing as little as three hours a week.

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Basic Spanish

For $126 you can earn a professional certificate in basic Spanish through UPValenciaX. The course teaches basic vocabulary, grammatical structures, and conversational skills, as well as regular and irregular Spanish verbs. While the course typically takes learners four months to complete, you can use this time to get a jump start.

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Bread Baking Techniques for Beginners

Bonnie Ohara, founder of Alchemy Bread and the author of one of Amazon’s best-selling cookbooks, has recently released an online bread-baking course for beginners. For $110 the course covers the basics of how to create, shape, and bake a handful of bread types including focaccia and rustic loaves. “Bread Baking Techniques for Beginners” would be a great way for social distancing bakers to grow their skills in the kitchen.

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Introduction to HTML5

The University of Michigan has made its “Introduction to HTML5” course available to everyone via Coursera. For the complete beginner, with no prior programming or IT experience, this class will walk you through the fundamentals of coding so that you can create and design your own websites. The free class can be taken as a stand-alone, or as the first part of the paid “Web Design for Everybody” specialization offered by the University.

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Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society

Karl T. Ulrich, the vice dean of entrepreneurship and innovation at Wharton, leads this general design course. Intending to make both novice and professional designers better at their work, the course focuses on the basic design process (define, explore, select, and refine) in fields ranging from architecture to furniture to graphics. Enrollment is free, and the class only takes 26 hours to complete, making “Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society” the perfect long-weekend project.

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Introduction to Negotiation

Yale University’s free online course, “Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator,” helps develop a framework for analyzing and shaping negotiations. The online class even allows students several opportunities to negotiate with each other, and professors provide valuable feedback on how the principles taught in class are applied in order to maximize real-world success.

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Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking

Harvard’s persuasive writing and speaking course focuses on composing effective arguments through the lens of politics. Using speeches from political giants like Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, and JFK, you’ll learn how speakers and writers persuade an audience and how to apply those principles to your speaking and writing. The course can be audited for free or $99 will get you a verified certificate of completion.

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The Complete Foundation Stock Trading Course

All full-time traders at the Montreal Trading Group must complete this “Foundation Stock Trading Course” before employment. Taught by Mohsen Hassan, the company’s founder and president, the course includes all the information one would need to become a successful and profitable trader. Suitable for those with limited to no knowledge of stock trading, the $94.99 course can be followed up with an additional one offering a more intermediate-level approach to the market.

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Looking to dabble in a little bit of everything during this time of social distancing? Check out MasterClass. Buy-one-get-one-free annual passes are currently on sale for $180, and each gives you access to lessons from more than 80 professionals, like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Christina Aguilera, Gordon Ramsay, and Simone Biles, all of whom are titans in their respective fields. So whether you’re looking to master poker, creative writing, basketball, or filmmaking, you’re sure to find a class or two that suits your interests.

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