The Coolest Virtual Courses You Can Take At Canada’s Top Schools

Photographed by Erika Long.
Because of COVID-19, most courses at Canadian universities and colleges have shifted online for fall, including continuing ed programs and offerings, which are typically open to the general public and don’t require a long-term commitment. This (possibly temporary) shift to remote learning also means that for the first time, anyone with a decent Internet connection has the opportunity to take courses at pretty much any of the country’s top educational institutions, at least for this upcoming semester.
So if you’re finding yourself with a little more free time on your hands these days — perhaps because you’re no longer commuting, working fewer hours, or seeing friends less often — and are itching to try something different, consider paying for an online course to deep dive into a topic you’ve always been interested in, upgrade your professional knowledge, or learn a fun new skill.
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From practical, hands-on classes to courses steeped in theory and contemporary culture, there’s something for everyone. And who knows — that very pricey technical course you sign up for might just be the shiny LinkedIn qualification that helps you land your next job.
Here are seven interesting online courses worth signing up for this fall.
The School: George Brown College
The Price Tag: $347
Want to become a Cake Boss? Or at least dramatically improve your baking prowess at home? This 48-hour online offering, which takes place at set times, is one sure-fire way to learn pastry basics from a pro in the comfort of your own kitchen. After completing this hands-on class, you will *hopefully* know how to make great pies, cookies, cakes, tarts and much more.
And once you’ve successfully completed this foundation course, you will be allowed to enroll in specialty Baking Arts program courses like Cake Decorating 1 and Rustic Artisan Breads… imagine the tasty possibilities!
The School: University of Toronto
The Price Tag: $280
Want to finally understand the fundamentals of investing? This comprehensive, 12-hour course covers everything from savings accounts to exchange-traded funds, and is expressly designed for individuals with little to no investing experience (i.e. most of us).
Even if you are already working with an investment advisor or robo-advisor, “Investing For Beginners” could help give you a valuable overview of how things like dividends and taxes can impact your savings, so that you can ask the right questions and feel more comfortable taking risks with your money.
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Bonus: This distance course, offered through the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, is taught by a seasoned business journalist and personal finance expert.
The School: Simon Fraser University
The Price Tag: $170
If you’ve been trying to understand the present moment better, and have been challenging yourself to do the work of reflecting on topics like privilege and structural inequities, this four-week Liberal Arts course might just be of interest. It proposes to look at how COVID-19 has underlined pre-existing social tensions and inequities, and address topics ranging from the militarization of policing to decolonization to social activism and protest.
You’ll have the opportunity to watch recorded lectures and podcasts and read assigned articles on the topic, then participate in written and video conversations with the instructor and other students.
Note: This course is currently full, but there is a waitlist available.
The School: University of British Columbia
The Price Tag: $995
UBC Extended Learning has a new grouping of Technology courses that touch on topics like data visualization and programming. There’s also two foundational coding classes available, addressing simple and complex data.
This simple data coding course is not cheap, but by the end you should know enough about programming to design an interactive game, at least according to the course description!
And FYI: UBC has also introduced a free online lecture series specifically for these strange times that’s also worth checking out.
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The School: Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta
The Price Tag: Free*
The University of Alberta offers a number of totally free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) online, including this 12-week program exploring Indigenous history in Canada, as well as the “key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations.”
The course’s modules address topics like the fur trade, land claims, and Indigenous political activism in detail, through video lectures, course notes, and assigned readings.
* This course is free to audit through Coursera, but you would have to pay a small fee if you want a certificate of completion.
The School: Ryerson University
The Price Tag: $106.83
Love listening to podcasts? Interested in working for one, or launching your very own podcast? This short six-hour, non-credit course offered by The Chang School of Continuing Education covers the basics of podcast writing for a comedy or drama serial. 
You’ll learn how to employ techniques like dialogue, narration, music, and sound to tell a story that sounds good and is compelling from episode to episode.
The School: Dalhousie University
The Price Tag: $995
For some of us, it might take a pricey course on reducing stress to literally slow down. This class, which includes four 1.5-hour synchronous Zoom sessions and at least eight hours of reading and assignment work, is designed to help you start a mindfulness practice, build resilience and develop compassion. Topics like mindfulness leadership and keeping cool in high-stress situations are evergreen, but can be particularly helpful for right now.
And don’t forget that some employers do offer tuition reimbursement or subsidies for employees, in many cases whether you’re taking a course that’s related to your job or not (the rules vary widely at each company).

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