Don’t Get Stupid This Summer: 10 Online Courses to Keep Your Neurons Firing

Hi, Shmoopers,

School’s out for the summer. (Er, for some of you. Everyone else can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel.) And as much as we’re all about loading up on sunscreen and relaxing by the pool, we hate getting back to school in the fall and feeling like our brains have somehow been vacuumed out by the zombies in the latest YA dystopian novel.

So how about a compromise? Shmoop’s Online Courses keep your brain muscles intact without ruining your SPF season. If you need to brush up on the basics, you can hit up one of our core courses. (Geometry? American Lit? Modern World History? Whatever floats your boat.) But we want to shout out a few of our elective courses—the just-for-fun stuff that’ll give you a good reason to skip a day at the beach. Or, you know, bring your tablet along.

1. Reality TV

This video-based course digs deep into why we’re all so obsessed with reality TV. Because we are. (Anyone else already have a pool going for this season of The Bachelorette?) We talk about the history of reality TV, the literary tropes found in every episode of Survivor, and why oh why we love to watch stuff ironically. After all, we didn’t come here to make friends.

2. Introduction to Java

Want to be prepared when computers take over the world? In this course, you’ll learn all the important variables, conditionals, loops, methods, and objects that’ll allow you to do just that. We’ll do everything but teach you how to make a cup of coffee. (But real talk: you might want to learn that skill if you keep learning how to program.)

3. Creative Writing: Fiction

Living enough of a drama-free life that your diary’s getting a little stale? Try some fiction writing with Shmoop. From squeezing those mind-grapes while brainstorming to the literary shave and haircut that is editing, you’ll finish this short course with a story that’s Pulitzer-worthy. Or at least fridge-worthy.

4. Video Games and Remixes: Audience Participation

Instead of playing video games all summer, why not learn about ’em? This course will give you buzzwords galore, which means the next time you’re playing Counter-Strike, you can distract your opponents by just saying ludological, moral panic, and narratology over and over again until their brains explode.

5. The Psychology of Influence

Nirvana might ask you to “Come As You Are,” and Madonna might want you to “Express Yourself,” but when push comes to shove, humans are crazy-inclined to follow the crowd. (How else do you explain your old Furby collection?) In this course, you’ll enjoy some Social Psychology 101 as you examine how we as humans change due to the desire to fit in and please the people around us.

6. Dinosaurs

After you’ve watched all four Jurassic Park movies (okay, fine, you can skip 2 and 3—we won’t tell), take our short course on dinosaurs. By the end, you’ll be as geeky—er, knowledgeable—as the kid in Jurassic World. Clever course.
The internet: land of quickly-changing design principles (thank goodness) and even quicker meme fads (we repeat, thank goodness). But it wasn’t always that way. There was a time before the internet had pictures, color, or even cats. While you spend countless hours watching totally-worth-it YouTube vids this summer, pencil in some time to learn about where those videos came from. Spoiler alert: no storks were involved.

8. ’90s History Through Music

Close read Milli Vanilli, learn about how an economic recession inspired Nirvana, and dig deep into everything Madonna. Come on, it’s what you’d do with your summer anyway…just with a little more Macarena thrown in.

9. History of Animation Technology

We all grew up watching animated movies (and let’s be real: they’re still some of our favorites), so why not understand the nitty-gritty of what makes them come to life? This course peeks into Pixar and covers the history of animation from cave dwellers to Arendelle dwellers. Let the info rage on…online courses never bothered us anyway.

10. How to Write a Cover Letter

Okay, so this one might not be beach reading, but if you’ve waited till the last minute to apply to summer jobs and internships, this course, and the rest of our Business and Career Preparation Courses will serve you well. Pro tip: spell the company name right. A Shmoop by any other name won’t smell as sweet.

Quote of the Week

“Mama says, ‘Stupid is as stupid does.'”

~ Forrest Gump

Don’t be/do stupid. Subscribe to Shmoop.

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