The Best Online Pop Culture Courses

portrait of Kasia Kovacs
by Kasia Kovacs

Published on June 16, 2020 · Updated on March 22, 2022

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The Best Online Pop Culture Courses

For many college students, it's easy to let your eyes glaze over in a boring class. But what if you could learn about something a lot more intriguing — something like genetic trait prediction in the Harry Potter universe?

That's exactly what you'd do if you signed up for the online Science of Harry Potter course at the University of California, San Diego.

Several colleges and universities offer classes that delve into film, television, music, and other cultural phenomena.

Or maybe you'd like to study a more timely topic, like how societies react during a pandemic. In that case, you might check out Michigan State University's online course titled Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Disasters, Catastrophe, and Human Behavior.

Several colleges and universities offer classes that delve into film, television, music, and other cultural phenomena. While some of these courses use pop culture as a hook for other topics — such as how UC San Diego uses Harry Potter to talk about science — others explore unique aspects of pop culture and their impacts on society.

Below, we introduce some of the most interesting pop culture college courses you can take online and on campus.

Table of Contents

Free Online Courses

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hollywood and the Film Industry Music, Art, and Writing Memes and Games Society and Culture

On-Campus Programs

Television and Film Music and Podcasts

Free Online Pop Culture College Courses

Want to take a college class, even if you're not currently enrolled? Fortunately, many higher education institutions have digitized their pop culture courses, offering them at little to no cost to students.

You can find open-access courses at websites like edX, MOOC.org (which stands for "massive open online courses"), and Coursera. Below are some of the most unique pop culture courses you can take online, organized by category.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Smithsonian Institution’s The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture Smithsonian Institution’s Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology Signum University's Lord of the Rings

Hollywood and the Film Industry

University of Pennsylvania’s Hollywood: History, Industry, Art Wesleyan University’s Understanding Memory: Explaining the Psychology of Memory Through Movies

Music, Art, and Writing

University of Rochester's History of Rock Michigan State University’s Script Writing: Write a Pilot Episode for a TV or Web Series

Memes and Games

Davidson College’s How to Do Things With Memes MIT’s Games and Culture

Society and Culture

Duke University’s ART of the MOOC: Activism and Social Movements Duke University’s Sports and Society

The silhouette of a crowd at a live concert is framed against smoke, lights, and balloons.

On-Campus Pop Culture Courses

Sometimes colleges and universities conduct on-campus pop culture courses for students. Schools might integrate pop culture into general education requirements or offer these classes through their American studies and/or social sciences departments.

Television and Film

Harvard University’s The Real Game of Thrones UCLA’s Youth Culture and MTV: Technology, History, Politics Brown University’s Channeling Race: Television and Race in America University of Texas at Austin’s From the Mind of Jordan Peele

Music and Podcasts

Grinnell College’s Topics in American Music: Hip Hop New York University’s Talk to Me: Radio and Podcasting in a Global City
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