REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Get schooled on architecture, sustainability and development.

Each August, I remember the linoleum floors of my hometown Staples store, where they played “Drift Away” by the Doobie Brothers three times every hour, and glossy plastic pencil boxes and Lisa Frank notebooks called from the aisles.

Back-to-school season can still induce a thrill, even if you’re not heading to the classroom armed with fresh supplies. If you want to know more about global architecture, civic ecology, or the American prison system, you can start with free online classes.

For aspiring theorists, designers, and grassroots urbanists, here are a few picks for a back-to-school courseload. Some are self-paced, some are archived, and some are starting this fall.

A Global History of Architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Quality of Life: Livability in Future Cities from ETH Zurich

Reclaiming Broken Places: Introduction to Civic Ecology from Cornell University

Vernacular Architecture of Asia: Tradition, Modernity and Cultural Sustainability from University of Hong Kong

Urban Water: Innovations for Sustainability from University of British Columbia

Social Work Practice: Advocating Social Justice and Change from University of Michigan

Incarceration’s Witnesses from Hamilton College

Sustainable Urban Development from Delft University of Technology & Wageningen University

If none of these quite fit the bill, you can always read some classics, or check out CityLab’s urban design syllabus with a focus on race and justice.

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