Best Columbia University Online Courses

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Contributor, Benzinga
June 17, 2021

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Have you ever wanted to study at Columbia but didn't want to spend thousands in enrollment fees? Well, now’s your chance as Coursera makes it possible to access a library of top online courses for free. 

You can learn the latest skills to beef up your resume, prepare for a career or position yourself for advancement opportunities with your current employer. 

Benzinga has compiled a list of the best Columbia courses from Coursera to help you find the perfect fit. 

Best Columbia Courses Online:

What Makes a Columbia Course Great?

Wondering what makes an online Columbia course from Coursera worth your time and effort? Here are a few factors that help these offerings stand out from the rest. 

Facilitated by a Subject-Matter Expert

The Columbia courses featured on Coursera are led by subject-matter experts. Most have extensive teaching experience and have worked in the field, which allows them to deliver exceptional instruction.


Strapped for time and hoping to fit a course into your busy schedule? With online Columbia courses, you won’t ever have to worry about missing a deadline as they are self-paced. This means you can access the material when it’s convenient. 


You can get started with any of these courses for free. Some selections also allow you to upgrade your enrollment if you want the class to count towards a certificate or degree program. 

Best Columbia Courses 

Here’s a list of the top options. 

1. The Age of Sustainable Development 

Who it's for: Students who want to learn more about sustainable development 

Price: Free

The Age of Sustainable Development is a 29-hour course that introduces students to pathways and challenges to economic development that are environmentally and socially inclusive. 

Here’s a quick glimpse at how it’s structured: 

  • Course Materials
  • What is Sustainable Development? 
  • Inequality Around the Worlds
  • A Short History of Economic Development
  • The History of Inequality 
  • The MDGs and the End of Extreme Poverty
  • Growth within Planetary Boundaries 
  • Human Rights and Gender Equality 
  • Education 
  • Universal Health Coverage
  • Sustainable Food Supply and the End of Hunger
  • Sustainable Cities 
  • Curbing Climate Change
  • Saving Biodiversity 
  • The SDGs

Instructor Jeffrey Sachs is a professor of health policy and management. He’s also the director of the Earth Institute. 

2. Causal Inference 1

Who it's for: Advanced students interested in exploring causal inference 

Price: Free

Causal Inference 1 is the first component of a 2-part series that explores a complex mathematical survey of causal inference at the Master’s level. 

It includes lessons on the evolution of statistical literature on causal inference and data collection methods to estimate the causal relationship. You will also learn how to determine if a relationship is causal or non-causal, how to analyze methods that can be used to project effects and so much more.

Michael E. Sobel, statistics professor, divides the course into 6 modules: 

  • Key Ideas
  • Randomization Inference
  • Regression 
  • Propensity Score 
  • Matching
  • Special Topics 

Each module includes a series of video lectures and supplementary readings. You will also take 5 quizzes to assess your comprehension and identify areas where you need to spend more time. 

Expect to spend 12 hours working through the material.

3. Causal Inference 2 

Who it's for: Advanced students interested in exploring causal inference 

Price: Free

In the second part of the series, Professor Michael E. Sobel continues covering advanced topics related to causal inference. 

Causal Inference 2 consists of 5 modules: 

  • Introduction to Mediation 
  • More on Mediation 
  • Instrumental Variables, Principal Stratification and Regression Discontinuity 
  • Longitudinal Causal Inference 
  • Interference and Fixed Effects 

It takes approximately 6 hours to reach the finish line, and you will watch video lectures, read supplementary material and take quizzes during each module. 

Complete Causal Inference 1 before you register for this course. 

4. Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part I

Who it's for: Students seeking financial engineering knowledge

Price: Free

Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part I is designed for students who want to gain a more in-depth understanding of how financial engineering works behind the scenes. It also dives into the limitations of financial engineering, the development of derivatives pricing models, asset allocation, portfolio optimization and more. Plus, you will learn how financial engineering is applied to algorithmic trading, commodity and energy derivatives and options. 

Here’s what you can expect to learn in the course: 

  • Course Overview
  • Introduction to Basic Fixed Income Securities
  • Introduction to Derivative Securities 
  • Option Pricing in the Multi-Period Binomial Model 
  • Team Structure Models I
  • Team Structure Models II and Introduction to Credit Derivatives 
  • Introduction to Mortgage Mathematics and Mortgage-Backed Securities
  • Background Material 

The class is co-facilitated by Martin Haugh, co-director of the Center for Financial Engineering and Professor Garud Iyengar. Both work in the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department at Columbia University. 

5. Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part II

Who it's for: Students seeking financial engineering knowledge

Price: Free

Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part II goes beyond the discipline's basics to demonstrate how simple stochastic models are used to resolve issues with portfolio optimization, price derivatives securities in equity and credit asset classes, and more. Haugh and Iyengar also discuss advanced applications of financial engineering. 

Here’s a breakdown of the course syllabus: 

  • Mean-Variance Analysis and CAPM
  • Practical Issues in Implementing Mean Variance
  • Equity Derivatives in Practice: Part I
  • Equity Derivatives in Practice: Part II
  • Credit Derivatives and Structured Products
  • Other Applications of Financial Engineering
  • Background Material 

It takes approximately 16 hours to finish the course. Before enrolling, you should complete Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part I

6. Economics of Money and Banking

Who it's for: Economics students

Price: Free

Interested in learning more about the new wave of economic thinking? Look no further than this course that includes lessons on the 3 primary features of the new system. 

Led by economics professor Perry G. Mehrling, Economics of Money and Banking features the following modules: 

  • Introduction 
  • Banking as a Clearing System
  • Banking as Market Making
  • Midterm Review and Exam
  • International Money and Banking 
  • Banking as Advance Clearing 
  • Money in the Real World
  • Final Exam

You will learn how capital and money markets have merged to create a new system with different dynamics and vulnerabilities. The course also includes on the global character of the new economic system, vital derivative contracts and more. 

Instruction is provided through video lectures and bonus reading material.

Find the Best Columbia Course for You 

Coursera makes it possible to get the Ivy League experience from the comfort of your home. Get started with 1 of our top selections from Columbia University today. They’re presented by exceptional professors who are committed to providing you with an online learning experience you won’t soon forget.

Southern New Hampshire University Online

SNHU Online Offers:

  1. Flexible schedules
  2. Affordable tuition
  3. Online tutoring
  4. Access to electronic research materials
  5. Specialized academic advising
  6. Supportive online community