40 Free Open Courseware Classes About the Human Body

Learning about the human body is important if you want to work in health care or a medical-related field. Therapists, sports trainers and others can also benefit from an understanding of the human body. Happily, modern technology — in the form of the Internet — provides the tools necessary for nearly anyone to learn about anything through open courseware classes. It is possible for you to learn more about the human body, expanding your knowledge and becoming a better practitioner, from a number of schools. Here are 40 open courseware classes that can help broaden your knowledge base of how the human body works:

Anatomy and Physiology

tobias-aids-testIf you want to know more about how the human body is put together, and how its systems work, anatomy and physiology courses can help.

  1. Anatomy and Physiology from Western Governors University provides a look at the different systems in the body, as well as how they work and how they are built. Class is divided into modules for self-learning. Completing the course as scheduled takes most students about 14 weeks.
  2. The Human Body from Harvard Medical School is comprised of a number resources on different aspects of the human body, its anatomy and physiology, and how basic functions of the body work.
  3. Physiology of the Ear from MIT is a course designed to provide an in-depth look at the workings of the human ear. Assignments and projects help you apply your knowledge and internalize what you learn.
  4. Occurrence of Central Nerve System/Analysis of Differentiation Mechanism from the University of Tokyo provides an interesting look at the nervous system. Lecture notes and videos are included in this resource. (Yes, it’s in English.)
  5. Evolution of the Immune System from MIT offers a look at how the human immune system evolved, as well as some of the unique features of this system. Includes a syllabus, readings and assignments that you can complete on your own.
  6. Human Reproductive Biology from MIT focuses on the reproductive system. Describes the physiology of female and male systems of reproduction, as well as including lecture notes, assignments and exams.
  7. Gastroenterology from MIT looks at the gastrointestinal system and how it works.
  8. Modern Biology from the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University explores how the body is put together at a molecular level. Learn about lipids and enzymes, and how the body breaks down nutrients.
  9. Health is everywhere: unraveling the mystery of heath from The Open University covers the basics of health, and what makes good health. Addresses the human body, and how to keep it in proper working order.
  10. Health from Yale offers readings and notes about health. This collection provides a great overview of the human body, and how it responds in real-life situations, as well as addressing issues of pandemic, globalization and genetics.

Pathology and Diseases

How disease moves through the human body is helpful information for medical and health care professionals. These courses can provide you with insight into disease and how it affects the body.

  1. Principles of Human Disease from MIT takes a look at modern approaches to understanding and treating diseases that affect humans. Includes genetics information and other factors that influence the progress of diseases.
  2. Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases from Johns Hopkins University provides a look at how diseases grow and spread from human to human. Includes case studies and a look at how infection develops, takes hold and spreads.
  3. Basic Human Pathology from Tufts University offers lectures on different aspects of diseases and how they develop in humans. A basic understanding of injury and wound healing, how disease affects different systems and how the body adapts to disease.
  4. Pathophysiology of Infectious Diseases from Tufts University looks at how disease works. Includes lecture notes, readings, case studies and quizzes.
  5. Chronic Infection and Inflammation: What are the Consequences on Your Health? from MIT looks at how recurring infection can have long-term impacts on your health. Course materials are provided, along with lectures and a syllabus to help you keep on track.
  6. Parkinson’s Disease Workshop from MIT provides a look at Parkinson’s Disease and offers information on how it progresses, and some of the treatments that are being attempted.
  7. Fundamentals of Oncology for Public Heath Practitioners from Johns Hopkins University follows the progressions of major forms of cancer, as well as discusses common treatment options. Includes readings and lecture notes, as well as a schedule that can help you plan your study.
  8. Oral Public Health: Slide Lecture 3: Issues and Hot Topics in Oral and Public Health looks at how diseases affect the mouth. This lecture looks at public health and the spread of disease. Includes flouridation, waste, HIV/AIDS, cancer and infection control.
  9. Cultures of Disease and Care from Notre Dame is part of an overall course on Medicine and Public Health in American History. Lecture notes explore how society and other factors influence how we view disease, and how we seek treatment for it.

Nutrition and Fitness

The human body requires proper nutrition and physical activity in order to remain healthy. Open courseware that addresses these issues can be used in tandem with other information on normal body functioning.

  1. Introductory Nutrition from the University of Texas at Austin focuses on the basic principles of nutrition and the effects of food choices on the body.
  2. Nutrient Function and Metabolism from the University of California at Berkeley provides an overview of how nutrients fuel the metabolism. Includes information on carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, and addresses toxicity.
  3. Nutrition: proteins from The Open University offers an overview of protiens, and how they function within the body.
  4. Nutrition: vitamins and minerals from The Open University looks at how common vitamin and minerals are necessary for the body, and how they can help you maintain health.
  5. Active, healthy lifestyles from The Open University helps you understand the role an active lifestyle plays in a healthy body.
  6. Health and Fitness from Western Governors University provides a look at proper health through good fitness routines. Focuses on body systems and physical health, emotional health, nutrition and susbtance abuse.
  7. Physical Intelligence from MIT addresses the connection between body and mind, and how you can use physical activity to improve the channel between the two while improving the health and function of the body.
  8. Introduction to Cardiovascular Fitness from Wikiversity looks at how to improve the health of the cardiovascular system. Includes class discussions, projects, readings and links for further resources.
  9. Things to Watch Out For from Utah State University addresses substance abuse. Learn about why substance abuse occurs and the signs that it has become a problem. This course also addresses prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

Life Stages

The body needs different things at different stages of life. Learn about specific issues confronting the body during youth and during old age.

  1. Human Growth and Development from Tufts University provides an overview of the different stages of development from birth to death.
  2. Health Across the Life Span: Frameworks, Contexts, and Measurements from Johns Hopkins University looks at how the body functions from the time one is born until the end of life.
  3. Adolescent Health and Development from Johns Hopkins University looks at how young bodies develop, and the specific health issues that should be addressed.
  4. Young people’s wellbeing from The Open Unviersity focuses on common issues, including obesity, depression, drinking and behavioral problems, that commonly affect youth.
  5. Risks for STI/HIV – Opportunities for Prevention from Johns Hopkins University is focused on understanding why youth engage in risky sexual behaviors, and how it can be prevented.
  6. The Wisdom Years from United Nations University explores the effects of aging on the body. It also looks at how to care for the elderly.
  7. Elderly and Activity from Wikiversity looks at how physical activity can have positive effects on aging bodies.
  8. Pain Management Strategies in the Elderly from Harvard Medical School addresses end of life care for the aging, and focuses specifically on how pain affects the body, and how it can be managed.


Learn some of the things that nurses should know in order to better care for patients. These are some nursing courses that can help you learn more about the human body.

  1. Medical Terminology from the College of Eastern Utah takes you through the basics of how words are used in the field of medicine.
  2. Microbiology from Tufts University looks the basics of cells in the body. Aimed at providing a basic understanding of how the body works on a cellular level.
  3. Health Assessment and Promotion from UMass Boston offers helpful hints on learning how to quickly assess someone’s health and make possible diagnoses of various diseases.
  4. Caring in hospitals from The Open University offers a look at proper procedure and the different ways that the body can be treated in hospitals.
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