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Best Courses Guides

9 Best Anthropology Courses for 2024: Understanding Cultures

Unearth the diversity of human societies in a variety of ancient and modern civilizations. Study artifacts and the role of social media in contemporary culture.

If you’re interested in anthropology, there’s a course for you. After exploring over 100 online anthropology courses, I’ve selected the best nine for this Best Courses Guide. As well as some great general anthropology courses, others study specific cultures and eras in different parts of the world.

These courses are created by well-known institutions including Yale and Harvard. We’ve also thrown in some super offerings from University of Newcastle (Australia), University of Alberta (Canada), and others for good measure.

Click on the shortcuts for more details:

Here are our top picks

What is Anthropology?

According to Wikipedia, anthropology is the scientific study of humanity, including biology (biological anthropology), behavior, societies (social anthropology), cultures, and linguistics (cultural anthropology). It also includes past human activity and even extinct human species (sometimes separated into archaeology or paleontology).


  • 7 courses are free or free-to-audit and 2 are paid
  • 6 courses offer a certificate of completion
  • The Anthropology subject is followed by 88K learners on Class Central
  • The most featured provider is FutureLearn with 3 courses
  • The most featured university is University of Newcastle with 2 courses.

Best Introductory Anthropology Course (University of Newcastle)

Daniela Heil and Hedda Askland, instructors

Anthropology: Understanding Societies and Cultures is designed to immerse you in the study of diverse societies and cultural practices. This course requires no prior experience, making it perfect for learners aged 15 and above with a curiosity about anthropology. You’ll embark on a journey through different places and times, exploring cultural differences and similarities. The course introduces you to key anthropological theories and methods to understand how studying other cultures can address contemporary societal problems. By reflecting on your own cultural background, you’ll gain valuable insights into your own society and others around the world.

What you’ll learn:

  • Fundamental concepts of anthropology and its intellectual roots
  • The importance of cultural diversity and the concept of ethnocentrism
  • How anthropological fieldwork and ethnography contribute to our understanding of societies
  • Skills to critically analyze your own and others’ cultural practices and societal structures.

“This was an excellent course. Loved how interactive it was, with discussions on the forums, plus practical completion of tasks…” – Maureen Theresa.

Provider FutureLearn
Institution University of Newcastle
Instructors Daniela Heil and Hedda Askland
Time Commitment 9 hours
Enrollment 7K
Rating 4.4
Cost Free audit
Certificate Paid

Best Anthropology Course for Exam Prep (Study.com)

Instructor Jessica Whittemore

Are you struggling with your anthropology studies or seeking to reinforce what you’ve learned from textbooks? Intro to Anthropology: Help and Review covers a wide range of topics within anthropology. You’ll be able to grasp difficult subjects more easily through engaging short video lessons and multiple-choice self-assessment quizzes. The course is designed to provide a broad overview of the field, making it an excellent resource for both beginners and those needing a refresher.

You’ll learn about:

  • Key anthropology topics, from genetics and evolution to culture and religion
  • The comparative method that seeks to explain the similarities and differences among people in the context of humanity as a whole
  • Insights into human and cultural migrations, the impact of agriculture and domestication, and the significance of family relationships in anthropology.

Study.com also offers General Anthropology (38 hours) and Anthropology Textbook (38 hours).

Provider Study.com
Instructors Jessica Whittemore and Natalie Perdue
Time Commitment 64 hours
Cost Paid
Certificate Paid

Best Anthropology Course with College Credit (StraighterLine)

StraighterLine info page

If your college approves, Cultural Anthropology is worth 3 college credits and is ACE approved (2021). StraighterLine has partnerships with 150 schools, so check with your institution to see if they will accept this course for credit transfer.

Suitable for beginners, this paid online course offers a deep dive into the exploration of human diversity.

What learners will learn:

  • In-depth understanding of human diversity across economic, political, social, and cultural spectrums
  • Insights into race and ethnicity, marriage and family, gender and sexuality, and religion and belief systems
  • Knowledge of the connection between power, authority, politics, social control, nationalism, external relations, and globalization
  • Familiarity with the science of anthropology, including its methods, ethics, and history.

Best Course on Population Anthropology (Yale)

Robert Wyman, instructor

Are you a student or researcher or do you have a keen interest in anthropology? Offered by Yale University, Anthropology provides an in-depth exploration of human evolution, population dynamics, and the demographic transitions across different regions and times. With no prerequisites, this course covers a wide range of topics from the evolution of sex and reproductive strategies to the economic and environmental impacts of population growth. Learners will benefit from diverse perspectives and insights into fertility attitudes and practices from guest lectures by experts Michael Teitelbaum and William Ryerson.

The syllabus also delves into specific case studies of population trends and demographic transitions in China and Europe.

This course covers:

  • The evolution of human beings from apes and the development of sex and reproductive strategies
  • Insights into why Africa’s demographic history is distinct and the concept of Malthusian times
  • An understanding of the demographic transition phases in Europe, including mortality and fertility decline
  • The economic motivations behind fertility decisions and the impact of population growth on economies
  • The role of media in the fertility transition within developing countries and a detailed look at global demography concerning abortion
  • Case studies on population dynamics in traditional and modern China, and the environmental implications of population interactions.

“The course was in depth and has a very wide range. I’ve learned a lot from the course and definitely improved my knowledge in the field as a social studies teacher.” – Dan Jerome L. Malapira.

Provider YouTube
Channel YaleCourses
Instructor Robert Wyman
Time Commitment 28 hours
Views 112K
Rating 5.0
Cost Free
Certificate Not available

Best Course Relating Objects to Anthropology (Harvard)

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, instructor

Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You is a captivating course offered by Harvard University that invites you to delve into the fascinating world of historical and scientific collections. You’ll learn about the roles of curators, historians, archivists, and preservationists. It’s a unique opportunity to explore a wide array of tangible things, from books and manuscripts to ethnographic artifacts and historical relics. Through examining a Gutenberg bible, Turkish sundials, and even a life mask of Abraham Lincoln, you’ll discover how these objects have shaped academic disciplines and influenced culture.

The course has three main sections:

  • The contribution of specific items to Harvard’s history
  • The purpose behind creating collections
  • The methods of rearranging objects to foster new perspectives on nature, time, and work.

By the end, you’ll gain new insights into interpreting and organizing tangible things in your own environment, enhancing your understanding of history and its impact on the present.

You’ll learn about:

  • How material objects shape academic disciplines and influence cultural boundaries
  • The diverse and fascinating items housed at Harvard University, including their historical and scientific significance
  • The roles and processes of curators, historians, archivists, and preservationists in creating and maintaining collections
  • Skills in looking at, organizing, and interpreting tangible things to create new ways of thinking about nature, time, and ordinary work.

“It was a great course, very refreshing. It covers about 400 years of historical items. This reflects how society and the culture gathers, collects, and exhibits ancient artifacts…” – Anonymous.

Provider edX
University Harvard
Instructors Sara Schechner, Ivan Gaskell, Sarah Carter and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Time Commitment 10-30 hours
Enrollment 97K
Rating 4.8
Cost Free audit
Certificate Paid

Best Course About Indigenous Canada (University of Alberta)

Tracy Bear, Alannah Mandamin-Shawanda, and Isaac Twinn, presenters

Indigenous Canada studies the rich histories and contemporary realities of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Designed from an Indigenous viewpoint, this course critically examines the multifaceted experiences of Indigenous communities, focusing on their relations with settlers throughout history to the present day.

This course has no prerequisites and is ideal for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of Indigenous perspectives and Canadian history.

What learners will gain from this course:

  • An understanding of Indigenous perspectives on history, culture, and worldview
  • Insight into the historical and contemporary relationships between Indigenous peoples and settlers in Canada
  • Knowledge of the social, political, and economic impacts of colonialism on Indigenous communities
  • Topics covered include the fur trade, land claims, political conflicts and activism
  • Awareness of Indigenous legal systems, treaties, and sovereignty
  • Appreciation for contemporary Indigenous life, art, and expressions of culture.

“…Factual, yet heartfelt. Very sensitive and diplomatic. Comprehensive. So much packed into such a short course. Instructors are clear and entirely professional. This should become part of all Canadian curriculum…” – Volena E. Wagner.

Provider Coursera
Institution University of Alberta
Instructors Tracy Bear and Paul Gareau
Time Commitment 21 hours
Enrollment 582K
Rating 4.8
Cost Free audit
Certificate Paid

Best Course About Indigenous Australia (University of Newcastle)

Effie Karageorgos, lead educator

As an Australian schoolgirl, I was taught very little about the culture of the indigenous inhabitants before British settlement. Great South Land: Introducing Australian History is ideal for anyone eager to deepen their understanding of Australia’s past or enhance their historical skills. This course covers a broad spectrum of topics from the Aboriginal Dreaming history, through the era of transportation and convictism, to the complexities of colonialism.

The course introduces participants to the methodologies and skills essential for the academic study of history, particularly focusing on Australian history. This not only aids in grasping the historical context but also in understanding contemporary issues within Australia. With no specific prerequisites required, it’s perfectly suited for students, history enthusiasts, and professionals looking to broaden their knowledge base.

In this course, gain:

  • A thorough understanding of key periods in Australian history, including Aboriginal deep time, the convict experience, and colonialism
  • Insight into the significance of studying Australian history and its impact on contemporary issues
  • Skills and approaches used in the academic study of history, with a focus on Australian history.

“A great course, offers a grounded, objective view of early Australian history and dispels quite a few popular myths. Offers a multidimensional experience of perceiving history through both narrative and visual art.” – Nadezhda H., FutureLearn learner.

Provider FutureLearn
University University of Newcastle
Instructor Monty King
Time Commitment 9 hours
Enrollment 4K
Rating 4.6
Cost Free audit
Certificate Paid

Best Course About Medieval Spain (Universidad Carlos iii de Madrid)

Spain’s past includes centuries when three major religions coexisted. Deciphering Secrets: Unlocking the Manuscripts of Medieval Toledo (Spain) is a journey into the heart of medieval Toledo’s history, focusing on the period from King Alfonso “The Wise” (1252-1284) to the creation of the blood purity statutes in the 1450s. This course is ideal for history enthusiasts, students, and scholars interested in the intricate relationships between Jews, Old Christians, and Muslims during a pivotal era in Spanish history. Through an in-depth examination of King Alfonso X’s legal codices, the Cantigas de Santa María, and the Toledo School of Translators, learners will gain insights into this period.

Note: at the time of publication, this course is archived. You can access the course materials for free, but cannot earn a certificate.

You’ll learn about:

  • The complex relationships between Jews, Old Christians, and Muslims in medieval Toledo
  • King Alfonso X’s efforts to unite three religions and his contributions to legal and intellectual endeavors
  • The significant economic, religious, and intellectual contributions of Jewish and converso families to Castilian society
  • The historical context leading to the creation of blood purity statutes, the Inquisition, and the expulsion of the Jews
  • Transcribing historical manuscripts, contributing to new scholarly research without the need for Spanish language skills
  • Virtual tours of significant historical sites in Toledo, enhancing the learning experience.

“…Professor Martinez-Davila is a committed educator who is enthusiastic about sharing the joy of researching the past. I especially liked the guest lectures from people who work in archives, museums and academic research…” – Annie B.

Provider edX
Institution Universidad Carlos iii de Madrid
Instructor Roger Louis Martínez-Dávila
Time Commitment 14-21 hours
Rating 4.8
Cost Free audit
Certificate Not available

Best Course Relating Social Media to Anthropology (University College London)

Daniel Miller, instructor

Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media is a unique online course that delves into the global impact of social media through the lens of anthropology. Ideal for anyone interested in the cultural and societal consequences of social media, the course is especially beneficial for students and professionals in anthropology, marketing, and international business.

Over five weeks, you will explore the findings of nine anthropologists who conducted 15-month field studies across diverse global locations, including Brazil, China, England, and Turkey. It adopts a comparative approach to examine the content people post and why, highlighting the role of images, memes, and selfies in communication. With insights from the original researchers and a wealth of multimedia resources, this course offers a deep dive into the anthropology of social media.

This course covers:

  • A new definition and understanding of social media focused on content rather than platform capabilities
  • Insights into the global impact of social media on various aspects of life, including politics, education, gender, and commerce
  • Knowledge of how social media’s consequences vary across different regions through a comparative and anthropological approach
  • An opportunity to engage with original fieldwork findings through videos, discussions, lectures, animations, infographics, and text.

“Remarkably insightful, well-designed, and well-executed class that brings extraordinary depth to the subject. Really opened my eyes to the differences in how social media is used in different cultures…” – Linda Saalman.

Provider FutureLearn
Institution University College London
Instructors Daniel Miller, Elisabetta Costa, Jolynna Sinanan, Juliano Spyer, Laura Haapio-Kirk, Nell Haynes, Razvan Nicolescu, Shriram Venkatraman, Tom McDonald, Xinyuan Wang
Time Commitment 15 hours
Enrollment 49K
Rating 4.6
Cost Free audit
Certificate Paid

Why You Should Trust Us

Class Central, a Tripadvisor for online education, has helped 60 million learners find their next course. We’ve been combing through online education for more than a decade to aggregate a catalog of 200,000 online courses and 200,000+ reviews written by our users. And we’re online learners ourselves: combined, the Class Central team has completed over 400 online courses, including online degrees. I’ve personally completed over 150 online courses in a variety of topics.

How We Made Our Picks and Tested Them

Trying to find “the best” can be daunting, even for those of us who live and breathe online courses. Here’s how I approached this task.

First, I combed through Class Central’s Catalog and the internet to find a variety of free and paid open courses, some with certificates. You don’t need to enroll in a university to learn about anthropology.

When choosing courses, I considered the following factors:

  • Instructor experience: I sought instructors with extensive experience in anthropology and engaging presentation styles
  • Popularity: I checked numbers of enrollments and views to find popular courses
  • Course content: I examined courses that covered a range of topics and presentation styles. I watched some course videos to sample courses
  • Learner reviews: I read learner reviews (when available) to get a sense of the quality of each course, leveraging the Class Central database with its thousands of course ratings and reviews written by our users as well as available course provider reviews.

Then, I defined the scope for these recommendations. An anthropology course can cover various topics, so I chose top courses from a range of sub-fields.

Ultimately, I used a combination of data and my own judgment to make these picks. I’m confident these recommendations will be a reliable way to learn about anthropology.

Best Courses Guides. Start Learning, Stop Procrastinating.

Pat Bowden Profile Image

Pat Bowden

Online learning specialist, still learning after 200+ online courses completed since 2012. Class Central customer support and help since 2018. I am keen to help others make the most of online learning, so I set up a website:  www.onlinelearningsuccess.org

Comments 1

  1. Mary Ellen

    Unfortunately the # of university-sponsored courses has dwindled substantially in the past 2 years and now focuses on paying sites such as Future Learn, Study.com, etc. which I find substandard to regular university classes.


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