Some things I will research like crazy on my own, and others...I do better off with a course. My love of sci fi has been limited to just a few authors, but as I strive to be a better author myself, I find it necessary to gain an understanding of the giants before I attempt to climb atop their shoulders.
So if you're a noob when it comes to some older writings, here's a good place to break the seal: http://www.coursera.org/course/fantasysf
The class is called "Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World" and the professor teaches from the University of Michigan. I took the course last July, and enjoyed the reading. There are weekly essays to complete, and part of your participation grade is based on responding to peers. This can be tough sledding sometimes, when you need to critique students who don't have a structured writing experience (ESL students, junior high schoolers). Some of the critiques you receive from classmates can get on the pompous side.
But I'd still rate it a great experience and worth checking out. Rabkin brings up interesting points, and the discussion forums can provoke a lot of thought. I particularly enjoyed reading "The Left Hand of Darkness" and "Little Brother". Both are titles I probably would have kept buried on my to-read list without some extra incentive to scoop them up.
Coursera.org shows a lot of promise in my opinion. I'm taking a few other courses later this year in earth and planetary science so my physics is sharper for the books to follow after my first, The Seedbearing Prince.
There are tons of FREE classes offered by respected universities all over the place these days. If you recommend any on Coursera or elsewhere, this is a good place to post!