Are MOOCs the Answer for the Busy High Schooler?

Have you ever thought about learning something new but were sure you couldn’t fit it in with your other commitments? How am I going to get to that “Basics of Treehouse Building” offered at The New School when I’ve got soccer practice, the school leadership team, and ACT prep until 8:30 p.m. four nights a week?

Well, let me introduce you to the MOOC.

Who Are the Providers?

MOOCs — or Massive Open Online Courses — have gained a ton of traction over the past three to five years. I took my first MOOC on the Coursera platform about four years ago, and I’ve been a huge fan of using them to explore my interests ever since.

The most well-known providers of MOOCs and related online content include the non-profits Khan Academy and EdX, and the for-profits Udacity and Coursera.

What Are the Advantages?

As an independent college counselor, I’m always trying to think of ways my students can explore academic subjects and topics of interest — and in many cases, possible college majors — outside of what they learn in high school or hear from friends and family members. For many students, formal academic enrichment programs on colleges campuses or courses offered by colleges and universities online are great, but these programs are often costly. Moreover, students need a fixed amount of time (often, 1–6 weeks) to dedicate to them.

MOOCs, on the other hand, are free (unless you opt for a “Verified Certificate” or “Statement of Completion,” both of which you have to pay for). Many also now have on-demand or self-paced options, which means that you can complete the content according to your own timeline.

Because of the benefits MOOCs offer, I’ve been suggesting them to my students for years now — and I will continue to do so as long as these platforms are around! I’m never surprised by the positive feedback I get from students and parents after they complete one of these courses. I’ve even had a few parents who end up signing up for courses themselves!

Who Are MOOCs For?

The vast majority of MOOCs are for students of all ages. Many require little more than an interest in the topic to enroll. Some higher-level courses may set guidelines for necessary background knowledge, in which case prerequisites will be noted on the course page for students to preview before signing up. Individuals who are interested in these courses but lack the necessary prior coursework can still register and peruse the content to familiarize themselves with the topic, even if they are unable to complete the assignments. There are no transcripts, so you won’t be penalized if you don’t complete the course.

Please note: The vast majority of MOOCs do not offer college credit!

16 MOOCs I Love

Popular Introductory MOOCs

Coursera:

EdX:

Udacity:

Khan Academy:

Special-Interest MOOCs

EdX:

Just-Plain-Interesting MOOCs

EdX:

Khan Academy:

Coursera:

MOOCs have opened access to any number of topics and experts for students who might not otherwise be able to explore these subjects at brick-and-mortar locations. Some high school students have too much going on, some live too far away, and others are prevented by the cost. With the extraordinary array of offerings on different online platforms, there’s almost nothing young people — and their parents — can’t dive into!

Follow these links to learn more about MOOCs and online courses. For a different opinion, check out this article by Bretton M. DeLaria about why you should consider enrolling in dual credit classes in high school.