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Enhancing Learning Through Online Coursework

Online course for high schools students

Regular high school courses can get monotonous, and with a schedule packed with AP and honors classes, it can be difficult to break away and explore new topics. But what if you could dive into something completely different? Could you picture yourself studying the behavior patterns of sharks? What about delving into the philosophies behind social protests, or immersing yourself in an introduction to Italian opera?

Renowned institutions and industry leaders have opened their virtual doors, providing a wide array of free online courses called Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs (rhymes with Kooks!). EdX, a non-profit MOOC operator created by Harvard and MIT in 2012, is now home to more than 20 million learners. Coursera, a for-profit venture, has reached over 75 million students. Students are able to choose from thousands of courses ranging from the unconventional, such as hypnosis 101, to the practical, such as programming, physics, and nutrition.


The hallmarks of MOOCs are reflected in their acronym—the enrollment is huge, they are open to whoever wishes to take part, and generally are free and carry no credit. The instructor may be a renowned university professor, though other classes are simply taught by engaging instructors who make learning the material fun. Usually, MOOCs consist of video lessons, readings, assessments, and discussion forums. The most successful courses use short video lectures followed by a quiz to make sure users understand the material.


Many MOOCs require homework and some offer proctored exams. The material can be engaging and interactive, and there are often study groups composed of fellow students to help ensure learners get more out of the class. As the courses are self-paced, it provides a flexible schedule for those enrolled.

To access these MOOCs, just use your search engine! Top educational institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, as well as corporations such as Microsoft and Google, provide online courses. There are also many popular hosting platforms, including EdX, Coursera, Udacity, and FutureLearn.

It can be difficult to narrow down which courses you want to take when there are so many options. Try making a list of a few subjects you’re interested in and look through different courses on your desired topic. Reviewing the course content, necessary prerequisites, and course level, as well as evaluating time commitment, can help you find a MOOC that fits your schedule. It is also beneficial to search for reviews and feedback, which can offer insight into the quality of the course and learning experience.

Although MOOCs may not always offer college credit, they provide students with the possibility of studying subjects beyond the scope of a traditional high school curriculum. Taking a MOOC could be a constructive way to keep school breaks fun and intellectually stimulating. MOOC exploration can help students investigate potential college majors, or it can simply serve as an indulgence into the pleasure of learning.


Photo by Karolina Grabowska: