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Should High School Students Take Massive Open Online Courses?

Should High School Students Take Massive Open Online Courses?


In the last several years, colleges have offered free online classes to anyone with an internet connection. These massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offer courses from top professors on a wide range of topics.

Harvard, MIT and Yale offer classes, many of which are open to the public. EdX, one of the organizations that offers MOOCs from different colleges, has a special section of MOOCs for high school students.

High school students wondering whether they should take these classes should consider what they are hoping to get out of them. For students willing to take on the coursework of an additional class, a MOOC can reflect well on college admissions. It shows college administrators that a student is ready to take college-level classes. It also demonstrates a love for learning and passion in a specific subject area.

Doing well in a MOOC, however, won’t hold the same weight as taking an online undergraduate class, which tend to be smaller, involve more interaction with an instructor and have certain prerequisites.

"Even within MOOCs, there can be a wide range of differences when it comes to the amount of material covered and the academic integrity involved," said Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis for WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies.

“There are wide variances in educational experiences across institutions in what they offer as online courses or MOOCs,” he said. “Kingda Ka in New Jersey is the tallest roller coaster in the U.S. and it's a different experience than the gently rocking horse that your child can ride outside the local grocery store. Both are amusement rides, but there is little to compare about them.”

Students looking to start earning college credit might want to consider taking an online undergraduate class. MOOCs differ in what they offer to people who complete the class, but, in many instances, participants must pay for a certificate showing they passed.

One thing to keep in mind; although many people sign up for MOOCs, only about 5% complete them, according to a study by MIT and Harvard. When taking online classes, it helps to schedule a time and place during the week to view the lectures and work on homework.

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