MOOCs, or Mass Open Online Courses, are increasing in popularity in the working and higher education worlds as a way of gaining extra credentials and subject specific knowledge which are all very useful for advancing professional profiles. MOOC courses are traditionally free but there are now some credit-based, verified, fee-paying courses which can be used as Professional Development credits as well as for University credits. They are also now being marketed to High School students as potential additional credentials for university and college applications as well as offering exam support and advice. Most importantly MOOCs offer free (or at least very reasonable) access to high quality education for anyone, anywhere regardless of prior education, knowledge or background.
Companies such as FutureLearn offer a huge range of options including preparing High School students for university entry (see here). Futurelearn is a private, not-for-profit, company wholly owned by The Open University (UK) and developed by leading universities. It has over 3 million students worldwide accessing its courses. On most courses you’ll have the option to buy a Statement of Participation and there are even Statements of Attainment for an externally invigilated test.
edX founded by Harvard and MIT in 2012 as a non-profit, open-source MOOC provider, offers similar training as well as AP and CLEP exam preparation classes alongside university preparation courses such as The Road to Selective College Admissions. edX states that its mission is to : “Increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere; Enhance teaching and learning on campus and online; and Advance teaching and learning through research”. It currently has over 7 million users worldwide and offers it courses in English, Spanish, French and Chinese. It offers verified certificate courses at small fees to help fund free education globally.
Coursera a for-profit company, purportedly the largest provider of MOOCs with over 18 million students accessing their courses worldwide, also provides its majority of courses in three languages : English, Spanish, Chinese (with some more recent additions in French and German). Options for High School students include: https://www.coursera.org/learn/study-in-usa
Another not-for-profit enterprise is Khan Academy, whose statement is that they are not-for-profit because they “believe in in a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere”. Khan Academy, originally focusing on YouTube VDO production, recently took over the administration of the US SAT exams. They also offer great resources for High School students considering university or college which you can find here.
And adding to the list of high-profile, not-for-profit MOOC providers is ACADEMIC EARTH.
Other online options include university taught courses on Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). There are small fees for these courses. These are offered by universities via their own online systems.
Despite recent research from the University of Pennsylvania that severe low rates of course completion suggest that MOOCs have failed in their mission, other research is showing that although MOOCs are not going to completely replace traditional forms of higher education as originally predicted, they are an extremely useful tool in reaching out to millions and allowing access to high quality online methods of education. I have personally shared MOOCs and VLEs with High School students (and staff) and have found that as long as they are not adding to the already overburdened lives of teens, they prove very useful in aiding decision-making on course selections and career pathways.
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