For many high school students, it can be difficult to find intellectually stimulating activities during summer break. Depending on where you live and your financial options, you may not be able to attend summer camps or pre-college programs at university campuses. So why not reap the same benefits from the comfort of your couch?
Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, allow students of any age to pursue their academic interests during summer break. These courses aren’t complicated to enroll in, usually only requiring an email and user name, and are relatively stress free. Also, many of them are free!
Related: The Rise of MOOCs
What can you learn about?
Topics include film study, sports management, computer repair, and many other categories that don’t normally receive any emphasis in high school. In some cases, course providers will also offer some form of college credit or recognition that can be added to your transcript or résumé. Even online courses that don’t offer any official credit frequently award students taking a class with a certificate. Just be aware that these certificates may cost you money, even if the course is free. For college-bound students, taking these courses may show initiative and a desire to think outside the box to admission representatives at your prospective colleges.
My first experience with a massive open online course was during the summer of my sophomore year, with a course titled “50 Years of Hitchcock” through Canvas Network. This course, provided by a partnership between Turner Classic Movies and Ball State University, allowed individuals to gain a greater understanding of the movements and techniques surrounding the illustrious career of director Alfred Hitchcock. Those enrolled in the course could participate in Hitchcock film–related games, discussions, and quizzes on the week’s content in addition to several modules of information for each unit of the course. The course administrators frequently live-tweeted with informational tidbits on the various films as they aired on TCM, making the class even more interactive.
The course concluded with a live video chat with the director of a new film about the shower scene in Psycho and several fan panels on specific elements in Hitchcock films. The certificate of completion I received is displayed proudly in my house. “50 Years of Hitchcock” illuminated my passion for film and film analysis and served as an adequate proving ground for my aspirations to minor in Film Studies in college.
Where can you find MOOCs?
edX is a wonderful place to start your search for these courses. On this website, course offerings from top institutions such as MIT, University of California Berkeley, and Harvard are available to anyone with very few strings attached. Some of these courses focus on a niche interest among learners, while others can be on broader topics.
In recent years, Fortune 500 companies and other large enterprises have begun to offer MOOCs as they recognize how certain courses can be utilized to cultivate new employees with greater specifications in their talent and knowledge base.
However, MOOCs are just as valuable to those not seeking a job as they are to individuals who need to learn the basics of a program or software in a short amount of time. There are many opportunities for people to learn through MOOCs if they’re willing to take a little time to look for them.
Why should you take a MOOC?
One way MOOCs can be useful to students is by preparing them for the basics and structure for online learning. Online courses are increasingly being used in schools across the country for their accessibility, from high school to graduate school.
While MOOCs can be designed differently than other online courses, they both require the ability to compartmentalize information. They also require students to budget their time and efforts in a specific way without the standard structure of a classroom environment. Finally, both foster a sense of independence with those participating. The absence of a traditional teacher forces students to work diligently and reach out to new sources to fill gaps they may have from when course material was originally presented.
Looking for other ways to spend your summer? Check out our Summer Programs section.