One thing that is very true today: the Internet makes it possible for us to learn just about anything. But – how do you find good, credible resources that you can use for this purpose? The fact is, there are numerous sites offering free courses, video tutorials, lecture notes, readings, and on and on. This part of the website will introduce you to some of the best of them.
Many students who participate in the Online Academy end up taking courses that are offered by a few select sites.
- Coursera – Most popular, offers a wide variety of courses from different universities and other providers such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
- edX – Also very popular, with many courses continuing to be available in an archived state. edX also has a High School Initiative, which contains many courses aimed at students studying Advanced Placement subjects.
- FutureLearn – this British-based site offers some popular courses in Forensic Science, Criminal Justice, and Filmmaking. Unfortunately, their courses do run on a set schedule, so you have to be lucky enough to find the one you want to enroll in when it’s available!
- Udacity – Udacity offers many technical/computer science oriented courses, including iOS and Android app development, programming, software engineering, and web development.
Searching Across Multiple Sites at Once
There are many other sites that also offer free courses. The easiest way to find them is to use what is called a course search engine. A course search engine makes it easy because it searches multiple sites, such as those above, simultaneously. That’s the positive. The negative is that the search engine may not always accurately reflect the availability of a course. What does this mean?
Many courses are self-paced or have an archived version; these types of courses are always available for you to take.
Many other courses have a set begin and end date. That means that the course runs “live” during those dates. There is an actual teacher, with actual students, having online discussions and doing homework, assignments, etc., on a predetermined schedule. Videos for the course may be released once a week, meaning that you might not be able to work ahead. Courses such as these often offer some sort of a certificate which will prove that you have not only taken the course, but have done all of the work and passed the course requirements. This certificate almost always costs money.
BUT – these courses can also be AUDITED. This means that you work on the course at your own pace. You may watch the videos and do some of the work (such as taking quizzes), but not actually complete all of the assignments. You might be on Week 3’s videos when the class is on Week 5. Why is this? Remember: Your coursework with the Online Academy is NOT done for credit at MLHS. We don’t require you to complete all of the work in these free online courses, which are often taught at a high level, targeted at college and beyond. Many of the courses (though not all) can be demanding in terms of the work that is expected. Our goal here at MLHS is for you to enjoy learning about something of interest to you without all of the stress that can sometimes go with that. We’ll figure out how to do that with your chosen course as the semester proceeds.
In summary, all courses that we recommend are FREE and you will be AUDITING any course that you take. One important note: It may not always be obvious from a site how to take a course for free, because sites will often make it appear as if you MUST pay. And there are a number of sites that will come up in a search engine list of results that DO cost money. That is why, once we’ve decided on the course that you will take, we’ll sign up for it on the site together.
Okay – So How Do I Find a Course?
You can go to a site like one of the ones above and search directly.
For a much broader look at what is available, we recommend using the Class Central search engine, which is available at:
If you have never used Class Central before, please watch this short tutorial which explains how to look for free online courses on this site. Alternatively, take a look at the handout below the video. You can download and print the handout by clicking on the link at the very bottom of this screen. Either way, it is very important to have some familiarity with the Class Central site before using it.
Class Central Video Tutorial