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Leveraging Free Online Resources Can Help Your Student Succeed

Bille Jo Weis


Six years ago in his landmark book The End of College, Kevin Carry predicted that the new generation of online courseware, giving access to classes free of charge at Harvard, MIT, Stanford and other elite universities, would upend higher education as we know it.

Cary made a strong case because these new online courses (called MOOCs), with an average production cost of $300,000 per course, represented a major leap forward in technology. They incorporated analytics which personalized the learning experience for students by flagging learning deficiencies and correcting them. What’s more, leading professors from leading universities around the globe taught these courses using the same content, tests and discussion groups offered in their in-person classrooms.

Though the online tsunami that Cary and others predicted never materialized, the MOOC offerings that have proliferated over the past five years have actually far exceeded what Cary foresaw. He estimated there would be over 5,000 courses available to students by now — there are actually more than 20,000 available.

Though MOOCs may not have lived up to their hype of transforming the traditional classroom — digital badges have not replaced college credits nor has personalized adaptive learning replaced the college professor — families with college-bound children can still benefit from MOOCs in some very big ways.

Three Reasons Your High School Student Should Consider Free Online Classes

First of all, MOOCs can be used to give students a competitive edge in getting admitted to their dream college. Some colleges may give preference to students who have shown the initiative to do independent study.

Second, students can use MOOCs to prepare for the AP and CLEP test through the EDX MOOC platform. What’s more, your student will enjoy the learning experience.

Third, MOOCs are a great way for students to explore different courses as a way to identify what they want to study. Exploring fields of study before they enter college may mean your child ends up taking fewer classes — saving you money.

MOOCs Make More Sense Than Ever Right Now

With colleges across the U.S. moving to remote learning this spring to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, more professors will either be creating their own MOOCs or relying on other services to fill the gap. To help meet this sudden demand for online learning, one company, Coursera, is offering their platform of close to 4,000 courses free to universities worldwide through July.

Besides filling this now critical need for students, MOOCS are also being used to help adults advance their careers so parents should look into them, too! Indeed, MOOCs are slowly but surely gaining traction as a useful source of learning for people around the globe. Thanks to MOOCs, countries like Saudi Arabia were able to teach over 200,000 women the technical skills required to fill critical unfilled positions in their workforce.

MOOCs may not have completely transformed education, but they are here to stay. Parents who learn to leverage them can help their students — and even advance their own careers — all for free.

More helpful tips from Billie Jo Weis, Director of Client Services at My College Planning Team:

Tax Tips for College Parents

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    Billie Jo Weis is a CPA and client services advisor for My College Planning Team in the Chicago area, where she creates customized college funding plans to help parents pay for higher education, monitoring each client’s progress until all of their children are out of college. Billie Jo received her BA in accounting from San Jose State University and has over 20 years of experience in accounting and finance.

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