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Online Courses Students are Taking Now

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By Denton Zhou | Updated August 16, 2017 | First published August 3, 2017

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We’ve seen how courses can make self-learning easier for you. In this section, we’ll share some common ways students use them to improve their studies and find new opportunities.

Learn new things, discover new interests

Online courses let us explore different paths. If you’ve ever daydreamed about how your future might look, then these courses can help you take those daydreams a step further.

OpenCourser lets you find and enroll in a catalog of 7,500 courses across 150 different subjects. Many of these courses are taught at the introductory level, which means they’re suited to helping learners get oriented to the problems and challenges involved in a field. That could give you a glimpse into what your interests may entail.

Say you’re interested in a career in construction, engineering, or architecture. You might take a course about building materials—a course about cement chemistry, for example—or more fundamental courses in physics and math. Similarly, if you’re curious about the many problems public health workers try to solve, you might look at courses about topics like epidemiology or environmental health.

Want more ideas? Try using the “suggest” button next to the search bar!

Get better scores on tests and help on homework

In the past decade, Khan Academy has helped millions of students in their studies. Their videos and courses cover just about every major school subject, including Math, English, Language Arts, and the Sciences. So well made are their courses that the College Board, the organization behind exams like the SAT and AP, have partnered with them to produce official prep material.

Khan Academy isn’t the only organization creating online courses for K-12 students. Top universities and schools are expanding their library, creating a host of humanities, social sciences, and computer sciences courses that are suitable for middle school and high school students regardless of their background.

The best feature of these courses from Khan Academy and others are that they act like virtual tutors. If you’ve ever had a tutor—a classmate, friend, relative, volunteer, or another instructor—give you one-on-one help, you’ll know how valuable tutoring can be, coaching you through difficult subjects and making sure you’re learning effectively.

Since online courses are available around the clock, they’re especially suited to you if you find yourself studying late into the night or on weekends. 

Shape your future with online AP courses

You might have heard about Advanced Placement or AP courses. These are courses offered to high school students, usually upperclassmen, who are ready for the challenges of taking a college-level class.

Students who take these courses often sit for the AP exams on which a good score could save valuable time and tuition money down the road. That’s because most universities offer credits for strong AP exam scores, with many letting you skip introductory courses altogether.

There are other major benefits. Because AP courses offer the rigor of a first-year university course, taking them means you’ll likely be better equipped for college. That readiness isn’t just something that you as a student might care about. Indeed, according to the College Board, admissions officers generally view having “AP” on a transcript favorably, improving your chances of getting into your choice school.

With so many benefits, you might consider taking AP courses yourself. The problem, however, is that these courses are in limited supply. Most high schools only have resources enough to offer a few AP subjects out of the 38 available. Some might not offer any. For those schools that do, however, seats are often limited.

The gap between supply and demand is closing, however.

Online course providers are stepping up to offer everyone a fair shot at the AP. Universities like UC Berkeley, MIT, Cooper Union, and Rice University have made an extensive series of online courses that prepare students for the AP exams. Many of these classes seek to replicate the traditional AP classroom experience; if you take them, expect to set aside time each week to study.

OpenCourser publishes a list of AP online courses each year. Our most recent edition catalogs over 50 different AP preparation courses. If you’re an AP scholar, stay tuned for next year’s edition, coming soon.

Take these ideas and run with them

We’ve offered a few common ways students are using online courses. By now, you might have thought of some ways you can use them yourself.

In the next section, we’ll look at some truly inspiring success stories from students who have used online courses to achieve their goals.

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