Summer vacation for high school is now on its last week. Before beginning their fall semester, it can be useful for students to explore online courses in subjects that interest them.

One of the benefits of online courses is that they allow students to explore new subjects in a convenient and flexible manner. This can be helpful in preparing for an upcoming high school course, or re-familiarizing oneself with a course taken in the past.

Sampling new course subjects can also be a good way for students to decide what classes or concentrations to take in high school. Along with in-class and advising experience, it can also be useful in helping to choose a major for college.

The fact that many online courses are self-paced gives students control over when they wish to start, resume, or finish. For example, a course could be begun in the summer and finished over the winter break. Listed below are details on some of the online course sources that have been most popular with students:

  • EdX
    • Nonprofit massive open online course (MOOC) provider, use open-source software
    • Provides a wide range of university courses
    • Many courses are free; some courses or options for verification certificates require fees
  • MIT OpenCourseware
    • Uses undergraduate- and graduate-level courses materials from MIT
    • More than 2180 courses are available; many are free
    • Materials a course may contain include complete video lectures, reading lists, discussion topics, homework problems, exams, lecture notes, web demonstrations, and complete textbooks
  • Codecademy
    • Provides coding classes in Python, PHP, jQuery, JavaScript, AngularJS, Ruby, HTML, and CSS
    • Encourages users to participate, interact, and publish their own courses
    • Features an app called Hour of Code focused on programming basics
  • Coursera
    • For-profit MOOC provider
    • Offers courses in subjects such as physics, engineering, humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, mathematics, business, and computer science
    • Courses are accessible for free; some have a fee-based “Signature Track” for verified certificates

Students with a specific course in mind may also want to use directories of online courses, which gather and compare courses across the sources listed above:

  • Class Central
    • References free courses from providers such as Stanford, Harvard, and MIT, gathering data from sources like Coursera, Udacity, edX, and Canvas Network
    • Sorts courses into categories such as “future courses,” “just announced,” “starting soon,” and “self paced”
    • The majority of courses relate to computers and programming
  • CourseTalk
    • Organizes courses by ratings/popularity, subject area, and university offering the class
    • Also includes smaller providers like Codeacademy, in addition to the major course providers like Coursera
  • CourseBuffet
    • Offers over 500 courses
    • Assigns each course a difficulty level, with the goal of making it easier for learners to find and compare similar courses, and move from introductory to more advanced material within a subject area
    • Uses a “save and show” function that lets users keep track of courses from multiple providers in one place after you’ve created a free account


Socrato is a website for scoring and performance reports for standardized admissions test preparation. Socrato reports are available for the SAT, ACT, PSAT, SSAT, HSPT, and many more tests. You can learn more or try for free at Featured image credit: yohki