There is a growing possibility that the institutional use of MOOCs will reach the mainstream on the high school level before the college campus. News about Massive Open Online Courses continues to make the headlines as groups experiment with different uses and serving distinct audiences. Among these experiments is a growing interest in using open online courses to serve middle and high school students. Here are ten such uses.
1) College Readiness – In early 2013, news spread about the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse creating an open online course to help pre-college students prepare for the challenge of a college-level math course. The first goal listed for the College Readiness Math MOOC is to help high school students, “assess their current readiness to pursue math courses at the post secondary level.” A similar effort is in place at Boward College’s Skills Academy, a grant-funded pilot to offer college readiness courses in reading, writing and math. There are dozens of these college readiness MOOCs available to high school students, and we can expect to see more of them. Not only do they meet a real need but they serve as way for Universities to address retention issues by helping students better prepare for the challenges of college coursework.
2) MOOC as a the Foundation for High School Blended Learning Courses – I wrote about this quite some time ago when Amazing Grace Christian School in Seattle started using college-level MOOCs as part of their middle school STEM programming, mixing the MOOC content with face-to-face activities. This trend is expanding quickly, especially in informal ways, with individual high school teachers having groups of students sign up together for a MOOC as a resource or supplement to what they are doing in class. In many cases, the teacher is still meeting with students each day or several times a week, using the class time to offer individual and small group help, engaging in supplemental discussions, or building upon what was taught in the MOOC, or adding new concepts and activities.
3) AP Preparation MOOCs – Consider the 1-year free trial through AmplifyMOOC, where students take a MOOC that prepares them to take the computer science AP course. In addition, they designing a model where high schools can sign on and get more resources to supplement the online learning with some face-to-face support.
4) Career Exploration – Consider this MOOC from Brown University that ran on Exploring Engineering. It was a short MOOC designed to give high school student a sense of what possibilities exist for careers in engineering-related fields. MOOCs offer high school students with a chance to experiment with and explore potential careers in any number of specialized areas that are typically not examined on the high school level.
5) High School Credit – More high schools are experimenting with offering students the chance to earn high school credit in courses that are not offered in a traditional format. In this article, Nancy Jackson reports of a pilot at Andover Public Schools that allowed a small group of high school students to take select courses through EdX for high school credit (but no letter grade).
6) Self-blended Learning – Even as high school teachers and administrators are exploring the possibility of using MOOCs, more students are doing so on their own. These self-motivated students are learning about the power of using MOOCs to learn something that interests them, even if it is not offered by their local high school. At the same time, there is growing use of MOOCs among homeschoolers and unschoolers. Some high school students have also discovered that they can take a MOOC version of a high school course that they are taking and using the MOOC as a sort of study or support group for the traditional course.
7) Differentiated Instruction and Meeting Needs of Individual Learners – Consider this story about a boy with autism who took two MOOCs through the University of Edinburgh. It is an interesting perspective on a role that MOOCs can play to help increase access and opportunity for different types of learners.
8) Bolstering the College Resume & Application – The author of this article suggest that students can take and complete MOOCs (especially those with certificates of completion) as a way to demonstrate one’s commitment and ability to meet college expectations for a course. I’m not sure if this sways many admissions teams, but it does allow high school students to get a closer sense of what level of work might be expected in a college course. Of course, not all MOOCs are designed to mimic the challenge of a college-level course, but there are plenty that do. We have examples like this student from Mongolia who did well in a MIT electronics MOOC and was later admitted into the school. How about this article that discusses the potential benefits of taking a MOOC as part of one’s college application, or this one about how MOOCs are helping top Universities identify global talent?
9) Shared Courses Across High Schools – I’m seeing growing conversation and interest among high schools and high school teachers about co-developing MOOCs or smaller open courses to have a shared learning experience for students in high schools around the world. This allows teachers to collaborate around common courses/topics, and students get to experience connected learning and a more diverse student body. Imagine ten high school teachers co-creating a world history course, with each taking responsibility for a different unit, or perhaps they co-create each unit, meeting weekly in a Google Hangout to plan and prepare the blended or entirely online learning experiences for their students. Everything is in place for this to happen with minimal costs.
10) Developing Connected Learning Competencies – Other high schools or individual high school age people recognize the rapid change taking place in contemporary education, namely that education today is larger than schooling. Learning to learn in an increasingly connected and digital world is a 21st century skill, and MOOCs (especially the more connectivist ones) are one of many excellent ways to experience and develop such competencies. As I participated in MOOCs, I’m coming across a growing number of teenagers who are taking the courses because they want to learn and connect with others. It is not for high school credit, to get into collect, or to remediate. It is to learn. In doing so they are also learning any number of valuable skills, even building their own personal learning networks.
While most of the media attention about MOOCs focuses upon the impact on college, younger populations are also benefitting. Expect to see more middle and high school MOOCs, creative uses of MOOCs as parts of the formal curriculum in middle and high schools, and a growing number of teenagers joining in the massive open online communities (and courses).
In fact, you can expect to see me offering a MOOC for this audience in the next year.