15 Free Great Online Courses for High School Students - Online Course Report (2023)

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15 Free Great Online Courses for High School Students - Online Course Report (1)
15 Free Great Online Courses for High School Students - Online Course Report (2)

With most schools and universities shut down during the coronavirus outbreak, there has never been a better time for online learning. For high school students who want to stay ahead of the curve, a wealth of courses, tutorials, and resources are available.

Covering every imaginable subject, these free online courses for high school students can help you not only pass the time but may even propel you forward academically. And there’s no need to focus solely on tough academia either. There are plenty of offerings on our list that are entertaining and engaging for those with the right mindset.

Featured Programs

Disclaimer: Some courses may include an affiliate link. Courses were chosen first based on the methodology with affiliate links only added after the ranking was complete.

Many prominent universities have opened their doors for free courses in subjects ranging from literature to robotics. How cool would it be to go back to school and inform your teachers that you’ve completed classes from Harvard, Duke, and Yale during your isolation? And if you’re worried you don’t have what it takes to be admitted to these courses, forget about it. This is open courseware, available for anyone who wants to learn!

When seeking out the best free online courses for high school students, we’ve come up with a well-rounded list of the top choices using a methodology we developed that ranks them in descending order. Our favorites are right at the top, but the entire list deserves a round of applause.

Ranking 15 Free Online Courses for High School Students

Offered by Duolingo

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If you have already taken any foreign language classes at school, it’s likely you have already heard about Duolingo. It’s easily the best free online learning app for languages available. The app teaches over 30 languages for English speakers, and even more for native speakers of other languages.

This best free online course for high schoolers can be accessed via your desktop browser or on mobile, and it features an engaging interface that makes learning fun and easy. By devoting just a few minutes each day, you can become proficient in nearly any language you want in no time. It’s highly structured, yet user friendly, and you will need to pass through a series of exercises to reach the next level of each course.

If you already have some foreign language skills under your belt, you can also test out of the lower levels and move on to more complex lessons. As you progress through the lessons and smash your goals, you can earn “lingots,” the platform’s digital currency that can be spent in the Duolingo store on virtual power-ups.

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: Varies

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Interactive stories and podcasts

• Many supported languages

• Fun to use

Cons:

• None

Offered by Code.org

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Code.org offers some of the best free online courses for high-schoolers who are interested in computer science. The curriculum is fun, engaging, and well-reviewed with plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning.

You can start with the CS Discoveries course, which is quite flexible and can be taken at your own pace. The units include:

● Problem Solving

● Web Development

● Interaction Animation and Games

● Design Process

● Data and Society

● Physical Computing

For more advanced students, the CS Principles course is a year-long offering designed to focus on deeper computer science concepts. There are daily lesson plans, videos, activities, and more. The CS Principles course is more rigorous than CS Discoveries; however, it can count as AP credit.

The site also has dozens of other entertaining and helpful resources, and the superior user interface makes it a fun and comfortable place to learn.

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: Varies

Curriculum: Introductory to Intermediate

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Excellent user experience

• Completely free

• Suitable for all grade levels

Cons:

• Some hardware requirements could make accessibility difficult

Offered by Yale University via Alison

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In this free one to two-hour course offered by Yale, students will take a piece of music and learn to identify different rhythms and instruments within the piece. The course introduces different music genres, teaches how to differentiate between melody and rhythm, define tempo, and more.

It contains two short modules and includes a diagnostic quiz and a final assessment, as well as a digital certificate of participation for students who pass the course.

Students who would like to continue with the music theory series can also go on to take Music Theory: Melody and Harmony and Music Theory: Musical Form, also by Yale publishing.

The Alison platform offers some of the best free online courses for high school students and it is the only MOOC on our list that provides certification free of charge.

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes

Time to Complete: One to two hours

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Published by Yale University

• Short but informative

• Excellent user interface

Cons:

• No

Offered by Smart History via Alison

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This five to six-hour free course presented by Smart History is for students who are less interested in creating art and more interested in the great artists in history. It is a fascinating course that can be taken at your own pace and covers some of the most famous artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Raphael, Michelangelo, and others.

After the free online course for high schoolers, students will be able to identify and discuss these great artists and their work. Upon completion of the assessment, you can opt to receive a certificate of participation.

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes

Time to Complete: Five to six hours

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Offers an opportunity to take a brief and informative course in art history

• Great for those who want to look at art from a historical perspective

• No paid trials or memberships

Cons:

• None

Offered by Grow it Yourself via Alison

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If you have ever wanted to grow your own delicious and organic food but didn’t know where to begin, this lifestyle course on Alison is for you. Offered through “Grow it Yourself,” the course is only two to three hours long but will provide students with a thorough understanding of how to grow a variety of vegetables.

You will learn how to maintain your garden, improve your soil, make compost, sow seeds, implement crop rotation, and make raised beds.

Upon completion, students will be offered a statement of participation and an assessment.

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes

Time to Complete: Two to three hours

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• No experience necessary

• Excellent springtime activity

• Perfect for those who are interested in sustainability

Cons:

• Too short to cover every possible aspect of organic gardening

Offered by Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative

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The Open Learning Initiative program at Carnegie Mellon University is a MOOC offering free and open courses to anyone who wants to learn, at no charge. The classes are not eligible for credit, and they are not graded. Instead, they are self-paced and can be completed at any time.

The General Chemistry 1 course consists of 34 modules and is intended to be completed in one semester. However, there are no time constraints with the OLI. Students will learn all the fundamentals of general chemistry on the engaging and interactive platform, complete with quizzes, video lectures, and activities.

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: One semester

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Step-by-step, well-organized modules

• Offered through a major university

• No sign-up necessary

Cons:

• Requires a full desktop operating system

Offered by Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative

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Introduction to Biology through The Open Learning Initiative program at Carnegie Mellon University is an introductory course that is part of the school’s Community College series. It explores the fundamental concepts of living organisms and their relationship with the environment. The free online course for high schoolers will introduce students to:

● Biological Chemistry

● Organic Molecules

● Cell Theory

● Metabolism

● Genetics

● Ecology

● Evolution

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: One semester

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Easy-to-follow modules

• Self-guided

• No sign-up necessary

Cons:

• Some technologies used in the class may not be compatible with mobile

Offered by Duke University via Coursera

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Over 172,000 students have enrolled in this Duke University course, which teaches students the foundation of college-level writing. If a college career is part of your future, this invaluable free online course can help prepare you for the rigors of the coursework that lies ahead.

Students will learn how to read carefully, understand the whole writing process, write compelling arguments, cite sources, and craft powerful and engaging prose. The course is designed to help those who already have a good grasp of basic grammar and want to learn more about effective writing.

As with all Coursera courses, students can add a certificate of completion at the end of the course for a nominal fee, but this is optional.

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes, with a fee

Time to Complete: 33 hours

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Interesting and practical

• Subtitled in English, Spanish, and French

• Excellent user interface

Cons:

• Certification is only offered at the paid level of Coursera

Offered by Harvard University via edX

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This fascinating introductory course explores the archaeology, history, and art surrounding the Giza Pyramids. Students will learn about the Egyptian pharaohs of the Pyramid Age, study some of the most significant 20th-century expeditions, and find out how new digital tools such as 3D-modeling are uncovering ancient secrets.

Taught by Harvard University professor of Egyptology Peter Der Manuelian, the free online course for high schoolers can be completed in about eight weeks, working two to four hours each week. Students who would like to pursue a verified certificate can opt for the paid version, but it is not required.

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes, with a fee

Time to Complete: Eight Weeks

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Taught by an experienced Harvard Professor

• Perfect for students who want to pursue archeology

• Go at your own pace

Cons:

• Graded projects and certificate only available at the paid level of the program

Offered by Microsoft via LinkedIn Learning

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Machine learning is arguably the hottest new field students can pursue in the 21st century, and this class offered through Microsoft will introduce students to the fundamentals of the topic. Many students may not even consider a career in the machine learning field, thinking they lack the complex math skills necessary to accomplish the task. This course is meant for them.

It’s not a mathematics course in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s meant to bring students up to speed and fill in any learning gaps necessary to work with data. It focuses on concepts and how to express them using a hands-on, practical approach.

Students can take the free online course for high school or opt for the paid certification. After taking this course, you may have the confidence you need to go forward with something you never dreamed you would pursue.

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes, with a fee

Time to Complete: Five weeks

Curriculum: Introductory to intermediate

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Taught by Microsoft Senior Content Developer Graeme Malcolm

• Financial Aid is available for those students who want the verification but can’t afford it

• Practical and informative

Cons:

• None

Offered by Skillshare

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In this course, Hannah and Alecz take students through the entire process of creating a short story, and they do it in a fun, engaging, and lighthearted way. There are 10 short lessons covering everything from how to introduce your characters and story to using dialogue and dialect, to end your story. They also cover basic grammar to make sure you have a smooth, error-free piece of work when you are finished. The online course for high school takes only about an hour to complete and is free to take on Skillshare.

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: One hour

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Good

Quality of Instruction: Good

Pros:

• Perfect for beginners interested in writing short stories

• Easy-to-use interface

• Short and interesting

Cons:

• Some students find the class too basic

Offered by Harvard University via edX

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There is no doubt that global warming has a significant impact on the planet, and this course, created through the Harvard Global Health Institute, will illustrate its effects on human health. It is not intended to be an elegy, but a call to action, giving students practical ways to make a difference. During the free online high school course, students will learn:

● The impact of climate change on migration, nutrition, and infectious diseases

● Research methods typically used in this field

● A variety of strategies to adapt to the effects of climate change

● How the changes affect health outcomes

● How to assess the different ways of addressing the many health effects of global warming

Cost: Free

Certificate: Yes, with a fee

Time to Complete: Seven weeks

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Taught by two Harvard University faculty members

• Excellent user interface

• Verified certificate available for a fee

Cons:

• You will need to pay to obtain a shareable certificate

Offered by Khan Academy

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Khan Academy offers this excellent online geometry course on an engaging and responsive platform. The free online high school course gets started with an introduction to Euclid of Alexandria and the historical foundations of geometry. It then moves on to the concepts of lines, circles, planes, and points as it covers basic geometric concepts.

Khan Academy is an ideal place to learn basic high school curriculum, especially if you learn best in an organized and sequential manner. It’s entirely free, and there are many other exciting classes on the platform that can be explored as well.

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: Varies

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Excellent

Quality of Instruction: Excellent

Pros:

• Hands-on and interactive

• Ideal basic geometry foundation

• Excellent user experience

Cons:

• May be too basic for some students

Offered by Grow with Google via Udacity

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In this free online course on resume building, Udacity partners with Google to bring your world-class instruction on how to craft the ideal resume. If you don’t already have one, now is the perfect time to begin working on it. The course, which takes about two days to complete, will teach students how to identify the companies they want to work for and showcase their skills. While the course is geared toward building a tech-focused resume, it applies to students pursuing any interest.

The mission at Udacity is to help power careers through education. The platform is simple to use, and this course may help you achieve your goals of landing a great job after high school.

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: Two days

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Good

Quality of Instruction: Good

Pros:

• Excellent course for those who need help writing the perfect resume.

• Easy-to-use platform

• Other career resources available

Cons:

• None

Offered by Udemy

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Udemy’s learning platform provides a ton of reasonably-priced courses; however, they also offer some exceptional short free classes on many subjects. If you have ever wanted to create a short film, this class can be a lot of fun.

The free online course for high school will first help you to Identify and then develop your story idea and plan for production (including pre and post-production). By completion, you will know how to develop a short film with professionalism and proper documentation. You will also be able to differentiate between an amateur and a professional short film.

Cost: Free

Certificate: No

Time to Complete: One hour

Curriculum: Introductory

User Experience: Good

Quality of Instruction: Good

Pros:

• Great short course for anyone interested in filmmaking

• Good user experience

• Taught by an engaging instructor

Cons:

• Not comprehensive enough to be considered a whole course

Many students are already taking assigned online coursework due to the COVID 19 outbreak. However, beyond academic requirements, there are thousands of opportunities to expand your education and improve your skills. Free online courses have sprung up all over the internet. In this next section, we will answer some frequently asked questions about this style of learning.

Who Should Take Free Online Courses?

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Anyone who wants the benefit of learning a new skill should consider taking an online course. Students in high school can find them particularly useful for many reasons:

• To improve your study skills

• To brush up on subjects that you may have missed due to absenteeism

• To tackle difficult classes from a new perspective

• To learn a new hobby or just to have fun

• To prepare for entering college

• To take advanced placement courses that are not available in your district

• To prepare for tests and exams

What Are the Requirements and Prerequisites?

There are not many restrictions when it comes to taking online courses for students in high school. Some coursework requires a full desktop operating system, and most online classes assume you already have proficiency in typing, computers, and the internet. The most important thing to bring to the table is enthusiasm and a desire for learning.

Will I Earn College Credits by Taking a MOOC?

If you are getting ready to enroll in college, you should check with your school to see if they might award you credit for the class(es) you are considering. You might even ask them for suggestions on the best MOOCs to take for credit.

Most open courseware is not graded or moderated, and therefore no credits are awarded, but there are exceptions. On this list, the CS Principles course in Code.org, for example, is worth AP credit.

How Long Do Free Online Courses Take?

The courses are almost always completed at your own pace, with some as short as an hour and others as long as several months. Your schedule will typically dictate how long it will take to complete an individual course. Provided you are comfortable with your progress; you can proceed at a pace that works for you.

Are Free Online Courses Graded?

Most of the free online courses on the list are not graded, but often have quizzes or exams so you can assess your progress as you go along. Graded components of these courses can often be had for a fee.

Which Free Online Course Should a High School Student Take?

The course you decide upon will depend on the outcome you desire. Are you looking to catch up on a particular subject? Is your goal to be better prepared for college entrance exams? Do you want to learn about a field you are interested in pursuing?

The courses you choose will be as unique as you, so be sure you go into the endeavor with some goals in mind. Take a moment to peruse the offerings we have listed. This is by no means an extensive list, and each of the platforms has multiple courses available that might be more appropriate for you.

Don’t forget that while it’s an important virtue to finish what you started, there is no rule telling you to complete a class that you hate. If you find the one you have chosen isn’t right for you, choose a different platform or subject altogether. It’s vital to enjoy your online learning.

What is a Paywall? I Thought My Class Was Free.

Many MOOCs have paid enrollment options alongside their free versions. The paid version of the course may offer elements not available in the free version, such as graded assignments, instructor interaction, and completion certificates.

If you don’t need these things, then there is no reason to pay for them. Each of the courses on our list can be taken for free in the audit version. Should you decide you want a certificate, many will offer them at the completion of the course for a modest fee. Some platforms even offer financial assistance. A few classes on our list provide the certificate at no charge.

Are Free Online Courses for High School Students Worth It?

No matter who you are, learning is always a worthwhile endeavor. But whether it’s an hour of poetry lessons or a month of computer programming, what matters is that you enjoy the learning. If you hate every second of it, it won’t be worth it to you.

Taking online courses can open new doors and expand your world in ways you never thought possible. It could help you improve your grades, learn a new skill, or uncover a hidden talent you did not know you have, but it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort. We certainly think it is.

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