Find the Best Online Courses for Teens
Find the Best Online Courses for Teens

by Bev Bachel

Carol Rogers — who considers herself a lifelong learner — is the mother of two teenage boys who spend a lot of time on their computers playing videogames with their friends. Like many parents, Rogers is always on the lookout for new ways to help her kids learn important life skills and challenge themselves academically.

Now, thanks to a plethora of massive open online courses commonly referred to as MOOCs, Rogers and her kids have an entire universe of classes they can take, right from the convenience of their Arlington, Va., home.

The classes are offered by a wide range of universities, many for free, and most help teens to:

Prepare for college

High school grades, particularly in college prep courses, play a key role in college admissions. Online courses enable students to improve their grades or augment what they’ve learned in school.

Learn on their own schedule

Students watch short video lectures, take interactive quizzes and complete peer-graded assignments. Some classes require meeting deadlines, while others allow students to learn at their own pace.

Have fun

While some courses, such as Advanced Placement (AP) Biology—Part 4—Ecology, are quite rigorous, others, like Introduction to Guitar, are designed to help participants quickly grasp the essentials of an interesting hobby.

Meet others from around the world

Because many courses are offered with subtitles in multiple languages, students come from all over the globe and can interact with one another via moderated online discussion forums.

Earn a verified certificate

Students who receive passing scores in their classes earn recognition via online course certificates. Students can also pay for verified certificates of achievement they can then use to prove they’ve taken the course. These certificates can be included in college applications to demonstrate a student’s aptitude for specific subjects.

Here are four popular platforms and some of the courses your teen (and you!) can find there:

1. Platforms that offer courses from multiple universities:


With nearly 1,500 courses, Coursera is a robust and user-friendly online learning platform. Its courses range from Australian Literature and Preparing for AP Physics 1 Exam to The History of Rock and Learning How to Learn.


Founded in 2012 by Harvard University and MIT, edX offers more than 650 courses, including Philosophy and Critical Thinking, English Grammar and Essay Writing, Introduction to Health and Wellness and Spanish Language: Preparing for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam.

2. University-hosted platforms:

Carnegie Mellon University

Through its Open Learning Initiative, Carnegie Mellon provides free access to course materials. Students work at their own pace and receive target feedback along the way to help them determine if they’ve mastered a topic or need more practice. Courses include Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Visual Design and STEM Readiness.

Open Yale Courses

Yale offers a variety of courses, all of which feature a complete set of high-quality video lectures plus suggested reading, problem sets and exams. Courses include African American History, Game Theory and Modern Poetry.

3. Paid or public platforms:

Teens who are interested in learning about non-academic topics may also want to explore two other online learning platforms:


Focused on “helping anyone learn anything,” Udemy is a great tool no matter how diverse your teen’s interests. It offers more than 32,000 courses, ranging from Learn to Sail to Powerful Strategies for Managing Stress.


Here your teen will find courses such as Creating a First Website, Foundations of Animation and Getting Started in Photography


Freelance writer Bev Bachel lives in Minneapolis and uses her phone to talk, text and email friends and family around the world. She’s the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go For It!

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