Your Guide to Taking College Courses Online
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Your Guide to Taking College Courses Online

Student Life

April 18, 2020

Students worldwide, at various times in the past few months, have had to deal with the shock of transitioning from a regular school routine to quarantining and studying online. The vast majority of exams and standardized tests have also been canceled, making for a very weird finale to the school year indeed.

Though a break might have been welcomed by the many burnt-out students at first, excess downtime and an inability to leave the house starts to get to your head after a while. As such, thousands of people have taken to the internet to either help others or to find ways to spend their own newfound free time--and this article describes one of them.

As you may have known, various different colleges--even Ivy League colleges like Harvard--have options for online courses. What you may not have known, however, is that some of those courses are free to take, and as a student with more free time than you know what to do with, this may be the perfect solution to killing time while also remaining productive during the quarantine.

Why should You take online college courses?

If you are in high school and are an AP, A-Level or IB student, you already are taking college-level courses as it is. And even if you are not taking any of those types of courses, then unlike those at school, you have nothing to lose here--no GPA to worry about or grades to maintain. There a variety of different courses from different colleges on different topics, and you are bound to find something that interests you.

Learning about something that you personally find interesting is an amazing way to stay productive while also having fun. Not to mention, it is always healthy to step out of your comfort zone and give yourself a challenge to overcome--whether mentally, physically, academically, and the like. This is especially relevant during this whole quarantine situation when most of us have been in a slump so far. Perhaps trying some college courses will be just the thing to get those gears in your brain working again.

Where and how can I take online college courses?

You can always go to the official website of a particular college you are interested in and take a look at their offerings. However, the real gold mine is at This is the website where numerous colleges and academic institutions from around the globe have their online course offerings listed--whether from more obscure colleges or the Ivy Leagues themselves.

There, you can browse through courses by subject, language, level, type of course (some courses allow you the option of earning a certificate at the end, but this option does cost money), and the pacing of the course. Some courses are self-paced, with assignments that do not have deadlines, while others are instructor-paced, with assignments that have due dates. If you choose to sign up for an instructor-paced course later after the start date, you will not be able to turn in assignments that you may have already missed.

Additionally, some courses have some required prerequisites you need to have prior to taking them. So, these would be important considerations to make when looking at potential courses. In order to enroll in a course, ensure that you've signed up for an edX account and select the green "Enroll" button associated with your desired course.

As I mentioned briefly in the previous paragraph, not every option is free of charge. The vast majority of courses on edX do have free options where you can either just explore the course, or complete the course without receiving certification, in addition to purchasing another option that will allow you to acquire a certificate. For the purposes of many students who would simply like something to stimulate their mind, the free options should be enough. However, the certification options are definitely worth looking into if you would like to enhance your resume.

Another website that may be of interest is also Though this website does not contain courses specifically offered by colleges as edX does, Udemy is another excellent option to consider if you would like to enhance your skills in a particular subject or field.

What types of courses can I take?

The two websites I mentioned above have just about everything you can think of. However, each of them has a slightly different focus. While edX's courses are more academic in nature due to the fact that its courses are offered by schools and colleges, Udemy's focus leans more towards specific professional skills, such as graphic design. I have not personally used Udemy as of yet, but I recently did sign up for numerous courses on edX from a variety of different subjects as shown below:

Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology

Shakespeare's Life and Work

Introduction to Sociology 

Becoming an Effective Leader

Human Rights, Human Wrongs: Challenging Poverty, Vulnerability, and Social Exclusion

Communicating with Robots and Bots

Power and Responsibility: Doing Philosophy with Superheroes


As you can tell, the possibilities are pretty endless--there is something for everyone. These websites put a spin on the idea we already have about education and learning by making it much more flexible and interesting. You can choose whatever topic or subject that pertains to your interests, and in a variety of different languages as well, making for a very engaging way to remain productive during your free time, quarantined or not.

Salma Amrou
10k+ pageviews

Writer since Mar, 2020 · 4 published articles

Salma Amrou is an Egyptian-American poet and aspiring author. Aside from writing, she can be found reading classic literature, journaling, and procrastinating on her homework.