Millions of people around the world are using online courses for lifelong learning and professional training. Coursera and edX, the two biggest providers of online courses, jointly have more than 39 million learners. Online courses can also support children's learning.
How Can Online Courses Help Children?
Children can benefit from online courses in multiple ways. There is a severe teacher shortage in many schools. As a result, subjects often get taught by staff without a relevant qualification. In this situation, online courses can complement existing lessons. School children can also use them for revision at home and during holidays. Kids love technology and digital learning can help motivate them to study more.
Homeschooling is on the rise. For example, in the United Kingdom homeschooling has increased by about 40% in the last three to four years according to BBC. Online courses can help ensure that children who are taught at home receive a suitable education.
Which Online Courses for Children Exist?
We have tested four providers of online courses for children. This is what we found:
Khan Academy is a nonprofit educational platform founded in 2008 by Salman Khan. The strength of this platform is the high number of online courses and the wide range of topics. The courses can be watched free of charge. No registration is required to access the videos.
The topics are explained on a virtual blackboard. The teachers use a blackboard drawing tool to make annotations while they speak. Unfortunately, the writing of the drawing tool is often barely legible. Teachers also use a lot of photos on the slides. However, these photos often make the screen look cluttered. Khan Academy has received funds by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Google, so they are likely to grow in the future and to improve in quality.
Conclusion: The advantage of Khan Academy is that they offer courses in many subjects. Unfortunately, Khan Academy does not use visuals to their advantage. This is a missed opportunity. However, they have big sponsors so they are likely to improve in the future. Therefore, we recommend that parents keep an eye on Khan Academy.
E-learningforkids.org is a nonprofit educational website for children at primary school level. It provides free interactive learning material, e.g. flash games. Among the topics covered are maths, science, computer skills, language and arts. Unfortunately, the games don't hold up very well by contemporary standards. One feels reminded of the computer games of the 1990s.
Conclusion: The interactive learning material is disappointing. However, it can be accessed free of charge so we recommend that you try it out and decide by yourself whether you like it.
Jam is a for-profit educational platform. It is owned by DIW Co. which is lead by Vimeo co-founder Zach Klein. Jam's self-proclaimed aim is to provide learning content for children that is not taught at school.
Among the topics covered are science, engineering, cooking, photography and drawing.
Jam captivates by its appealing design and easy website navigation. The videos are in broadcast quality and the instructors are hugely entertaining.
You can register one kid for $19/month or $180/year. If you have multiple kids, you can sign up for a family plan - it's $25/month or $240/year for up to four children.
You cannot watch the videos until you have registered using your credit card. However, Jam offers free 14-day trials. You can also test Jam learning videos on Youtube free of charge.
Conclusion: Jam offers first-class edutainment for children. The videos are produced in an artistically high-value manner and the hosts are very engaging. So, Jam offers a learning experience which is enjoyable for children and adults alike. The only downside is that the courses are fee-based.
Gcflearnfree.org is a learning website run by Goodwill Industries, a US-based nonprofit organization. The courses teach reading, maths, computer proficiency and general life skills.
As the name implies, the courses can be watched without any cost. The lessons are made of text essentially with some embedded videos.The website links to a Youtube playlist where the videos by Gcflearnfree can be watched. The videos are made in different styles. We particularly enjoyed the stop motion animations.
Also, the website offers learning games where the children can practice what they have learned so far. We tested the game "Good at Maths" and found it very fun and engaging.
Conclusion: Gcflearnfree.org provides an engaging and fun learning experience. The courses have an attractive design and are easy to follow. They are intriguing for children and adults alike. It is of course an added bonus that all courses are completely free of charge.
MOOCs (massive open online courses)
If your kids are older you can also use conventional MOOCs at beginner's level. Here are some MOOCs that we have tested and found suitable for older children and adolescents:
Edukatico is Your Search Portal for Online Courses
Browse thousands of online courses from various providers in 22 subject areas in our directory (MOOCs, online lectures, and other online courses).