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Leap the College Readiness Gap: The Best MOOCs for High School Seniors

If you’re a college-bound high school senior, I’m sure the furthest thing from your mind right now is taking a class this summer. The months of freedom between high school and college is the sweet spot of relaxation. Nothing hanging over your head — no AP test prep, no assigned summer reading for one course or the other. But . . . .

leap the college readiness gap with the best moocs for high school students

by msabbath via Flickr

The college readiness gap

Did you know almost 70% of high school seniors admitted to a two or four-year college are not prepared for college-level coursework? At California State University campuses for example, an average of 68% of the 50,000 entering freshmen require remediation in English language arts, math or both.That’s pretty typical across most colleges across the United States.

This gap in skills is called the “college readiness gap.” This gap is costly to families, colleges and more so to the students, who have the most to lose in terms of job opportunities and lifelong earning potential. Many students will be placed into  remedial math or writing classes, and the numbers suggest they are more likely to dropout and not finish college than students who are prepared.

Other students who aren’t prepared for college-level work may figure they’re lucky not to be placed into remedial classes. But college is challenging enough without having the skills to keep up, which can be a recipe for disaster.  🙁

Best MOOCs for high school seniors

Why not take matters into your own hands and get a head start this summer? The benefits are many. For one, starting school well prepared and ready to go will set you up for success. If you dread the thought of summer school — no worries, Massive Open Online Courses are an alternative. Learn on your own time, when it’s convenient for you and for free. MOOCs are one of the best options for high school seniors.

Several courses are starting soon that address the most common skills gap. I’ve listed several of the best MOOCs out there for high school students to get ready for college this summer:

Other MOOCs run at different times of the year, such as the College Readiness MathMOOC at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, which should be available again next spring.

Other options:

  • Khan Academy is not a MOOC per se. It offers a series of instructional videos in various subject areas, math included. In fact, there are several excellent math sequences in Algebra and pre-Calculus that include instruction and practice exercises. If you have specific areas you know you need to review or learn, and don’t need an entire course on a broad topic area, Khan Academy may be a better option.

Choosing a MOOC

If you know you need to tune up but are not sure where to start, begin by assessing your weaknesses. Determine which skills need development — math, writing or both? You probably already know what areas you need some extra help in. If unsure, check your SAT or ACT score report. Identify the areas your scores were the lowest.

Another option is taking a diagnostic online test designed for high school seniors. I would suggest contacting the university or college you will be attending in the fall and ask if there have a diagnostic test you can take for your own personal use. Some online options let you take diagnostic tests for free, though a word of caution, some of these tests are associated with products or services for purchase.

Make a plan

Once you have found the best MOOCs to address your college readiness gap, the key to success is creating a plan to get it done. Setting aside the same time each day is one effective method. Perhaps one hour each morning after you get up, even get up one hour earlier to get the work done so it doesn’t interfere with your day. This way your summer won’t feel consumed with school work. For other tips check out How to Get the Most Out of a MOOC,which provides several strategies for making sure your MOOC experience works for you.

Lastly, enjoy your summer, make it sweet! And make your college experience sweet too by tuning up with a MOOC this summer. Enjoy!


Debbie Morrison (6 Posts)

Debbie Morrison is an instructional designer and educator with over ten years of experience in creating meaningful, rich learning outcomes in higher education, K-12 and business settings. She collaborates with organizations to develop effective online programs, and is the learning mentor for the online department at four-year university, and most recently the Lead Curriculum Developer, Online Programs. She writes and blogs about online education and MOOC learning experiences. Debbie holds a Master's Degree in Education and Human Development, with a focus on educational technology.


  1. May I also suggest Canvas Network’s College Foundations: Reading, Writing and Math” taught by a trio of professors:
    Starts June 3rd.

    • Hi Liz

      Thanks for the info and link!