Dear Mr. Bradshaw — I am a high school student in Hong Kong and want to take an online class from an American university.
Is there a program you can recommend?
It does not matter if you live in Hong Kong or Dallas, the advantages of taking online classes are many, and access is easy.
As a general rule, there are no restrictions based on geographical location or educational background.
I suggest you look into course offerings at edX (www.edX.org). This program, sponsored by Harvard and MIT, gives students a chance to take classes online that are taught by world-famous faculty members. They call it “The Future of Online Education for anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
Although edX is less than a year old, the number of universities participating has expanded to six. They include Harvard, MIT, Cal-Berkeley, University of Texas, Wellesley and Georgetown University.
Courses are video-based, which means you can participate after school, after work or even on weekends. Certificates are issued after passing an examination similar to those in regular college classes.
For example, Harvard offers a class on Justice (ER22X).
According to the edX website, the topics include affirmative action, income distribution, the role of markets, debates about rights (human rights and property rights), arguments for and against equality, and dilemmas of loyalty in public and private life.
Students are asked to subject their views on these subjects to critical examination. Readings for the course are by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls, contemporary philosophers, court cases, and articles about political controversies that raise philosophical questions.
Taught by professor Michael J. Sandel, the course has enrolled more than 15,000 Harvard students. The course is free, there are no prerequisites, and classes start in the spring of 2013.
Required readings are available online at links provided on the course website, and you may watch the lectures at your leisure. As long as you have a computer to access the website, you are ready to go.
Students may respond to a poll question related to the lecture, then respond to a challenge to the opinion you have expressed. You also may comment on the opinions and responses posted by other students in the course, continuing the discussion.
Classes contain a discussion prompt that invites you to offer your view on a controversial question related to the lecture.
Each week, there is an optional live dialogue that allows students to interact with instructors and participants worldwide.
Students who earn a passing grade earn a “certificate of mastery” issued by edX under the name of HarvardX.
Students who want to jump-start their college careers by taking a class by a famous professor will find this an exciting way to learn.
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