Online Courses for Gifted and Advanced Students

On Wednesday, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a new nonprofit collaboration called edX that will offer free online courses from both universities. Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and the University of Michigan offer similar free online courses through a company called Coursera, and one Stanford professor has launched a company called Udacity that offers free online courses, most of them centered on technology ("Programming a Robotic Car," for instance), that have attracted more than 200,000 students since the site's launch in February 2012.

Such courses are ideal for gifted and advanced learners who are preparing for the rigors of college or those who want to learn more about specific areas of interest. However, there are other online courses and programs tailored specifically to gifted and advanced learners of all ages. Stanford University's Education Program for Gifted Youth (for kindergarteners through advanced undergraduate students) has reached more than 50,000 learners from 35 countries. The Gifted LearningLinks Program, run by Northwestern University, offers students in grades K–12 the opportunity to take enrichment courses (including university credit courses) online. The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth runs CTYOnline, a distance learning program that offers courses throughout the year. These courses use e-mail, phone, interactive whiteboards, and virtual online classrooms. Students interested in math and computer science can take online courses from the Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science's eIMACS program.

 With online courses, gifted and advanced students can pursue their interests regardless of where they live and what resources their schools offer (although some schools and districts offer online courses, as well). Such courses typically include video tutorials and allow students to work at their own pace, stopping for review and quizzes when needed. Depending on the program, students may get a chance to interact with other gifted students from around the world. Students and parents can do research to find online course offerings that fit well with the students' interests and goals. (Some courses are free, while others cost money; and some courses, such as those offered by edX, give a certificate of achievement, but no college credit.) As more and more online courses are being developed, gifted and talented learners worldwide can pursue their interests and develop their talents.