News Corp.’s Amplify is latest with a MOOC for the high school crowd

High school kids across the country are getting the chance to make potentially thousands of new Facebook (s FB) friends. That’s because massive open online courses (MOOCs), which have historically targeted college-age students and lifelong learners, are making their way to the pre-college crowd.
This week, News Corp.’s (s NWS) education arm Amplify announced a high school MOOC for AP Computer Science. The course, which kicks off in August, is intended to give students two semesters of academic instruction in preparation for the College Board’s exam. The online program, taught by an experienced high school teacher, is free to students. And an added option, called MOOC Local, which provides schools with students in the CS MOOC additional resources, will cost $200 per student but is free to schools for the first year.
While high school MOOCs are a relatively new wrinkle in the MOOC movement, their numbers seem to be gaining.  Earlier this month, MIT, edX and the City of Chicago announced a six-week MOOC-style programming course for the city’s high school students as part of larger city-wide summer education initiative. And, in April, Brown University launched a free online engineering course to introduce high school students to the field. Those courses don’t lead to certificates (like the ones provided by MOOC provider Coursera, for example) but they do give students good exposure to college-level content, not to mention a way to gloss up a college application.
Given the massive hype surrounding massive online classes, it’s not surprising to see them filter down to the K-12 level. And, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, they may make a lot of sense.  As we and others have covered before, schools are currently woefully unprepared to provide students with the instruction they need to meet the job market’s demands in science and technology.
While programming jobs are growing at double the pace of other jobs, courses in that subject are not offered at 90 percent of U.S. schools, says the non-profit And, according to the College Board, just 11 percent of the 26,000 public and private high schools in the country offer AP computer science.
While it remains to be seen how effective MOOCs can be in teaching high school students (even though some high school students are already having success with them, overall attrition and engagement rates tend to be low), massive online courses and other digital learning tools could go a long way in giving students greater access to instruction in different areas.