The Lyceum

Aristotle Circle's blog covering topics in private and public school admissions, and college and graduate admissions.


THE MOOC: A very interesting, FREE, educational enrichment option for students 13 years and older, taught by famous professors at some of the world’s top universities.

I am the Executive Director of College and International Services at Aristotle Circle and this summer I decided to take a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) before recommending one to any students I know. There are several big MOOC sites: Udacity (, EdX (, and Coursera ( All were started by the top universities in the US (MIT, Stanford, etc.). Whereas most classes started out in the Math and Science fields, all have begun to offer many classes in the social sciences and humanities. University of Miami Global Academy even offers a MOOC specifically for high school students: currently for AP Calculus.

So how does it work? I checked out Udacity, EdX and Coursera. The last of these had more humanities choices, including classes taught in foreign languages. If I were a high school student interested in Math and Science, I would try some of the courses offered by MIT at EdX; however, having been out of school for many, many years, I felt that literature or the social sciences would be easier to tackle. I logged on to Coursera and created an account. I was now registered to take classes. I chose a very time consuming literature class taught by a professor at Brown, entitled “The Fiction of Relationship”. I had to certify that I was older than 13, and on the projected start date, I got an e-mail announcing the start. There were 3 papers assigned, a book a week to read, lectures on-line, and a discussion group. The books were free, the lectures amazing, and peer comments on the papers very helpful. At the completion of the course I will receive a certificate.

Udacity has classes by level. I would recommend the “Introduction to Psychology” class. Most of the classes are technical in nature. Technical classes seem to be easier to teach in an on-line fashion.

EdX has great literature offerings, as well as philosophy and social sciences, and of course the math, Statistics and science options. I would try some of the ethics classes, as well as the class on the science of “Haute Cuisine”.

I would recommend this to students this summer who need to boost their activity lists, who have a little extra time and who would like to learn at the college level, all for free.

Donna Zilkha is the director of college services at Aristotle Circle. Donna is a former board member of several NYC private schools and experienced admissions counselor.