The online learning boom is here to stay, and we’re definitely glad for it. With so many LGBT youth feeling out of place in the traditional educational system, why aren’t we standing up and making our own choices? Is it fear? Is it the possibility that others will not accept that we’ve taken learning into our own hands? Don’t get us wrong: if you know that your upcoming career of choice is going to require a degree, then you should definitely reach for one. But if you’re just going to pay a lot of money for a degree that won’t serve you, why not skip it?
If you’re unfamiliar with free online courses, you might assume that they’re going to be low quality, or you won’t learn anything. But did you know that professors from MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins and other top tier schools have developed courses that are free to the public? While they will not give you college credit, they could give you some new understandings about a bunch of different subjects.
You also get the freedom of not having to show up in an environment where you’re going to be judged. Since it’s online, nobody knows that you’re gay. Of course, you can come out and talk about it but this really isn’t the venue for that type of discussion. It doesn’t really matter if you’re gay, because people aren’t concerned. They’re more concerned about showing up to get the valuable lessons they can use for their own lifelong learning journey. It’s freeing being somewhere that you can just relax, right? Absolutely!
Online learning isn’t always going to be easy. Sometimes the work might sound unclear, or you’re going to have to do more research than what you might be used to in a traditional school environment. Don’t get discouraged; see it as a challenge to branch out into subjects you don’t know much about.
There are still ethical considerations to make if you choose this path of education. The online format makes it tempting to just look up the answer during tests, but that’s the last thing that you want to do. You also want to avoid copying someone else’s work. It’s very easy to detect plagiarism, and it’s against most online learning centers’ honor codes.
Massively open online courses (MOOCs) provide free value and a lot of information at once. There are two different styles to this environment. You can go with a structured class, where there are deadlines. But if you just want the information in a no pressure format, you can go with an untimed, unscheduled course. You can take the course at your own pace without rushing, and that’s good enough for most purposes.
Many LGBT youth will still have to attend traditional school of some kind. However, this at least gives you the chance to preview some course information before you have to take it in a regular school setting. Check out Coursera.org to get started, but remember: that site is only the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of great MOOCs out there just waiting for you!