When the brick-and-mortar classroom setting is not an option, online credit courses let you fulfill your graduation requirements. High-schoolers can always take these courses either to supplement their classroom studies or to earn the required credits.

There are many different ways a high school student can earn credits through online courses. One may take up the Advanced placement program or the International Baccalaureate program. However, these courses have an advanced curriculum and most of the high-schoolers do not opt for them.

Other ways of earning credits include taking courses from an accredited online school, taking up Industry certification, or clearing the CLEP exam. However, taking up paid courses or certifications might burn a hole in your pocket.

Nonetheless, there is always an option of taking up MOOCs( Massive Online Open Courses). Platforms like Coursera, edX, and Canvas provide thousands of MOOC courses offered by top-notch universities. Also, most of these courses are free, so you can earn high school credits without spending much. This article will give all the necessary information about credit requirements to graduate high school. Also, we have listed some of the best free online credit courses for each subject area. So read on!

What are High School Course Credits?

A credit is a recognition for having taken a course at high school and measuring if a course is taken for enough hours towards graduation. So, credits are the primary method used to determine whether a student has met academic requirements.

Generally, high schools measure credits based on the Carnegie Unit. The system determines the number of academic credits a student has earned based on the number of hours spent in the classroom. As per the standard Carnegie Unit, a student has to have 120 hours of contact time with the instructor. This includes one hour of classroom instruction, five days a week for twenty-four weeks.

Most of the public high schools in the United States follow the Carnegie -Unit system for the allocation of credits. To be eligible for a diploma, a student has to earn 18-24 credits. Each of the earned credits represents one Carnegie Unit.

Schools and districts are responsible for determining the credit requirements. However, the state policies set the minimum credit requirement criteria. For instance, if the minimum credit requirement for a state is 18, the high school may choose to raise it to 25.

The credit requirements might vary from school to school and state to state. However, the outline for minimum credits required is almost the same for the core subject areas. These subjects generally make up for a major part of the high school curriculum.

How many credits does a student have to earn to graduate high school?

The credit requirements needed to graduate high school largely vary between school to school and state to state. The progress towards graduation largely depends on a student's ability to earn required credits in core subjects and electives.

According to the National Centre of Statistics report, the total credits required for graduation can go as high as 26 in Texas to 13 in Wyoming. For core subject areas like language arts, social studies, science, and math, a student has to earn 4 credits each. Also, high school electives make up for a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 11 credits in different states.

However, in California, local school districts set the minimum local units required to earn a high school diploma. A student has to take almost 26 year-long courses in public high schools in California. Two-semester courses constitute a one-year-long course. One year-long course is equivalent to one Carnegie Unit. Most of the school districts in California award ten local units for one Carnegie Unit, and five for a semester course. Overall, the California school districts require a student to earn 220 to 260 local units to earn the high school diploma.

For an instance, the Pleasanton School District in California requires a student to earn 230 local units to graduate high school. The student has to earn the following number of local units at the end of each semester:

Grade 9:

Semester 1: 25 local units

Semester 2: 50 local units

Grade 10:

Semester 1: 80 local units

Semester 2: 110 local units

Grade 11:

Semester 1: 140 local units

Semester 2: 170 local units

Grade 12:

Semester 1: 200 local units

Semester 2: 230 local units total.

Free Resources for High School students to earn course credits

edX

edX provides a range of affordable and flexible credit programs for high school students. Moreover, there are over 2,500 courses available completely for free. Taking up an edX credit-eligible program will help you boost your resume. Not only that— an online course will help you prove to the colleges that you can handle challenging material.

edX has partnered with a plethora of institutions to provide credit-eligible programs. The platform provides credit- eligible courses through four different programs:

MicroMasters Programs

The program contains a series of graduate-level courses. This program is generally meant for students who wish to pursue a master's degree.

MicroBachelors Programs

The program is credit-backed and provides stackable credentials for adults with even no college experience. Thus, the program is ideal for high-schoolers.

Global Freshman Academy

For high-schoolers looking to earn college credits, the program is ideal. This program offers full freshman university courses for credits.

Coursera

Coursera is an e-learning platform that provides high-school and university-level courses for free. The platform provides courses taught by instructors from Ivy League and other elite schools.

High school students can either take up these courses to supplement their studies, or to earn real credits. All the courses available on the platform are free to take, yet require a fee for the certificate. However, students can apply for financial aid and access all the course material along with the verified certificate without spending a single penny.

The courses offered include high school calculus, algebra, geometry, history, and geography. Moreover, students can take up courses in psychology, art, or world languages to earn the elective credits.

What are some of the best free online courses for high school students to earn credits?

Free Online Math Courses

Introduction to Calculus—University of Sydney

This course is available on Coursera for free, requires 59 hours to complete, and comes with a shareable certificate. High schoolers can take this course to learn the concepts of precalculus. The course addresses the most important foundations for applications of mathematics in science, engineering, and commerce.

Probability and Statistics—University of London

The course introduces students to the concepts of quantifying uncertainty with probability, the basics of hypothesis testing, etc. It is free to take, is 100% online, and takes approximately 16 hours to complete.

Calculus Single Variable—University of Pennsylvania

This course is ideal for high-schoolers aspiring to take up engineering, physical and social sciences. The concepts covered in the course include the Taylor series, novel synthesis of discrete and continuous forms of calculus, etc. The course is 100 percent online, requires 17 hours to complete, and comes with flexible deadlines.

Free Online Arts and Humanities Courses

Shakespeare's Life and Work—Harvard University

High school students aspiring to make up a career in literature or humanities can add up this course to their college application. Students get to learn about the cultural significance of Shakespeare's play and different approaches to textual interpretation. The course is 100 percent online and is free to take.

Introduction to Digital Humanities—Harvard University

This course is meant to teach what the term "digital humanities" means in different disciplines. High-schoolers looking to make up a career in humanities can take up this course as an elective. The course is 7 weeks long, is 100 percent online, and free to take.

Free Online Computer Science and Programming Courses

Introduction to Programming—University of Edinburgh

This course is ideal for high-schoolers who want to make up a career in the field of technology. The course introduces beginners to the fundamental principles of computing. It is entirely online, comes with a shareable certificate, and requires 12 hours to complete.

Algorithms 1—Princeton University

This course covers elementary data structures, sorting and searching algorithms. High-schoolers can take up this course as an elective. It is self-paced, 100 percent online, and comes with flexible deadlines.

Algorithms 2—Princeton University

This course focuses on the basics of algorithms and data structures. Students can learn about on-graph and string-processing algorithms through this course. It is entirely online, comes with flexible deadlines, and requires approximately 63 hours to complete.

Free Online Business and Entrepreneurship Courses

You Can Innovate: User Innovation and Entrepreneurship—MITx

High-schoolers looking to make a career as an entrepreneur can take up this course to learn about the fundamental user innovation concepts. The course is 10 weeks long and is ideal to be taken as an elective. It is entirely online, and self-paced.

AP Microeconomics—MITx

This course introduces high-schoolers to the basic microeconomic principles. Also, students will be able to apply the principles to the real world by the end of this course. This course also prepares high-schoolers for their AP Exams. It is 100 percent online, self-paced, and is completely free to take.

Becoming an Entrepreneur—MITx

This course focuses on teaching the business skills and startup mindset required to embark on the entrepreneurial path. By the end of the course, students will be able to identify business opportunities and define their goals as an entrepreneur. The course is entirely online, is 6 weeks long, and comes with flexible deadlines.

Free Online Courses on Physics:

On-Ramp to AP* Physics C: Mechanics

This course is designed to teach high school students with a basic knowledge of high school physics to get ready for Advanced Placement Physics C: Mechanics. The course is provided by WestonHS, the duration is two weeks and is self-paced. This course is available for free at Edx.org.

Preparing for the AP Physics 1 Exam

The course work is specially designed for students who are preparing to take the AP Physics 1 exam. This course includes topics like gravitation, motion, forces, rotation, energy, and momentum. The course duration is 34 weeks and follows a course schedule led by an instructor. The course module ends with an AP mock test and can be taken simultaneously with the High School AP course. This course is available for free at Edx.org.

Free Online Courses on Chemistry:

Introduction to Physical Chemistry

The course covers complex topics such as thermodynamics, kinetics, and quantum mechanics. All these concepts are crucial for first-year undergraduate physical chemistry students. The course duration is 10 weeks and has 18 hours’ worth of material. The instructors for this course are Patrick O'Malley, Michael Anderson, and Jonathan Agger, and is provided by the University of Manchester. Students can get this course from Coursera for free.

Advanced Chemistry:

The Advanced Chemistry course by the University of Kentucky covers selected concepts from Advanced high school chemistry. The topics are correlated to the standard topics given by the American Chemical Society and include Chemical Equilibrium, Kinetics, Acid-Base Equilibria, etc. The course is 5 weeks long and is taught by Allison Soult and Kim Woodrum. High-Schoolers can get this course for free from Coursera.

Free Online Courses on Biology:

Fundamentals Of Biology

This course is designed for high-schoolers and is focused on basic principles of molecular biology, recombinant DNA, genetics, and biochemistry. All these concepts are necessary to understand human health and disease, environmental quality, etc. The course format includes video lectures by the MIT faculty, Interactive concept quizzes, a list of important terms with definitions, and exams with solution keys. The course is self-paced and can be accessed from the MIT OpenCourseWare.

Biology Everywhere

The course is designed to bridge the gap between traditional high school biology classes and the practical implementation required in the real world. The course structure includes topics such as cell biology, genetics, conservation, etc. The course duration is 5 months, with a suggested pace of 2 hours/week. The instructor for this course is Melanie Puffer and financial aid is available. The course can be accessed from Coursera.

Free Online Courses on Foreign Language

Spanish For Beginners

This course teaches beginner-level Spanish and covers basic communicative topics such as— to greet others, asking for directions, giving personal information, etc. Other topics of linguistic competence include a tense, verb, basic Spanish vocabulary, adjectives, and prepositions. The course duration is 6 weeks, with a suggested pace of 8-9 hours a week. The instructor for this course is Prof. Dr. Javier Bravo Agapitoand is available for free at iversity.com.

Italian Language and Culture: Beginner

The course covers situational videos, downloadable podcasts, video interviews, discussion boards, etc. to teach students four basic skills( Listening, Speaking, Writing, and Reading). The course is 12 weeks long and the suggested pace is 2-5 hours a week. The instructor for this course is Daniela Bartalesi-Graf, and it is available for free at edx.

Free Online Courses on Self-Discovery and Exploration

Introduction to Philosophy—University of Edinburgh

This course will introduce high-schoolers to the main areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Students will get to learn about Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind, and political philosophy. The course is 100 percent online and requires 19 hours to complete. Thus, it is ideal to be taken as an elective.

Getting Started with Music Theory—Michigan State University

This course gives a brief introduction to the elements of music theory for those with little or no music theory experience. High-schoolers can take up this course as an elective. The course is 100 percent online, comes with a shareable certificate, and is self-paced.

What are the Advantages of Taking Online Credit Courses as a High-Schooler?

Online Credit Courses are Accessible and Affordable

The most obvious benefit of online credit courses is their accessibility. MOOCs are available all over the world and are taught by professors from top universities. Moreover, the courses are self-paced and allow high-schoolers to learn at their schedule and pace.

Often MOOCs are free to take or come with financial aids at platforms like Coursera. Also, EdX allows students to take up courses for free unless they want a certificate.

Online Credit Courses let students explore majors

Exploring different majors while still in high school helps students decide on their prospective one early. It is quite common for students to start college without knowing what major they want to go for. And as a result, almost 80% of them end up changing their major.

However, MOOCs and online credit-backed courses help high-schoolers dabble in a few courses and explore different subject areas. Thus, it helps them save time, money, and effort before they reach college.

Taking up MOOCs and Online Credit Courses can help impress the College Admissions Team

College Admission Officers take MOOCs very seriously. As a result, more and more students are taking up these online courses.

Furthermore, MOOCs help students gain a customized learning experience. Thus, students can demonstrate their education as a passion for a particular discipline or subject area.

Also, for students planning to take up college outside of the United States, MOOCs can be a great way to show their college readiness.

Online Credit Courses and MOOCs let the student get a Feel of College and Indulge in Peer Learning

Taking up MOOCs help students get the feel of how college professors teach. Moreover, MOOCs have learners enrolled from over 150 countries. Thus, high school students have the opportunity to observe and contribute to discussion board forums. As a result, they will get to know the perspective of professionals from the related fields and people from all walks of life.

Summary

Credits are the primary method to measure if a student has met the academic requirements necessary to graduate. Generally, high schools measure credits based on the Carnegie Unit. The system assigns academic credits based on the number of hours a student has spent in the classroom.

Most of the public schools in the U.S require students to earn 18-24 academic credits to graduate. However, in California, schools use up the local units to award academic credits. Ten local units are equivalent to one Carnegie Unit. However, the state determines the minimum graduation requirements and a school can decide to increase it. For instance, if a state's graduation requirement is 18, a school can increase it to 24 credits.

A student has to earn 4 credits each in math, science, social studies, and language to earn the high school diploma. Also, electives make up for at least 7 credits in high school.

Amongst the free resources where high schoolers can take credit-backed courses, edX and Coursera are the most popular. edX provides over 2500 courses for free. For credit-backed programs, high schoolers can check out the Global Freshman Academy program at edX. On the other hand, Coursera provides free credit courses taught by professors from Ivy League and other elite institutions.

We have listed some of the free credit courses above in the article from various online platforms. Also, if you are looking for a wide range of electives and enrichment courses, check out Red Comet's course catalog. The platform has over 700 self-paced courses for high school and middle school students.

So, how many free credit courses have you taken so for? Which ones from the above-listed courses are you planning to take on next? Comment down and let us know.