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Outschool

Website review by
Erin Brereton, Common Sense Media
Outschool Website Poster Image
Interesting course offerings involve both time, dollar cost.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about a variety of subjects -- including the arts, coding and tech, math, music, English, science and nature, health and wellness, social studies, and world languages. A life skills section offers a mix of topics, such as mindfulness for kids, sewing, and understanding cars and trucks. Kids will participate in online discussions; some courses have homework, which can provide time management practice. Course costs can range from $9 up to $245; with many instructors, each course's content value could differr, but the site does take some measures to ensure that teachers are qualified.

Positive Messages

The variety of topics can encourage kids to be inquisitive and view learning as fun.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

A course on sexual education is offered; its content is factual rather than racy.

Language
Consumerism

Course costs range from $9 to more than $200; price varies based on content.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A course called "Drugs and You: Intelligent Choices and Actionable Consequences" offers an anti-drug message.

 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Outschool offers dozens of paid online courses for kids 3-18. Costs range from $9 to $200 or more -- one 14-week history class costs $245. Kids can learn about a variety of subjects (everything from coding and tech to social studies to sewing) but need to be prepared to commit to regular weekly class times for most courses. The site offers links to some online safety tips but also notes that parents should monitor kids' participation in classes, which can involve interacting with the instructor and other students over a group video chat or posting comments in an online classroom. While courses are offered on sex education or the consequences of drugs, neither class is presented in a way that endorses or promote these subjects; they're designed for information only. Note: Common Sense Media has a business relationship with an investor in Outschool. 

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What's it about?

OUTSCHOOL describes itself as a marketplace for more than 4,000 live online classes for K-12 learners. But courses are actually listed for kids ages 3 to 18. They cover a wide range of topics -- from coding and tech to art, music, and languages. Users can search by age, subject, course format, and other parameters. Many classes meet for several weeks at a designated time via group video chat, although some are held only once. Although many instructors have teaching credentials, that's not required to teach a course on the site. But Outschool does vet their instructors to make sure they're capable of delivering content correctly.

Is it any good?

This wide-ranging online education site offers a many traditional and somewhat creative topics to keep students interested. The wide range of topics -- everything from multiplication to taming your temper and exploring folktales and urban legends -- gives parents an opportunity to sign kids up for classes that can supplement what they're learning in school, help them find out more about a future career field (such as veterinary science), or just encourage them to learn something new for fun, like how to make an animated movie. Some courses are also designed specifically for summer or weekend schedules, which could help keep kids occupied in a positive way during periods when they have free time.

It would be great if educators used a standard format for course descriptions; currently, some have detailed information about what kids will learn each week, while others offer fewer specifics. And as in any educational program with several different teachers, inconsistent course quality could be a possibility. But the site makes a number of efforts to make sure the content is worthwhile -- including interviewing potential instructors to ensure they have the necessary technical skills, providing training, monitoring their review scores and responsiveness to messages, and offering improvement suggestions after watching recordings of their classes. Course costs may be too steep for some families (some are more than $200), but parents can get a refund if they're not satisfied with the content. Despite a few procedural issues, Outschool provides a wealth of learning options for students who are looking for new topics to be interested in -- or more info on subjects they already like.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about constructive ways to share opinions and ideas. Many of Outschool's courses involve online discussions; how can students get their point across while still respecting others' opinions?

  • How can you stay committed to finishing a project? How can you keep yourself motivated to working on something over the span of multiple weeks?

  • How can talking about things help you learn, and how can reading help you understand new concepts?

  • How does taking classes online compare to learning subjects from someone in person? Which works better for you? Why?

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