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A Guide to Free & Low-Cost Online Learning Resources for Middle and High School Students

Students in lower grades are generally expected to need more help than older students in middle and high school to support their education through online learning models. However, given the ocean of resources available online, it can be difficult for students even in higher grade levels to search for material on subjects they are still in the process of learning.

With this in mind, middle and high school students may also need some guidance in finding resources to support their online learning goals.

So where to start?

This guide highlights 15 online resources that are low-cost or free for middle and high school students. These sites also provide the right balance of cultivating curiosity through engaging entertainment and learning to support safe and healthy student learning.

Please note that unless otherwise specified, these tools are available across the gamut of Apple and Android devices, including computers, tablets, and phones.

Adventure Academy is an online learning program for kids ages 8-13. In this program, students embark on knowledge quests in a fully immersive learning universe where they can interact with friends in a safe, monitored environment.

Modules include lessons, activities, and games for language arts, social science, mathematics, and science. Digital pirates, scientists, and other figures exist in the program to promote learning and help students on their quests. The program includes a 30-day free trial, with the option to pay $9.95/month or use promotions for discounted prices.

The Ana Project is a small non-profit that provides free SAT test prep for students online. The project was created by a decade-long SAT Prep tutor from Washington DC named Amir who came up with the idea to level the playing field when it comes to SAT Prep by creating a free online resource for test-takers.

The once personal project is now a full-fledged non-profit where students can click through writing and reading lessons to study and prepare for their test.

What started out as a group of five passionate high schoolers ready to make a difference in the world, has since grown to a program involving over 900 students and 400 volunteers, either in high school or college.

Bored of Boredom aims to fill the social void created by social distancing measures following Covid-19 by providing free, daily group classes to Pre-K through 12th graders. In group classes, children around the world can interact with each other and individual tutoring is also available for students.

The program is free to accommodate lower-income families, but also has a GoFundMe to raise money in support of closing the digital divide.

Carnegie Learning’s LONG + LIVE + MATH is offering a free blend of textbook and software resources to help middle school and high school students with math classes.

The resources include math lessons, skills practice, and learning videos. Long + LIVE + MATH is also offering free access to its math coaching software, MATHia, through the end of the school year.

With nowhere to go, it’s a convenient time to gain new language skills. Using Duolingo, students can study a wealth of languages, such as Arabic, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, and many more.

Using gamification to make lessons fun, learning programs adapt and are personalized to a student’s learning style to help them advance understanding quickly. The language-learning website and app are free, though premium services are available for a fee.

Take a break from binging Netflix and learn about significant moments in history ranging from modern medical practices to the invention of toilet paper. Offered by the History Channel online, HISTORY At Home provides students the chance to explore core history topics. HISTORY At Home is a special collection of free educational and at-home activity plans for parents and kids.

Video lessons are posted weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11:00 a.m. EST along with an activity plan to complete at home.

From science and history to geography, National Geographic provides a range of in-depth resources aimed predominantly at middle and high school students. Best of all? They’re all free.

The resource section of the site includes over 4,500 various resources, such as videos, articles and interactive lessons exploring topics like the New Silk Road, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, government and regime types, and more. Students can use toggles to select their appropriate grade level, content type, and subjects, in addition to broad search terms to filter through the plethora of free resources.

The Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons site is a freely accessible online library. It’s the internet’s answer to the cost and customization problems presented by traditional textbooks. There are learning and teaching materials available online for anyone to use, repurpose, and share.

Some materials on the site include textbooks, lesson plans, lecture slides, classroom games, and lesson videos on a wide array of subjects. Educators can also create Hubs on the site to link students and resources together in a teacher-managed online space.

PenPal Schools connects students from around the world to learn together in a safe, digital environment. Students collaborate through online projects ranging from human rights and the environment to fake news and robotics—all while practicing literacy, technology, and empathy skills.

The program has won numerous awards, was recognized by President Obama, and has grown to half a million students in 150 countries. PenPal Schools is offering free access throughout the duration of the pandemic so that young learners everywhere can access high-quality material and social interaction to support their education.

Research Quest is a series of real-world science investigations designed especially for kids to access online in the pandemic period. Led by the Natural History Museum of Utah’s scientists who are experts in their fields, students can follow along with live and archived classes to analyze evidence and develop theories and understanding of mysteries that need to be solved.

The site is perfect for middle school students and great for younger kids too, with the help of a teacher, parent, or older sibling. The website is packed with videos, 3D viewers, models, interactive maps, and more. Best of all, the resource is offered online for free, thanks to generous NHMU supporters.

Students can learn about and appreciate the historically-significant culture of opera by following along the Metropolitan Opera’s Free Student Streams. Each week, the Met Opera will offer one opera specifically selected for young audience members around the globe, along with a collection of educational materials to help viewers engage with and enjoy the performance.

The Met draws on its extensive online library of operas and curricular materials designed to align with Common Core Standards and incorporate live virtual conversations with Met artists to make the free experience truly educational.

Prima ballerinas and young dancers stuck at home can have a brush with greatness by taking online classes with the New York City Ballet’s principal dancer and former Broadway star, Tiler Peck.

Peck has launched an online series of daily ballet classes on her Instagram account. She teaches free, live classes weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. PST. Older follow-along classes are archived in her Instagram account under Live Classes and are also available for learners to use.

Why stay at home when you can visit Paris? Well, digitally at least. The Musee d’ Orsay is providing a virtual tour of its collections during the pandemic to bring art to people and learners as they are stuck at home. The museum boasts a wide range of historically significant French art, including furniture, sculptures, photographs, and paintings by greats like Renoir, Money, Degas, Manet, and van Gogh.

The museum’s site also provides a learning page with detailed history, information, and commentary on specific pieces within its collections. As a free learning source, kids will be free to explore famous French art from home at their leisure.

Students interested in art, animation, film, and Japanese culture and language can now enjoy free, virtual tours of the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan. Because the museum is closed indefinitely due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the museum has opened a Youtube channel providing exhibits featuring their famous films like “My Neighbor Totoro” to the museum’s artistic design and layout.

Visitors are usually prohibited from taking photos, making these virtual tours a rare opportunity for fans and learners alike to enjoy. The museum has uploaded over 30 videos to date.

Yoga Ed. offers free access to all K-12 teachers, school administrators and supporting staff, and parents worldwide. Students can use the site to support their distance learning for physical education and brain breaks throughout the virtual school day.

All classes are streamable across devices, with development-appropriate options specific to children and teens. Students can choose from chair or mat yoga options to engage in breathing exercises, yoga poses, games, visualization, and relaxation activities. There are currently over 50 videos available to stream just a click away.

Chelsea Toczauer

Chelsea Toczauer is a journalist with experience managing publications at several global universities and companies related to higher education, logistics, and trade. She holds two BAs in international relations and asian languages and cultures from the University of Southern California, as well as a double accredited US-Chinese MA in international studies from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University joint degree program. Toczauer speaks Mandarin and Russian.