The United States is a leader in the global online education market
, which is projected to reach $350 billion by 2025. The rise of online learning
began well before the 2020 pandemic, but remote learning and virtual education became essential in a post-COVID world. Remote learning is becoming more mainstream, accessible, expandable at scale, and interactive. Further, it fosters high levels of communication.
Many educational opportunities arise from augmented reality-based learning as well. Virtual learning presents opportunities for cost-effective education and digital access to quality education. This guide will present common obstacles that high school students might face, as well as solutions and resources to support and adapt their learning in the new digital environment.
As society adopts digital spaces for work, school, and entertainment, both students and instructors must adapt to these new, virtual environments — which may pose initial difficulties that learners must overcome. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred innovation in EdTech such as the Hours virtual study rooms
startup founded in October 2020 by a high school student.
Specifically, in regards to virtual STEM education, students must adapt to new styles of research, planning, problem-solving, as well as learn how to best communicate and collaborate with other students during the process. While many lessons would originally be taught with hands-on experience, educators and students alike must take on adaptive strategies for learning and studying platforms, programs, and activities.
Demonstrating a subject’s relevance and real-world application.
Creating enjoyment in learning.
Fostering relationships with peers and educators.
Struggles with barriers to success which can be:
Lack of technology to participate in resources.
Receiving support when unsuccessful.
Adapting to online reading strategies which differ from traditional reading and comprehension.
To mitigate some of these issues, self-paced learning resources and materials can approach technical and advanced STEM concepts by breaking them down into “mini-lessons” that allow students to compartmentalize and focus on their growth, learning, and comprehension.
A study on online STEM learning
showed that students learned just as much in virtual spaces as they did in traditional classroom settings. As online education increases in popularity, younger generations are becoming more adaptive to technologies
and shifting to virtual learning as a preferred form of matriculation. These technologies allow students to learn at their own pace and control their learning experience.
Self-learning STEM resources include online learning platforms and courses, attending live or pre-recorded lectures and lessons, utilizing online study tools, guides, and apps, as well as taking part in virtual programs and activities. The following sections will explore these concepts in greater detail, as well as provide actionable resources to assist high school students in digital STEM learning and education.
Online learning platforms often offer a diversity of classes for free, including Massive Open Online Courses
(MOOCs), though some may come at a cost if you are seeking a specific credit or certification. These are generally open enrollment courses to be completed within a specific time frame. The coursework is often designed to support self-paced learning.
Consider the following online learning platforms for high school learners and STEM courses:
There are a variety of ways to watch pre-recorded lectures, digital videos, and discussions from leaders in the industry for free online. Learning through educational videos can assist in understanding complex topics, as students can pause at any point to conduct research or ensure that they fully understand the topic at hand.
Examples of online and digital videos, lectures, and platforms that include videos for STEM topics include:
has an extensive library of videos where students can search by topic. YouTube also hosts specific channels such as Talks at Google
and YouTube Learning
where students can browse curated content from industry leaders and professionals.
hosts a variety of content that is created by industry leaders, scientists, and those with a unique background in research and application. You can browse Ted Talk content by topic, or find unique curated content such as Talks by brilliant women in STEM
offers a range of digital lectures and courses available for free on their platform. You can search their library of 100 science lectures
, all organized by area of study. This includes general science studies, science and engineering, biology and medicine, chemistry, physics and astronomy, earth and environment, technology and computer science, science and the future, and science and business.
The Great Courses Plus
offers a free trial to access hundreds of courses and lectures across a diversity of subjects including science
. Lectures can be downloaded to watch on any device at any time.
The Sugar Association
offers STEM and STEAM resources that include lessons, videos, blogs, and articles available for free on their website.
NASA hosts a channel on YouTube
that offers a curated variety of video content that explores astronomy, space, planet earth, and space exploration.
Study guides are essential for mastering a topic. Furthermore, students who are considering or are preparing for AP exams
can benefit from utilizing AP study guide platforms
that offer more than just exam preparation, but also include collaborative cram sessions, trivia questions, and community events that foster and support digital learning.
Consider the following AP study guides
that include additional resources to facilitate STEM learning and the potential to earn college credit through examination:
Recreating a hands-on learning experience is nearly impossible, but several apps and programs can provide tools or mimic the essential experiences of lab work. Apps and programs can simulate real-world experiences and can provide benefits
to self-learners who are motivated and engaged in independent study.
The following resources represent apps and programs that students can use to further their STEM education:
The University of Colorado Boulder hosts PhET interactive simulation labs
with more than 160 interactive simulation options available for free. Students can browse various interactive simulations in the following areas of study:
is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. Students can use their own devices to record observations, share with other participants, and collaborate and discuss findings. Findings are also shared with data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, making this digital program a real-world application of science.
is an app that is designed for learners to scan mathematical problems by using a camera on a mobile device. The application can check your work for any issues, and offers step-by-step explanations and animated instructions to support learning. The app also includes a smart calculator as well as the ability to use and explore graphs to interpret or find solutions to equations.
Arduino Science Journal
is an app that allows students to turn their handheld device into a scientific tool for documenting, researching, and recording projects and experiments.
is an iOS and Android compatible app created by NASA to support student learning through visualizations of global climate data from Earth Science Satellites.
is an app available for a low cost on iPad devices that offers a digital alternative to dissection in the classroom. The app mimics lab experience with virtual tools, a virtual specimen, and detailed instructions for completing the procedure.
is a free app offered by PBS that allows students to study and experiment with elements, their unique properties, and how they interact when combined. Alongside the interactive periodic table, the app includes a two-hour NOVA program titled “Hunting the Elements.”
is an iOS app available for a small fee. The purpose of the app is to explore physics via complex structural design and blueprints. Once created, designs can be simulated. Students can use features such as slow-motion to see how designs fail or succeed to continue improving their designs.
A study on group work and collaboration in engineering education
showed that online collaborative environments and communication were beneficial to use, effective for learning, and showcased real-world examples of higher education in engineering. There are various virtual STEM activities that high school learners can participate in to foster collaboration.
Additionally, there are a variety of digital activities that simulate real-world experiences such as exploring a museum or finding new ways to brainstorm unique ideas.
Consider the resources below:
Aside from the previously listed resources, there are also opportunities for students to apply for scholarships
or earn grant money that help them obtain the devices and tools they need, or gain entry into a paid program.
There are also supplementary readings and valuable resources available for free or at low cost. Consider the additional resources below:
The Generation Google Scholarship
awards select students with $10,000 for the school year. The program is open to applicants that meet minimum qualifications and is focused on providing support and access for students of minority groups and women. Applicants must be enrolled or accepted as a full-time student who is seeking a bachelor’s degree or higher, and must be studying computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related technical field.
regularly updates and hosts scholarships and scholarship searches for students from high school age
to those seeking higher education.
offers a list of available scholarship and internship opportunities for students
is a comic book series that engages students with storytelling and teaches about physics.
offers free educational materials that were created by teachers and professors. Some books may be available as PDF files, while others may be viewed as e-books on platforms like Amazon. Students can search for free books and textbooks by using the site.
Free Tech Books
offers lists and links to free books that are technology-based and cover advanced topics such as engineering, math, and computers.