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MOOC Provider Gets Into College Counseling

The providers of massive open online courses mostly cater to adults who already went to college. Now one provider, edX, is setting its sights on high-school students who are trying to get in.

The nonprofit organization just announced a raft of free, online courses for high-school students. Most of the new MOOCs cover material from Advanced Placement courses in traditional disciplines. But one course, called “The Road to Selective College Admissions,” will aim to counsel students on how to produce a successful college application.

“We will provide tools to help students plan their high-school summers, and begin considering financing a college education,” reads a description of the course, which will be taught by college counselors at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, a private school in California. “Students will learn how to build a support network and be given tips on how to be successful in college once they matriculate.”

This may be the first move a major MOOC provider has made into college counseling, an industry that has boomed in the last decade.

As formal degree programs have resisted disruption by free, online courses, MOOC providers have been probing the edges of higher education. Last year edX ran a job-placement pilot, in which it tried to match promising MOOC students with employers. But the organization shut down the program after none of the pilot’s 868 participants landed jobs.

Roland M. Allen, director of college counseling at St. Margaret’s, does not think the free, eight-week course will disrupt the college-counseling industry. Wealthy families seeking an edge will still hire consultants, he said.

Mr. Allen said he hopes the free course will attract less-privileged students who could use some tips on filling out the necessary forms, nailing the essay, and getting the most out of a campus visit.

“It’s all just an opportunity for us as a school,” he said, “to offer something to students who don’t have what our students have.”

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