Americans left stuck at home turn to online learning

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NEW YORK (CBS) As the coronavirus outbreak forces millions of Americans to stay home, some are searching for ways to keep their minds sharp. One option is the chance to take college-level courses from top universities for free online. Here's how to get into these virtual classrooms.

College campuses are closed. Libraries are shuttered. And Americans are stuck at home.

But now many are turning to online courses to prevent coronavirus brain drain.

Dahwal Shah runs a site called Class Central, which he describes as a "Trip Advisor" for online courses offered by top universities worldwide.

"As soon as the U.S. went into lockdown last Sunday, we saw a huge surge in traffic," Shah said.

The site lists thousands of Massive Open Online Courses, also known as MOOCs. The vast majority are free.

Many courses require hours of online class time and can take a month or longer to complete. But if you're looking for a source of meaningful self-improvement, the options are endless.

Laurie Pickard found so much value in these free online courses that she built the equivalent of an MBA for a fraction of the price.

"They've really tried to replicate what you would get in a traditional university classroom," she said.

Pickard took three years to finish her coursework and wrote a book about her experience.

But she says taking even one course can make anyone more valuable to a future employer.

"I forced myself to take some courses that were harder or that weren't in an area that I felt naturally comfortable in," Pickard said.

Free courses aren't purely academic. Guitar company Fender is offering three months of free online guitar, bass and ukelele lessons to hundreds of thousands of people.

Or try your hand at a free cooking class, many of which are offered on YouTube.

An entire world of new talents and interests to explore from home.