The education frontier is open. This has odd implications.
In some academic fields, GPA is everything. This creates pressure to take easy courses and avoid difficult courses outside your major.
However, if you want to get knowledgeable (when that concept diverges from getting educated), you might need to learn a bit about the sciences, or computer programming, or philosophy but the drawback is it might hit your GPA. Or you might want an intro to an area before you go on-the-GPA-record.
If that is the case, think about taking a massive open online course.
Taking a MOOC that doesn’t go into your GPA calculation could give you the knowledge without the risk to your grades. Or it could give you a head start on what you know will be a difficult course.
That is the idea developed at length at The Volokh Conspiracy: Off-GPA-Balance-Sheet: Splitting the Higher Education Tension Between Education and Credential Through Online Education.
Check out the full explanation.
I like the play on the phrase off-balance-sheet. Fun word play.