There are thousands of freeopen online courses out there. Named MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), they are from a number of different providers and institutions on topics ranging from computer programming to entrepreneurship to wedding photography—and everything in between. This movement has already provided both traditional and nontraditional students with the opportunity to receive an education regardless of geographic location, economic status, or anything else that might deter them from attending school. In fact, taking an online class can enhance your skills and they are often free. LearningAdvisor.com is a free resource for students of all ages, looking to explore new learning opportunities or to find an online course, certificate, or even a degree.
With so many free and open courses for students choose from, how do you decide which online class can enhance your skills?
Dr. Charles Severance of the University of Michigan (better known as Dr. Chuck) currently teaches two MOOCs, both of which he created himself. One of Dr. Chuck’s goals in teaching MOOCs is to create courses that are accessible and applicable to a wide variety of students, who come with many different interests and skill levels. He finds great value in bringing all these students together, not only to learn from him, but also so they can learn from one another.
Online classes and MOOCs are quickly becoming a popular choice for nontraditional students—adult learners, people with families or full-time jobs, and anyone trying to further their education while still maintaining other responsibilities. So, in addition to receiving a free education, how can a MOOC help these nontraditional students advance their career?
Dr. Chuck identified three main ways that taking an online course can enhance your skills:
- You don’t have to quit your current job in order to go back to school and further your education.
Online courses are very flexible, and nontraditional students can work around their schedules to factor in when is the best time they can dedicate to a MOOC. When and how often you study is up to you.
- You can take the courses that you’re interested in, for free, and if something doesn’t seem like the right course for you, you have the ability to stop at any time. Education is a personal journey—since MOOCs are free and easy to join, you can test out the waters in a specific course. If it’s not what you thought it was, there are no consequences to leaving.
- Taking a MOOC can broaden your skill set—completing one or two courses can provide that extra knowledge or experience you need to land a job.
Professional development courses are already common (think on-the-job employee training), and if you don’t have experience with a certain computer program for example, there is probably a MOOC that teaches you how to use it. That could mean the difference between getting the job or being passed up by a hiring manager.
Dr. Chuck’s first course explored Internet History, Technology, and Security. The second is a course he believes he is the only person in the world teaching: Python for Informatics: Exploring Information. Where most programming classes are trying to prepare you to be a computer scientist, Dr. Chuck said, this course prepares students to use Python later as a biologist or a film director or whatever they want to be in life. Since anyone with access to the internet can take this course, students are not limited by their geographic location. Because of this, Dr. Chuck has thousands of students, all over the world, and all those students have valuable insight and experience to share with one another.
“I wanted to explore this notion of blending my on-campus students with my off-campus students and see if that was going to be a terrible failure,” Dr. Chuck said, “because I really think that’s an interesting and critical thing to do.”
All of the course material in any of Dr. Chuck’s MOOCs is free and open, meaning that books, notes, and lectures are available online for any student or teacher who wants to access them. Because they’re open, they can even borrow the material to use in their own instruction.
In the end, you should always choose the MOOC that best fits your needs, your schedule, and your professional, personal, and educational goals. When we’re talking about lifelong learning and development, you really can’t go wrong catering to your own needs.
To learn more please watch our exclusive video interview with Dr. Chuck: