Choosing Your MOOC: How to Cash in on Free Cutting-Edge Education

Choosing Your MOOC: How to effectively cash in on free cutting-edge education

Right now there are quite a lot of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) out there for interested prospectors to enroll in. But how do you find the right MOOC for you?

While it might be nice to claim at your next family reunion that you happen to be taking some virtual college courses at Duke – that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should sign up for Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach (an MOOC offered by Duke on Coursera). To get the most out of your MOOC, it’s important to select a course that is right for you, and here’s how…
Do you remember in high school when everybody in math class would groan over their desks muttering the infamous gripe, “When am I going to ever use this in my life?!” Well that same concept applies when selecting an MOOC – if you’re preparing to work in film, or film production then you might not want to sign up for a Sports and Society online learning course. Identify your learning goals! While browsing through MIT’s free online courses, Coursera, Edx, Udacity, and Stanford’s free online courses, you’ll either get the feeling of being a kid in a candy store, signing up for every course you click on, or you’ll be largely overwhelmed. Sitting down and defining your immediate education goals can help you wade through the many offerings.

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Select your MOOC realistically. Just because you received an “A” in biology in high school does not necessarily mean you should jump in and sign up for Medical Neuroscience. Courses usually list extensive descriptions that give you an idea of what you’ll be learning and sometimes even who the course is appropriate for. Having taken courses at both a brick and mortar college and a virtual university, I can honestly tell you that online learning takes a lot more discipline than the former. The coursework is usually more demanding, but the feeling you get from taking such a hands on approach to your education is pretty amazing.

While MOOCs have by and large yet to receive university credibility, they operate much like many distance education programs – which require a lot of effort and a serious time commitment. Most courses run for 8-9 weeks, and each course lists the expected workload. Do your research and personally assess how much you’re willing to commit to the course – can you afford the time commitment? Do you work well independently? Can you adapt your learning style to an online environment? These are all important questions to ask yourself.

Take advantage of the MOOCs currently available – if you’re in high school, get a head start on your education by taking a MOOC. If you’re already in college, get a leg up on class by signing up for a related MOOC. And if you’re a business professional, get an edge by getting educated. For example, taking courses in building a website or blogging might provide you with certain skills that make you a top contender for that position you’ve been after.

Taking MOOCs is definitely a worthwhile venture. The ability to acquire knowledge, network with like-minded individuals, and receive an education from faculty of some of the most elite universities in the country for free, is simply priceless.

 

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