Education systems are constantly evolving and changing to make room for new teaching strategies, technologies, and beliefs about best practices. One of the most powerful innovations and trends has been the rise in Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, which provide online learning opportunities usually free of cost, to students from all over the world. Currently there are three major MOOC operators or providers: Coursera, Edx, and Udacity. Each is a little different but the concept is the same, participants are able to study through a virtual university environment, on topics of their choosing and interest. Virtual learning has benefits and disadvantages. Making the most out of a MOOC requires a bit of planning, but can be done with a few simple tips.
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Four Ways to Get the Most Out of a MOOC
1. Decide on your purpose. There are so many reasons to take a MOOC, that deciding what your goals are upfront are key to helping get the most out of your MOOC experience. Whether you are taking the course for credit or for personal learning, having concrete goals can help track progress and measure the learning outcomes. Along these lines, just because the course is free does not mean it should not be taken seriously just like an in person paid course. Deciding on your purpose and outcomes for the MOOC cements the fact that you are invested as a student and in your own learning. 2. Explore. Exploring the layout of your MOOC is crucial to being an engaged student throughout the multi week course. Just like a student would explore a university campus in person to find out where the cafeteria, book store, and lecture halls are, participants of an virtual university should explore where course materials are located and how to access them.
[Need help picking a MOOC? Here’s 5 MOOCs to help you find your purpose.]
3. Engage, engage, engage. Participation and networking in the forums is one of the benefits of taking a MOOC. The online forums are the place to chat about what you are learning, ask questions, and take your learning to a deeper level through conversation just like you would during an in person conversation. One of the most powerful aspects of a MOOC is that the student community will be diverse with unique backgrounds and experiences. Students of these virtual universities will enjoy finding like minded or interested students to meet, but will also be challenged to new thinking and perspectives by students that have a different set of beliefs. Those differences and conversations that can stem from the variety of backgrounds will be what propels new learning in the forums. 4. Create a schedule. Although the benefit of virtual learning is that you can work at your own pace (while still meeting deadlines for assignments) and in any location, some distance learning students find that they need to learn how to manage their time more efficiently to keep on track. Creating scheduled times for coursework whether it be reading, commenting, or interacting in the forums is one way to keep to a regular time schedule. Block off times for course reading, commenting and interacting in the forums, is crucial to making the most of any online learning program. Assigned readings are meant to be read, and are more likely to happen when scheduled as an appointment on your calendar. Distance learning whether as a MOOC or through any other online program is not for everyone. Getting the most out of a MOOC experience however, with its easy access to new information and learning, and free pricing, make it an appealing system for individuals that have specific goals for their personal or professional development.
Elena Sonnino is a freelance writer, blogger, instructional coach, runner, cancer survivor, and chaser of dreams. She shares the story of making every moment matter through travel, running, social good, and education at LiveDoGrow.