Lifelong Learning: Choosing the Best MOOC for You

Lifelong Learning: Choosing the Best MOOC for You

Known as ‘Annabelle’ (we don’t use the “step” word in our family) to two precious little boys under the age of five, I am a director of marketing and public relations, a runner, and someone who has graduated with both an undergraduate degree in marketing and an MBA in less than five years.  You would think I was either tired of school or too busy to even think about taking another class. If you chose the latter, you’re right. My life is busy, but I still have this strong desire to learn. Truthfully, I like learning and I like the prospect of learning about a subject I’m not well-versed in as well as furthering my knowledge in different areas that will help me professionally. With this desire and the incredible advancements in technology that have led to the development of online learning, specifically MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), I now have the ability to learn at my own pace without having to attend courses on an actual university campus. And even better, I can do this all for free.

[Take core classes for free.]

Chances are you’ve heard of online learning. You’ve also probably heard of a virtual college. But have you heard of a MOOC? MOOCs have recently become all the rage in online learning. They’re continuously growing and more and more institutions (think Stanford, Harvard and MIT) are joining the MOOC movement. A MOOC essentially lets anyone take a course in almost every course imaginable online and for free. These courses are taught by real professors at real brick and mortar universities but instead of having a hundred or so students sitting in a classroom, there are thousands of students participating via the Internet. And in my opinion, one of the best things about the courses offered through MOOCs are that you can do your coursework each week when you have the time to do it. In other words, instead of sitting in a classroom for three hours one night a week learning about finance as I did when I was working on my MBA, I can watch the online assigned videos during the week without an assigned time to do so. All that matters is I complete my assignments on time.

Now that you know what a MOOC is and you’re excited about signing up, you’re probably trying to figure out a few things. Here are my tips for choosing the right MOOC for you.

Choosing the right MOOC for you:

1. Decide what you’re interested in. Ask yourself some questions: Do you want to take a course about something you’ve always wanted to have some knowledge about but one you haven’t had a chance to study? Do you want to take a course that will help you in your job and professional development? Do you want a refresher in a particular course? In order to choose the right MOOC, you have to know what course(s) you want to take.

2. Determine the amount of time you have to devote to a course. While courses allow you to generally work at your own pace, they still have requirements that have to be met in order to successfully complete the course. Think about the family, work and social engagements you normally have and determine how much time you’ll have to spend on a course each week. Most courses give you an estimated amount of time that should be devoted to your course each week. Check that out before you join.

3. Explore your options and sign up. There are four dominate MOOC providers: Coursera, Edx, Udacity, and Udemy. Each has different offerings so visit their websites. Start looking for courses and the time needed to devote to the course(s) you’re interested in and sign up. You won’t regret it.

I haven’t taken a MOOC before but I’m looking forward to my first one this spring. I know the subjects I’m interested in, so now I’m going to take my own advice and pull out my calendar to see what time I can devote to study between my job, taking care of my family, soccer and t-ball practices, and preparing for some races I have soon. I hope you’ll do the same. Happy learning!

[Find MOOCs and other online courses from thousands of schools at LearningAdvisor.]

Anna ToddYou can find Anna Todd blogging at the Things I’m Learning where she writes about marriage, parenting, faith, healthy living, and fun. By  day, she is a director of marketing and public relations, and by night, she is a wife,  Annabelle, runner, and Martha Stewart want-to-be. Join her at the Things I’m Learning and share in her joys and misadventures!