Using MOOCs to Get Ahead


Recently, I went through a personal crisis.

I am finishing up my graduate school program, and as I was researching topics for my master’s thesis, I found an area that I really wanted to study. I found it fascinating and was very excited to study it more. However, I am set to graduate in August. If I continued to study this area, I would be postponing my graduation. (Little did I know that I could use a free course or MOOC to advance my career.)

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Postponing my graduation means continued stress on my financial life. I am a single mom and I have spent the past two years in graduate school while also working as a freelance writer and substitute teacher. Money is tight as I have not reached my maximum earning potential due to unfinished school. And that is just not something I am willing to do any longer. It is time for me to get back to the work force full-time and continue building a great future for myself and my two young boys.

Something I discovered recently made this decision easier. I learned of the trend towards open university courses. These (typically) free, online educational courses provide great opportunities for everyone. Whether you want to further your education, gain more information about an interest or hobby or just want to say you’ve taken a class from Stanford, MIT or Harvard, MOOCs (or massively open online course) may be the right choice for you.

MOOCs are university classes taught to large numbers of people via the internet. Students taking the class watch video taped lectures from one professor and complete assignments that are often graded by computer (but also by other students). The professor has minimal contact with the MOOC students, and college credit is not offered. These classes are free to take, and there are no requirements to get into the class. Some classes even provide certification upon completion, which can be free but typically has an extra charge.

With the availability of MOOCs increasing, this is something I plan to take advantage of in my future. I can still study topics within the education field that I find interesting. As a licensed teacher, I am required to take classes and participate in professional development before renewing my license again. Many universities are offering certificates of completion which may work toward my renewal requirements for my teaching license.

[Do you have questions about online learning? Find the answers here!]

Teaching salaries aren’t the highest out there and continuing with another degree would be a further strain on my finances. As I stated, this is not something I wish to do any longer. MOOCs offer the benefit of being great for a budget. I can study topics that interest me without harming my budget. (Who really needs two master’s degrees anyways?) MOOCs are the perfect solution!

I have a new interest in an area of education that I wish to continue learning about and just a few weeks ago I was making plans to apply to a second graduate program, considering a doctoral program and generally making myself mad with all the ideas running through my head. Discovering the existence of MOOCs saved me a lot of stress, struggle, and money. Now I know that I’ll be finding an available MOOC for this new interest of mine. It will be something I am going to start searching for, but I think I’ll wait until after I graduate before doing so.

Jessica Streit is an educator, a freelance writer, a single mom, and a graduate student. She writes about topics such as personal finance, special education, and parenting. Jessica can be found at The Debt Princess.


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