Way back when, I was that pregnant high school student who had a decision to make: go to work after graduation and support herself and her child, or go to work, go to college classes at nights and on weekends and never see her baby girl. This was a decade before virtual college and distance education were around, and my choices were severely limited.
I chose the first one…and 15 years later, I think I am finally ready to take the plunge and go back to school. Between running the house and building my blogging business (which has become more than a full time job in itself), I still don’t have the time necessary to go back to school full time to pursue a degree. However, I do have time to take classes!
Unfortunately, many of the courses I would like to take at my local community college are not only expensive, but are only offered at night—and I didn’t leave the workforce to be home for my family just to leave them four nights a week and Saturdays. Being home with my family is one of the things I love so much about blogging!
Luckily, I do have the option to attend MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and I can participate in these free courses right from the comfort of my own home, on my own schedule!
[Get started with these 12 core classes from Kaplan University: they’re free!]
MOOCs are free courses offered by some pretty prestigious colleges and universities around the country. We’re talking institutions like Stanford, MIT, and Brown, just to name a few. Best of all? These virtual college classes are available to everyone!
The first step to enrolling in a MOOC is deciding which MOOC to take. You need to take a look at your goals; what do you want to accomplish through your distance education course?
The first type of class I would like to take is some type of business education. Being that I am a blogger and running my own business, there is so much that I need to know in order to be successful not just in blogging, but in running my business properly. The HP LIFE e-Learning program, developed by EDC and HP together with a team of partners, includes a free interactive MOOC to help entrepreneurs like me establish and grow their businesses.
Like all MOOCs, the HP LIFE e-Learning course is flexible, so I know that I will be able to fit it into my busy life. It offers a modular curriculum that includes short units covering four main topics: finance, marketing, operations, and communication. I can use the self-paced, interactive modules to gain practical business advice, and utilize their discussion boards for extra help!
Deciding which MOOCs to enroll in can be a little daunting if you haven’t previously taken any distance education courses through a virtual college. Just sit down and think about your goals: what do you hope to accomplish by taking an online learning course? In what areas do you seek professional or personal growth? Once you know what your goals are and determine what kind of time you have available to dedicate to the course, it is simple to choose the right course for you!
[Don’t know where to start? See these 5 MOOCs to find your purpose.]
Once you have chosen your MOOC, make sure to organize your time so that you can fully concentrate on your course. Make sure to give yourself a schedule that provides plenty of time for class in the midst of your hectic day! I have started writing down work deadlines and errands that I need to run so that once my course begins, I know how much time I have to devote to each responsibility. A well-planned calendar can make all of the difference!
Jennifer Quillen is a busy 30-something wife and mom living in sunny South Florida. When she isn’t running two websites, raising her daughter or traveling, you can find her soaking up new knowledge like a sponge! You can keep up with her on her blog.