What are MOOCs?
MOOCs are free online courses that provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and receive quality educational experiences. The courses are normally delivered asynchronously so you can complete them when you have time available. They often include activities such as discussions and peer assessment where you communicate with others. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course:
- Massive because enrolments are almost unlimited
- Open because anyone can enrol, there is no admission process.
- Online because they are delivered, you guessed it online
- Course because they are designed to teach you a specific subject.
How do they work?
Many of the courses can be started at any time while others start at regular intervals every few weeks or months. Although some may be less frequent and maybe only offered once. Some MOOCs are self-paced so you can choose how you progress throughout while others run on a schedule but are still somewhat flexible.
- All the course material may not be available from the beginning. Instead, it’s released in fragments each week, allowing you to pace yourself.
- Assessments may have deadlines, preventing learners from lagging behind.
They often range in length from 1 to 16 weeks. Most provide an estimate of the weekly time commitment, although this time scale may vary depending on the learner.
MOOCs can include:
- Auto-graded quizzes – quizzes that are automatically graded upon submission, such as multiple-choice questions.
- Peer-feedback assignments – assignments that are graded by other learners according to specific rules.
Your performance on these assignments then determines your overall course grade.
Where can I take MOOCs?
Some of the main platforms for MOOCs are FutureLearn, Coursera and OpenLearn (provided by the Open University). The University has a couple of courses available on Future Learn, the University Preparation Course, and Introduction to Thermodynamics.
Not everything is free
Especially as a student, you may have to take into account the costs, though a vast amount are free some courses may have components hidden behind a paywall. For example, graded assignments.
MOOCs often offer two enrollment options:
- Free Auditing – which gives you access to videos, readings, and forums for free.
- Paid Enrolment – which gives you access to all the content, including paywalled elements such as the certificate of completion.
A small number of courses are pay-only. Also, when you finish a MOOC you may earn a certificate of completion. Sometimes, the certificate is free, but often, you may have to pay for it. A Paid certificate often requires ID verification, which involves sending a picture of yourself and a form of ID like a driver’s license.
MOOCs the considerations
These are some questions you should ask yourself when considering why you want to take a MOOC.
- Do you want to become better at a particular skill?
- Are you looking to improve your job prospects?
- Are you considering changing your goals or career path?
- Is it just for the pleasure of learning?
Then you should also consider the more logistical considerations
- Do you want to take the full MOOC or just part of it?
- How much time can you dedicate to the course weekly?
- Are you looking for an introductory, intermediate, or advanced course?
The MOOC listing usually contains information to help you decide if the course matches your goals, such as potential prerequisites, course content, difficulty, and expected time commitment.
Relevant Skills guide: The Digital Student: MOOCs