Higher education is expensive and, at times, having the finances for it is just not feasible. In addition, we also don’t always have the flexibility to fit a semester’s course load into our busy schedules.
That is where the value of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, comes in. MOOCs are the latest showcase of power and convenience of interconnectedness via the Internet.
As the name suggests, MOOCs are classes offered online to virtually anyone by simply signing up for the courses. The best part is they are oftentimes taught at little or no cost by top-notch professors from prestigious schools, such as Harvard, Princeton and MIT.
A professor in robotic artificial intelligence and inventor for Google, Sebastian Thrun, was the first to spark interest in MOOCs. In 2011, he opened his class up to the Internet world and 160,000 people eagerly joined to “sit-in” on his lectures.
Some MOOCs offer a stable structure with set times during the year for signing up for courses and have lesson plans and assignments for each week within the course. Others, such as Saylor.org and Carnegie Mellon’s MOOCs (offered at oli.cmu.edu), allow you to join and complete a course at your own pace.
Note that while some MOOCs can be found on for-profit platforms, such as Coursera.org – a website with a compilation of over 300 classes coming from 62 schools – other MOOCs are available from nonprofits, such as Harvard and MIT’s edX.org.
As MOOCs are fairly new, keep in mind that there are still some glitches in the formatting and endorsement of this learning platform. Find out the means of grading assignments from your desired MOOC beforehand as some of them can get tricky with peer grading. This is often the case in Humanities-based courses. MOOCs may work more effectively for quantitative and science-based courses.
The advancement of higher education via the development of an effective means of integrating the Internet education platform with that of a brick-and-mortar institution is still in order.
In the meantime, some institutions, such as two community colleges in Massachusetts, are making due by integrating MOOCs into their course curriculum.
In terms of earning recognition for your work, you will not necessarily be earning credits for MIT upon completion of its MOOCs – instead, you will earn something called “MITx.” Completing a MOOC from Duke earns you a “statement of accomplishment.”
Even though the college or university that hosts the MOOC may award you some form of recognition and credit, this does not mean that another school may accept the credit. Not all colleges are yet keen on the idea of granting credit for completed MOOCs.
There are talks from the American Council of Education to encourage colleges to support and give due credit for them. A little persuading on your part to have your school grant you credit for the MOOCs goes a long way too.
Furthermore, check to see if the school you are currently attending offers their own MOOCs for credit. At San Jose State University, at a rate of $150 per class, they award credit for those who complete any of their three MOOCs.
Other websites try to make MOOCs more alluring by providing job opportunities to students who excel in the courses. On sites like Udacity and Coursera, students who are interactive on discussion boards and perform well overall can get recommendations from their professors for potential employers.
At any rate, an “MITx” can be a nifty add-on to the bottom of any resume too.
A large majority of adults who have not continued their education into college could likely benefit from enrolling in MOOCs. As many of us have busy schedules and are strapped with cash, MOOCs and learning online in general have the potential to give students and adults more opportunities to further advance their careers.
Author info: Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online entrepreneur from Los Angeles. She is also the founder of Gryffin Media. Her writing covers everything from technology and special education, to marketing, travel, and health.
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