MOOC stands for ‘massive open online course’. The term originated in the US in 2008 to describe free, easily accessible, completely online courses. MOOCs give you the chance to study with top universities around the world.
MOOCs don’t always lead to formal qualifications, but they do mean you can gain knowledge in all sorts of areas. You might use a MOOC to develop career skills, prepare for other education, or explore a new interest.
There are usually no entry requirements for MOOCs. You can take part regardless of where you live or your financial circumstances. Because they take place online, MOOCs can grow very big. You might find yourself learning with thousands of other people – they don’t call them massive for nothing.
MOOCs usually have a specific start and finish date, they run a couple of times a year, and last for weeks rather than the months or years that traditional university courses do.
During a MOOC, you’ll use a wide range of online media and interactive tools to interact with university educators and other learners. This might include video lectures, articles, discussions, assignments and social networking.
Due to the large number of people taking MOOCs, you’ll usually get support from the community of other learners, as well as educators. And your progress on a course might be assessed through peer-reviewed written assignments or computer-marked tests, rather than by tutors.
In short, MOOCs are free courses for lots of learners that take place completely online.
So what are the benefits of MOOC?
1. Offer a variety of subjects
College schedules are tight, so you might not be able to take every course that you want to. Your school may not even offer a subject that you’re interested in. This is where MOOCs can help. Search on one of the MOOC providers’ websites to find interesting classes. The subjects range from yoga to personal finance to engineering to IT to English composition, etc. In some instances, you can pay a fee to receive college credit for your hard work. Check with your school’s transfer policy before paying.
2. Let you test out your major before committing
In most cases, the major you choose heavily influences the college you attend and your future career path. High school students can complete a MOOC course in their prospective major to see if it’s the right fit. This risk-free, money-free method will help you figure out what major to choose and ultimately save you money. Starting college knowing what you want to study means that you won’t waste time bouncing between majors and paying for useless classes.
3. Familiarize you with college-level learning before enrolling
Wondering if college learning is right for you? Taking a MOOC will help you understand what college classes are like before you’re paying for them. The tests you take and assignments you complete offer insight into what the next four years might look like. If possible, try out a course at a college you’re considering attending.
4. Prepare you academically for college
Feeling unprepared for college? You’re not alone. In 2010, nearly 70% of high school seniors accepted to college were unprepared. Many MOOCs are designed to help combat this unpreparedness. Some MOOCs for high school students include entry-level math, first-year composition, and pre-calculus. Talk to your guidance counselor or teachers to see what areas they recommend you focus on.
5. Learn from peers around the world
Anyone from any country with internet access can take a MOOC class. Participants can communicate with one another through discussion threads and social networking. Just like in a real classroom, you’ll learn from your peers and possibly broaden your worldview too.
6. They’re open to everyone
Another one of the advantages of MOOCs is that there are no prerequisites for MOOC learning. You can sign up for any class no matter your background or age. Just be prepared to put in the effort.
7. Learn a language for FREE
Rosetta Stone is expensive, and in-person language classes might move too quickly for you. MOOCs are a free way to learn a new language at your own pace. Easily return to lectures as needed and take your time learning instead of cramming for exams.
8. Offer FREE AP exam preparation and courses
Harvard University and MIT’s edX MOOC platform offers FREE AP exam preparation and courses. You can learn confusing material at your own pace outside of your high school classroom. These supplementary courses will help you achieve high AP exam scores that in turn will give you college credit.
9. Boost your job applications and career prospects
Employers look for several soft skills in their future employees. Some degree programs help students develop these skills better than others do. Free online college classes like MOOCs help bridge the gap between college graduate and employee. EdX provides several free “soft skills” courses that cover topics from teamwork to public speaking. This MOOC platform also offers paid professional programs that are certified. Their Soft Skills professional certificate program by Rochester Institute of Technology includes 6 courses and costs $49 per course. You can also opt to take their professional courses free without the certification.
Completing MOOCs in a niche area can also help you secure a job. For example, say you’re an English major applying to work as a copywriter for a web design firm. Taking a MOOC on basic web design or HTML coding will set you apart from other candidates. Students applying to grad school can also take advantage of MOOCs to help their university applications stand out.
Finally, remember that learning something is only as good as learning to use it. So with any skill, use it to show folks that you have learnt!
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