Have you ever heard of Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCS as they are shortened too?
They have been around quite a while, but I’ve never actually investigated any. Never had time!
The concept is that an expert decides to write a course about something, anything, just like they would if they were going to deliver it at a university. The course may be long or short, intensive or lighter. There may be associated forums or chat boards, email groups or other ways to speak with your fellow course takers.
The whole thing is online and there may or may not be a certificate, an online exam or some other kind of acknowledgement of proficiency. Some MOOCS are paid for, others are free.
Why would you do one
You could do a course for fun, out of interest, to improve a skill or as a career improving option. You could do it on your own, or with a friend or a group.
So long as you can get online, you can do a MOOC, from anywhere in the world. It’s a fantastic concept and one of the many reasons I think the internet is one of the most empowering inventions ever.
Which one to do?
The U3A that I belong too was sent some information about MOOCS as a possible resource for members and I was asked to have a look. The one recommended was FutureLearn. I’ve had a look at their financial literacy course and their nutrition course and they both look interesting and are set at a reasonably academic level, neither too easy nor too hard. Although U3A said that it was free, there are some drawbacks. The course itself is free and starts at different times. Access to it is completely free, but that access ends 14 days after the course finishes. You could sign up again to keep access. What they want you to do is pay £39 when you will get permanent access to all the course materials. You may consider it worth that, you may not. Some of FutureLearns courses are provided by the Open University and as a graduate of the O.U., I can vouch for the quality of the teaching.
I’ve had a bit of a look around today and found some that are free all the way through. There was a site called mooc-list.com that lists many providers of free courses. One that I looked at was Open2Study. Again, I looked at the financial literacy and nutrition modules. Whereas with the previous ones, because the courses had started, I could look at actual course material, with this one I couldn’t. But the aims seem similar. These ones are completely free and stay that way. Looking at the Help page, they say that you can continue to access any course that you have done although the associated forums will close after a month.
If you are looking for something a little stretching, a career boost, developing a hobby or upskilling, and don’t have much money to spend, or don’t want to, a MOOC may well be the way to go. I’m definitely going to explore a few, well, I say that, I need to find the time to do it!