For those who are unfamiliar, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are often offered free by a variety of sources (sometimes for-profit companies, sometimes universities, sometimes a collaboration between the two). Often serving as introductions to key concepts, I have seen students use MOOCs as a way to get a feel for various subjects before deciding on module choices whilst others use MOOCs to satisfy their hunger to learn a broad range of subjects in their own time.
In 2012, the Open University launched FutureLearn, partnering with more than 20 UK and international universities and other institutions such as the British Council, the British Library and the British Museum. Courses on FutureLearn cover a vast selection of subjects, from an Introduction to Ecosystems, Introduction to Journalism, and the Secret Power of Brands, to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Inside Cancer and Preparing for University. The University of Bath delivers MOOCs through FutureLearn; for example The Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals course is starting in January and will run for 6 weeks. In the USA, MOOC provider, Coursera offers over 400 courses from top institutions world-wide. Generally MOOCs are between 4 and 12 weeks in length and require around 2 hours of study time per week.
Other MOOC providers include:
So, should you as a busy student or graduate consider doing a MOOC?
We think so....
- Research a Career: A MOOC can help you to explore aspects of a career sector and develop further knowledge that could help you to stand out from a crowd. If you are thinking about Forensic Science for example, then you might consider the Introduction to Forensic Science course provided by University of Strathclyde. A MOOC can not only help develop your commercial awareness but can also help you make decisions around what modules to study at University or help you decide on your Masters course.
- Boost your CV: Studying a MOOC shows you're motivated, you have a variety of interests and you can manage a busy workload. Use MOOCs to demonstrate to an employer your commitment to pursue a career in a particular sector. You may be an Engineer looking to work in the Environmental Sector, so doing a MOOC in Understanding life cycles and environmental impact may be quite useful.
- Professional Development: there are a number of MOOCs out there to help you develop invaluable skills. The University of Washington deliver a MOOC on Introduction to Public Speaking, ideal if you want to improve your presentation skills. You can develop your project management skills, learn the basics of financial management, develop your assertiveness skills and much more!
- Additional Preparation: MOOCs are extra tuition from a different perspective and can be used to compliment your existing study and to deepen your understanding of various topics and concepts.
- Network with global learners: by taking a MOOC you will be learning and interacting with like-minded people from across the globe. MOOCs allow discussion of the topic via a forum and most also have their own hashtag on Twitter for further discussion. Potentially this is a way of finding useful contacts or networking with people already working in the field you are interested in.
You can’t go wrong with a MOOC as long as you view it as an additional tool to help you research potential careers or simply boost your knowledge in a topic that interests you. Remember though that a MOOC only provides introductory knowledge and is not a substitute for real life experience!