Have you ever mooc-ed? I know I have. I did a few moocs at the same time about 6 months ago but they left me drained. After that I casually went through moocs giving them a go for just a few days at a time. When I finally had enough passion to do one to completion, it was such a thrill and after that I wanted more and more moocs. I got to a point where I was doing nothing other than mooc; day-in, day-out. It drove me to the brink of exhaustion and in the end I had to admit that I had a mooc problem and use my last ounce of strength to forcibly stop myself from mooc-ing anymore. It’s been a struggle not having a mooc every night, so I’ve decided I need to mooc again, and NOTHING is going to stop me.
MOOCs, otherwise known as Massive Open Online Courses, are the new wave of online education provided free by top universities and experts and are available to anyone in the world with internet access. Fancy learning how to code your own search engine? There’s a MOOC for that. Want to discover how to protect yourself during a zombie apocalypse? There’s definitely a MOOC for that. Got interests in marketing, tourism, educational data, music composition, nutrition? Yes, yes, yes, yes and, oh yes! Then, as long as you have a name, an email address and a thirst for knowledge, the world of MOOCs is your oyster.
The one and only MOOC that I have actually completed was a Social Psychology course provided by Wellesley College through the site Coursera, an ‘…education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free’. It is a site that is dedicated to empowering individuals who would not ordinarily have access to such high level education and therefore can improve the lives of their families and impact their communities.
I’ve always had a predisposition to all things psych, so one day in September last year, when I saw that the Social Psychology course had already started a couple of days before, I clicked the ‘Join Course’ button (now called the ‘Learn for Free’ button) and, in an instant, I was pulled through a portal that gave me free access to articles, video lectures, discussion forums, advice, textbook chapters and more. It was like a luscious wild meadow of education that I could play and dance in for hours on end. Professor Scott Plous, the main man on the course, is the founder of the Social Psychology Network (SPN) and was generous to the hilt when it came to resources. One week, a random group of students were selected to do a Google Hangout with none other than Professor Phillip Zimbardo who was the director of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment. It was really quite remarkable what Prof Plous was able to pull out the bag for the 100,000+ people signed up to the course from all over the world.
Since then, I’ve kept my eye out for other courses I might be interested in and signed up to a number of them. Altogether I’ve started, and not finished, courses in coding, statistics, marketing, life coaching, leadership and tourism analysis. I tried hard to keep up with the weekly demands of the MOOCs (some can be very intense) but in the end I realised that they just weren’t for me. I wasn’t passionate about those subjects the way I am about Social Psychology so I accepted that the best thing for me would be to drop out and wait for one to come along, one that I’d really love.
And it did. Futurelearn, which is the UK’s first MOOC provider (the biggest and oldest sites are based in the US and have been offering MOOC’s for some years now) is currently partnered with 26 top universities, and Lancaster University will soon be offering a Corpus Linguistics: Method, Analysis, Interpretation course through the site, so, like a geeky rabid dog, I just want to bite it and shake it violently I am THAT excited to start. This particular course begins on 27th January, lasts for 8 weeks and suggests that 3 hours of study per week should suffice. It’s absolutely perfect for my nerdy needs.
So, where can YOU start? Well as you can see I have tried out a few different sites that offer MOOCs so below is a list of the main ones that I have come across in the past few months:
One of the first sites to offer university level MOOCs with a focus primarily on Humanities, Medicine, Biology, Social Sciences, Maths, Business and Computer Science but there are the odd few other Arts based courses too. Courses are completed within a set time-frame and a certificate of accomplishment is provided. For a fee, you can earn a verified certificate.
Wholly owned by the Open University, Futurelearn courses are all pilots and therefore there isn’t as much choice on offer compared to Coursera. Nevertheless, the courses are still high class and the resources provided are excellent. As with Coursera, courses are completed within a set time-frame.
Courses can be completed at your own pace. There is a focus on Computer Science and some courses on Maths, Physics, Psychology, Design, Business Biology and Data. Udacity courses tend to be much more practical in nature.
Instructors from all over the world can upload their own courses to be taken for free or for a charge. The options on Udemy are eclectic and less academic than the providers listed above.
As with Udemy, Canvas offers courses from lecturers and instructors who want to share their courses to a wider audience; some are free and some come with a fee.
Governed by MIT and Harvard, edX provide challenging courses using cutting-edge technology. This is the only MOOC provider in the list that I haven’t used yet so I can’t comment too much on what the courses are like.
Wherever you are in the world you can further your education for free. There is nothing stopping you because, I’m assuming, you have internet access otherwise you wouldn’t be able to read this. Give a MOOC a go and if you don’t like it, then quit and do a different one. They can be tremendous fun and, of course, you can meet some like-minded people. You’ve got nothing to lose, other than your social life, but who needs one of those!