Everything you need to know before starting a MOOC

Published by Navneet Kishor on


From the Industrial Age to the Information Age working practices have come a long way. (It is only right. After all, (how long) (how much longer) can we follow 200 years old work practices? Today’s workspace requires professionals to have a symbiotic relationship with their peers, organizations, and robots too. It is only fair to expect this to change the way we educate ourselves.

Why study a MOOC?

Massive Open Online Courses aka MOOC is one of the most popular ways to educate oneself. It is one of the most convenient and quick options for a lot of professionals and enthusiasts to pick up new skills. This article is going to walk you through everything you need to know before starting MOOC.

First things first, we need to zero in on who are you and why would you want to study a MOOC. We have picked out the three most likely reasons why someone would want to pursue them.

You enjoy learning and are enthusiastic to learn something new

Often our professions do not match our interests. There could be many reasons. Perhaps your interests do not generate a sustainable income. Perhaps you naturally excel in professional endeavors whilst your interests need more effort.

Whatever the reason, interests help you maintain a passion for life. That makes it very important to learn and enjoy just for the sake of it. A MOOC on Beethoven’s Symphonies or The Science of Well Being. The heart wants what it wants.

You are a Student looking for extra credit, skills to go on your CV or an accessible education

Students comprise the biggest audience of MOOC. More often than not, schools (‘schools’ here encompasses educational institutions of all levels) assign MOOC as course material. In some cases, the professor conducts classes as a MOOC. A lot of schools encourage MOOC by offering credits.

It could also be that students who industriously go after particular universities or career tracks want specific elements to stand out in their resume. MOOC helps them achieve that without much hassle.

Lastly, education is not consistent nor accessible across the world. MOOC allows individuals to study with some of the top universities. Enrolling in such courses is more affordable than joining universities. Especially when one has to cross countries or continents for it.

You are looking to up-skill yourself to fast-track your career or jump into a new line of work

Working professionals have a hard time compromising career for education. Subjecting themselves to colleges to pick up new trick of the trade does not always seem to be the right choice. Nor does one client or project inspire such a comprehensive need. MOOC offers flexibility that allows them to have the best of both worlds.

For those looking at making drastic career changes or entrepreneurship, MOOC offers a good preview of what to expect. They offer a chance to gauge your interest level if want to go ahead with the change.

Free or Paid MOOC? How to choose?

Given their feasibility and viability, the next obvious question is what do you want to do with the knowledge you pick up? There are two ways to go about it.

One, Learn and up-skill yourself. Imbibe yourself with the knowledge and excel.

If this is the goal, you can opt to do MOOC for free. Free courses are exactly the same as paid courses with a few notable differences like –

  • No accredited qualification – Meaning the course you pursue will not score you an accredited certificate. It simpler terms, you audit the classes and receive no certificate.
  • Shaky spot on the CV – Here you have the knowledge, you do not have certified proof of having learnt that particular skill. Unless you work on projects by yourself.
  • Time constraint – In most cases, free courses are accessible for a decided time period. You do not have the option to revisit it for reference once the time frame closes.

Do note, the course’s syllabus, professors, audience, projects, assessments, study material are common for free (audit) or paid (accredited) mode. Except for the mentioned disadvantages, everything stays the same.

Two, Learn and upscale yourself. Showcase your new-found knowledge for professional benefit.

If the end game is to use the MOOC and its learning for professional advantage, you are looking at an accredited (paid) course. You could use the course to go ahead in your career, to substitute for course credits, to bag that big raise or put it down on your CV.

Some advantages you have over an audited course –

  • An accredited certificate from the university.
  • Bragging rights that could go on the CV.
  • Longer access to the course. Sometimes indefinitely.

Where to find MOOC? Who makes them?

So now that we are sure about taking up a MOOC, here’s how you can go about registering for one.

MOOCs are created by many universities around the world. Ivy league schools, management schools, music and literature institutes, nuclear studies, renowned STEM colleges, research institutes etc., around the world, provide an amazing selection of courses. Dig into our list of 25 Top universities offering MOOC to find the best MOOC offering college out there.

The courses these colleges offer is available on multiple platforms.

  • Coursera
  • edX
  • Udemy
  • FutureLearn
  • Udacity
  • Swayam

Different universities sign up with one or multiple platforms to offer their courses. Similarly, platforms host multiple universities. You need to pick your platform depending on the university or the course you want to pursue.

Example – Artificial Intelligence courses are available on the majority of the platforms out there. You will have to decide if you want to pursue Harvard’s AI course or Standford’s AI course or IIT’s AI Course. How do you pick the one most suitable for you? We will be getting to that shortly.

Registering on to a platform is as easy as creating an email account. You can go through your options more elaborately on registering. All platforms have dashboards to help you keep a track of course progress, deadlines. Access to course material would also be via the platform portal.

How do you pick the right MOOC?

There are a few things to keep in mind while picking the right MOOC for you. Let’s jump right to it.

Subject Area and Topic

Having a clear idea of what it is you want to learn helps in sidestepping all the tempting side courses available. It is easy to get carried away when there is an array of exciting options.

Expertise and Depth

Considering some of the finest minds of universities come together to create a MOOC, you need to understand your learning stage. Are you a beginner or an expert or somewhere in between? Answering this will give a clearer list of options.

Add to this, you need to decide how deeply do you want to get into the topic. Is it a basic overview you are looking for? Or a full-fledged program dissecting all sub-topics in detail?

Syllabus Review

Now that you have actual leads on your preferred MOOC, it makes sense to explore the syllabus it covers. The objective, the content and the end of program outcomes should help you decide if the course is aligned to your needs.

Prerequisites and Duration

Prerequisites are the basis on which a course is designed. To take up a course, students need to have a basic understanding of the central theme a course is based on. For intermediate and expert courses, there may be a list of these. In beginner-level courses, there can be some or none.

To ensure learning is up to the mark, challenging and yet smooth, indicative durations are always mentioned. It talks about how many hours a week you would need to dedicate and for how long.

Additional: Feedback and Introductory Videos

You can also choose to go through the feedbacks the course, professor or the university has generated. Some courses also have sample videos, a trailer of sorts. Watching it could help you make a decision too.

Successfully completing a MOOC

Now that you have picked a course sticking to a schedule ensures that you do justice by it. As it goes with online courses, it is easy to neglect them or take them lightly. The lack of physical classroom vibe or subtle digital nudges to keep up with the course discussions do not have an effect.

Setting up a time table, going through the pre-reads and reference materials, actively participating in discussion forums, jotting down notes and honestly completing assessments go a long way.

After all, we hold the reins to how to educate ourselves.

Categories: Blog


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