An intro to massive open online courses

October 13, 2015

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are an increasingly popular method for obtaining a high-quality education online in a flexible and free (or inexpensive) manner. Here’s a brief overview of the basics of MOOCs.

An intro to massive open online courses

What are MOOCs?

Often offered by accredited universities, MOOCs are typically taught entirely online through video, audio and text materials in digital form. A typical course structure may involve a professor giving weekly lessons via video, providing reading materials and giving writing assignments or quizzes. Courses span a vast range of topics, from gender studies to building your own website. And because the courses are offered online instead of in a physical classroom, any number of students can enrol – all that's required is an internet connection and a compatible computer or other device.

MOOCs are offered by numerous respected universities and other organizations around the world, but currently they are not a pathway to a university degree. However, this may well become a reality in the future as this model of education evolves. For now, the main benefit of these courses lies simply in the inherent value of the education that they provide.

Skill building and mentorship

In addition to allowing accredited universities to offer courses to students worldwide, MOOCs also represent an opportunity for individual experts and craftspeople around the world to share their skills, knowledge and expertise in a particular field with a global audience. Similar to the classes taught by accredited universities, classes centred around skill building enable anyone with an internet connection to find assistance in mastering an art, retraining in areas of traditional knowledge or building a startup business from home. Take note that while some of these classes are free, others may charge a fee.

If you're interested in skill building, there are plenty of resources online for both experts looking to share their skills and students looking to learn from them. Some websites enable skill holders and experts to build and host their own classes, while at the same time making it easy for students around the world to find these classes.

A democratic approach to education

How are MOOCs changing the face of education? These programs – especially those that are completely free – represent a democratic approach to education by opening the gates of learning to everyone, rather than just those who can afford it.

Sure, MOOCs currently do not offer the full experience that you would gain by attending a university, such as meeting new people, engaging with mentors in person and exposing yourself to new environments. However, with a bit of initiative and effort, you can enjoy such experiences anywhere, not just at university. More importantly, if you are unable to put your current life on hold to attend university, if the costs are prohibitive or if you live in a location that prevents you from attending university, then MOOCs may be the solution you've been waiting for.

With the emergence of MOOCs, it has become easier than ever for people anywhere in the world to receive a top-quality education. As long as you have a desire to learn and an internet connection, the sky's the limit!

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