“A what?” I hear you ask.
” A Massive Online Open Course” I reply
“And what…?” you ask…
Okay, it’s a free, interactive, educational course provided by some of the most prestigious of the world’s universities and available to anyone with a computer.
There are no entry requirements and enrolment is unlimited. Moocs are offered in a wide range of subjects, are aimed at large-scale participation and offer open access via the internet. They are supported by top universities and colleges and are available through a number of web-based platforms – including edX, Coursera and Udacity.
“Sound good, what’s the catch?” you ask
“Well, although they are similar to university courses, MOOCs do not tend to offer academic credit. There are also problems with the peer review system. The diverse nature of MOOC takers means that they don’t share a common knowledge base and educational background. This can affect the quality of feedback and limit the discussion in the forums
I have to say that my experience is rather limited, I’ve only completed one so far, but it was enjoyable, stimulating, and it made me write, with a purpose, for an audience, every week!
I’ve just completed Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. provided by Coursera  , which required that we read a prescribed science fiction/fantasy classic and write a 320 word essay “that aims to enrich the reading of a fellow student who is both intelligent and attentive to the readings and to the course. Each essay should be between 270 and 320 words.”
Submissions had to be submitted to a strict deadline and were reviewed by five of your fellow students. Studies were supported by video lectures by Professor Eric S Rabkin from the University of Michigan.
“So what is the down side?”
To get the most out of them you need to be an experienced and self-motivated learner.The quality of the feedback and the forums varied in quality. but it depends on what you’re looking for: Knowing that your work will read, graded and commented on by perfect random strangers does make you think carefully about what you write and who you’re writing for.
Anyway, I’m hooked. I’ve signed up for four more courses:
Start writing Fiction with Future Learn and the Open University
Writing for the web with Coursera and The University of Michigan
Programming for Everybody with Coursera and the University of Michigan
The Art of Drawing and Painting OPEN2STUDY Open University Australia
So, soon I should write a better blog, publish my fiction, understand how my computer works, and be able to do my own illustrations. Well, you’ve got to have a plan! Come back soon and I’ll let you know how I’m getting on.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with MOOCs and distance learning.
Please share them with us below.