If you have an interest in online/distance education or simply have researched ways to get free online courses in any subject imaginable, you certainly have come across the term “MOOC”.The Massive Open Online Course, for which the abbreviation stands, is a revolutionary platform that has been redefining the traditional model of learning during the past few years.
The MOOC has become possible thanks to the huge technological opportunities that are available to us. The main characteristics of the MOOC are its availability to anyone who has access to internet; its large scale, as there is no limit to the number of people who can sign up for a course; and its low cost to students, as it is practically free.
How does it work?
This relatively new platform is a teaching mechanism which gives participants access to all kinds of learning materials including, but not limited to, traditional reading materials, videos, lectures and project assignments. Additionally, by signing up for a MOOC, participants become a part of a large online community, which practically functions as a traditional class in an untraditional learning environment – people discuss projects, assignments, get advice from each other and communicate with the course instructor.
In addition to the greatest advantage that it is free, the other key aspect of the MOOC which attracts a lot of participants, is that it is extremely flexible! For the majority of MOOCs, all study materials are available in the course directory online and students can access them whenever they want. This feature is convenient for working people and people with dynamic lifestyles in general, as they can log on whenever they have free time and follow the course materials at their own pace. Furthermore, all assignments are set in advance and you just have a final deadline for submission. Other than that, it is up to you to decide when you will do the work and finish your “homework”.
Where can you sign up for a MOOC?
Some of the most popular MOOC providers to date include Coursera, NovoEd, Udacity, Udemy, Skillsoft and Lynda.com. And this is not all! The trend is maturing so fast that Coursera was offering courses from 70 institutions in May 2013, and this number had grown to over 100 as of February 2014.
Who are the MOOC participants?
All those platforms offer courses on a wide range of topics, hence the participants represent a bright palette of people from numerous countries, ages, educational and professional backgrounds and so on. Some of the participants sign up for courses that their employers recommend as additional training that can help with their job responsibilities. Others do it for personal enrichment and purely as a hobby. Regardless of the motivations for taking up a MOOC, the target audience of the platform is practically unlimited. Not surprisingly, one of the largest MOOC providers had over 3.5 million people enrolled in one or more of the 374 courses offered up to the end of May 2013. The numbers are growing by the hour!
Even though MOOCs will probably never replace getting a traditional degree as we know it, the truth of the matter is that there are around two billion potential learners globally. The emergence of the MOOC platform gives people all over the world the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills which can either help their careers or even interest them to the point of deciding to go to back to school and add to their professional profile.
Check out our new section MOOC Review