Massive open online courses might sound like a strange group of words, yet it describes one of the most notable shifts in higher education the world has ever seen. With university costs soaring and leaving some students without an education (or with college debts they’ll pay on for near life), a free education online sounds like some kind of godsend. But that’s exactly what massive open online courses are providing without any removal of educational quality.
While they’ve only been around a couple of years, the quality ones provide complete courses in specific disciplines that require as much as time as real classes do. You simply watch lectures on a series of videos from legitimate university professors. Afterward, you’ll be tested and even given certification.
While the above has its own controversies, the entire concept of a MOOC is coming to a crossroads in whether it’s having a positive or negative effect on culture.
Is a MOOC Really Good For Your Education?
U.S. News did an in-depth report on MOOCs and whether they’re really going to help a new generation gain access to a superior education or bring down the university system. There seems to be concern from institutes of higher learning that the direct classroom experience would be lost if far too many people start using the free online education tools available.
For some people, that might not matter when the thought is universities charge far more than the education is actually worth. Then you have names like Bill Gates and major corporations backing some MOOCs as part of their philosophy that everyone should have access to higher education, no matter your financial stature.
The drawback, of course, is that universities don’t accept MOOCs as credit, so you can’t use them as part of a degree program. It’s also unknown whether the job market would accept a certificate from a MOOC to show you’ve studied in a particular skill. That’s one issue new studies will have to find out to see if MOOCs can be truly useful for the job market in decades to come.
Regardless, if you’re considering using a MOOC right now due to financial circumstance, which one should you choose out of many?
MOOCs Backed by Strong Credentials
You’ll find a number of free online courses on the net, though not all of them provide the quality as some key names do. Khan Academy is one of the leaders and has the backing of Bill and Melinda Gates, plus numerous corporate entities (including Google). With easy-to-use video courses, you have additional access to analytic tools so you can keep track of how well you’re doing.
Also look into Coursera as one of the most highly regarded of any MOOC out there. It’s here where you’ll get a certification after testing, plus video courses done on your own time. They have a fairly comprehensive list of subjects to study, including topics in the arts and humanities. The fact that they partner with major universities helps their clout considerably.
You also have one of the oldest free online courses available: TedTalks. While you won’t be tested or obtain any certifications, you can learn just as much listening to the thousands of archived video lectures from the most important business people in the world.
No matter which route you want to take with a MOOC, it’s worth trying one if just to brush up on a particular discipline you want to learn again. The jury is still out whether people will start using them for a complete education. However, because they’re adaptable to mobile, education may finally be set on a path of being both free and available on the go.