How to Use MOOCs to Support Your Grad School Experience



By the time my muscle contraction test arrived, I had already forgotten which part did what. I knew the information, but we had covered so much other material that I needed a quick overview to reorient myself. I turned to Youtube’s Crash Course, looking for Hank Green to help me out. In about 12 minutes, I had completely refreshed the concept and dusted off the details.

MOOC is short for Massive Open Online Course, referring to anything from the tutorial style videos on Khan Academy to certificate-for-completion courses offered through Coursera. MOOCs have grown over the last several years to offer material on any subject you can imagine, as in depth or as casual as you could want. In my first semester of graduate school, I’ve found several uses for them.

Student Uses:

- Preparation. For my cardio section of physiology, I prepared for lectures by first watching these videos. I was able to understand lecture material far quicker because I had been exposed to the material already. Using the right MOOC will drastically reduce study time and enable you to engage the lectures when they happen. You have limited access to your professor, so being prepared gives you greater benefit.

- Clarification and Review. As I mentioned above, Crashcourse has helped me refresh some key concepts before reviewing detailed material. In renal physiology, I couldn’t get my head around the flow through the nephrons. I found these tutorials easy to understand and quick enough to leave enough time to study everything else. MOOCs that are more formally organized also have forums, wikis, and other means of interaction that can prove invaluable when professors aren’t available for questions.

- Distraction. If you’re in grad school, you’ve been immersed into your studies in a different and deeper way than in undergrad. You need a brain break. You need something to talk about with friends and family who don’t understand what you’re studying. I love history, so when I need a break, I’ll watch Yale’s history lectures. I don’t have to worry about learning or testing, it’s just fun to use a different part of my brain and learn about something outside of medicine. And I can have a conversation with people apart from my learning.

- Continuing Education. Many MOOCs offer a certificate of completion that requires some testing to receive. This is a great way to show an employer that you’ve invested time and attention to stay current in your area. Accessing that material on your time makes learning while working possible. Once you are out of grad school, chances are that you will need to do this on a regular basis and having a certificate to show you’ve done your work is worth the investment.

Teacher Uses:

- Remedial Use. Many graduate programs could provide remedial education and training without having to develop new curriculum on their own. This allows your program to be more flexible by addressing any idiosyncrasies in your students’ background without making others repeat material they already know.

- Required Reading. Instead of handing out articles to read, or having book after book assigned only to be skimmed through, give your students a list of MOOCs that cover the information. Give them more options than they need and let them pick a few. In the time before starting a course, give them access to a survey MOOC to prepare them for more focused classroom time.

- Peer Instruction. Divide several areas of knowledge between students and have them complete a corresponding MOOC. Then they can present either in groups or individually to teach everyone else and show mastery over an area. Or have students prepare presentations on competing ideas and have a class debate. Covering material outside of the classroom enhances your face to face time.

As more MOOCs become available, the landscape of our education transforms into a hybrid space combining classrooms, computers, living rooms, and offices. Finding ways to make education more efficient and effective means adapting to these new innovations and utilizing MOOCs to supplement your grad school experience.

Written by Ryan English and edited by Laura Morrison, the Content Manager of If you’d like to learn more about continuing your education online, find out here.

MOOCs: A Step in the Right Direction

e-Learning Concept. Computer Keyboard

The concept of ‘massively open online courses’ (MOOCs) have slowly but steadily taken the academic world by storm. While the idea has only been around for two years, many institutions of higher learning are keen to adapt this new mode of teaching. While some have quite a bit of qualm over the concept, the fact remains that a healthy discussion regarding the modern educational system has been initiated. In this article, we’ll discuss the current status of MOOCs worldwide.

Limitless potential
While the economy translates to unfavorable tuition fees and mounting student loans, it might be able to enhance the value proposition of a university degree. Through free courses, individuals are given the chance to learn and acquire possible degrees through credits that provide more worth with little to no restriction brought about by finances.

In recent news, American student loans skyrocketed to about $1 trillion mainly due to inflated rates by higher institutions. This can be traced back to either the general state of the American economy and the cuts implemented by the government across the educational sector. The problem does not stop there: only 50% of students who brave the lofty tuition of university education get a hold of a diploma and a bachelor’s degree.

MOOCs will be able to flip the dire situation, but only if the conditions are aligned perfectly. Colleges and universities should be able to recognize that offering courses online will save them funds, and in turn will allow them leeway to lower the expensive matriculation schemes. MOOC providers should continue to invest in technologies that will allow online courses to have a more precise grading scheme – a necessary step towards universal credit granting.

Smartphones and education

MOOCs play a vital role as a sort of test run on the future of learning in the digital era. New high-end top tier gadgets like Apple’s premiere smartphone, the iPhone 5S, lends itself to this endeavor. Innovative features are pushed down the pipeline constantly, such as better security (such as the Touch ID, a fingerprint scanning feature on latest iPhones as mentioned in O2′s page), more reader friendly screens, better and faster internet connectivity – all these are driving the online learning trend forward into new heights.

One benefit that is often overlooked is the fact that many people from remote and developing nations are using MOOCs and mobile technology as a substitute or supplement to the current learning options. For MOOCs to become a true force of change on a global scale, companies in the technology sector should create ventures that are aimed for this specific purpose. Jonathan Nalder, in his piece on, noted that “for learners in remote locations or developing countries the promise of increased access to the keys of education must of course also be considered in light of the reality of the internet access needed to make much of it possible.”

A break in tradition

Last year, a program initiated by the Southern New Hampshire University called College for America was officially approved to grant degrees upon students depending on their proven and tested knowledge. This means that even if someone gathers all the knowledge he needs through other sources aside such as non-credited courses from MOOCs, then he or she will be granted a degree.

This triggered the United States Department of Higher Education to invite universities to create similar programs. If successful, students will no longer be required to carry on their shoulders the financial mountain of tertiary education. In effect, brick-and-mortar universities will have no choice but to compete through lowering their costs.

With all the benefits that could possibly change the education system for the better, the success of MOOCs ultimately depends on the quality of its courses and the eagerness of the government and tech titans to contribute to learning.

Reese Jones is a graduate student and a freelance writer for Techie Doodlers. She has successfully finished numerous courses on Coursera and edX to supplement her tech management master’s degree. Contact her via Twitter or add her on Google+.

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Accredible on the Radio!


Left to Right: Beatrice Schultz (College Smart Radio), Danny King & Alan Heppenstall (Accredible)

We were really honored to join Beatrice Schultz from College Smart Radio at KDOW, the Wall Street Business Network, to talk about some of our favorite subjects: college education, MOOCs, and, of course, Accredible. Join us tomorrow, Saturday, August 17 from 3-3:30 PDT  on 1220am KDOW if you’re in the Bay Area, or online (no matter where you are!) at:

Update: Listen to the recording below and check out the College Smart blog post here!

Reflecting on the Future of Higher Education & MOOCs

At Accredible, we value the pursuit of knowledge – no matter what path (or lack thereof!) it may take. Last week, we had the privilege of joining a conversation about the future of higher education hosted by the Silicon Vikings, featuring stellar panelists Mitchell Stevens (Stanford Graduate School of Education professor, director of SCANCOR), Michael Horn (Executive Director of Education at Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation), Claudia L’Amareaux (Future of Learning strategist), Keith Devlin (Stanford professor and director of H-STAR Institute at Stanford University), and Ben Nelson(CEO of the Minerva Project). The voices were united in advocating for the need to evolve education beyond the traditional factory formula in a digital age –an age where education isn’t confined within the walls of a classroom or even the borders of a country.

Ben Nelson commented that the idea that the education revolution is simply the ability to pause and rewind a lecture is ridiculous. He predicts that MOOCs will evolve beyond this repackaged 1-to-many approach and become truly adaptive learning platforms responsive to individual learning speeds and styles. This is a common belief; Mitchell Stevens elaborated that even the base concept of measuring or quantifying learning in higher ed is a “heretical notion.” Indeed what does it truly mean to “know” something? How can we truly differentiate between labels like  “A” or “B” or “intermediate” vs. “advanced”? The idea that learning can be measured and uniformly quantified is hindering learning itself.

Michael Horn views the changes in education through the lens of the Clayton Christensen model of disruptive innovation, where MOOCs are transforming the existing system of education. If one considers that the education system as a “bundle” of courses, prestige, identity designed to signal to employers and the world at large what you know and are capable of, MOOCs and other new developments in education are challenging the institution and “unbundling” the packages by providing an alternative means to gain what used to be exclusive (e.g. only through traditional university) knowledge which would then qualify them for jobs that would have been previously inaccessible. Horn continues on to say that, rather than using university brands or subjective numbers to assess a person’s qualifications for a job, employers should be looking at demonstrated skill and knowledge. We’re really taking such notions to heart at Accredible as we aim to provide the ideal platform to create this “higher resolution image” of a person, empowering people to use their learning to get employment.

With the rapid disintegration of pre-packaged post-secondary education, the issue arises: how can we evolve our own perceptions of learning and what it means to be “educated”? That’s our challenge we take to heart (and mind!); we’re excited to see our Accredible users push the boundaries of what qualifies for “skilled” in today’s workforce, proving their value and worth beyond bullet points on a resume or CV. Because if the direction of education now is proving anything, it’s proving that the old ways of identifying ourselves and signaling our strengths to others need to keep pace with the numerous changes in the way people choose to learn and build on their knowledge.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the future of education: Where do you think it’s headed and how will it affect traditional schooling and employment?

Accredible Contest Hack #3. How to Create A Winning Formal Learning Slates

In the last blog post of this series we covered self-paced learning Slates. Now, it’s time to talk about more conservative yet interesting and useful types of Slates – formal learning (college courses and degrees, high school projects and curricular).

Although there are a lot of heated discussions on broken educational systems around the world, at Accredible we believe that formal learning shouldn’t be underestimated. Schools and colleges are still powerful social institutions to gain structured, organized and useful knowledge. But people are more than grades and signed papers – now all their projects, works and knowledge may be stored and shared with the world.


Before we can begin with the hacks, make sure you are signed in. Then you can create a new Slate or open an existing Slate.

What to put into Formal Learning Slate?

First of all, official grades and syllabuses for people to see what the Slate, course or degree is about. Grades still matter and you shouldn’t omit them. However, it’s not of the biggest importance for you Slate.

Secondly, show what is behind your grade. You got “A” for particular paper? Upload this paper – show that you did great work and put in a lot of effort to achieve this grade. Your quiz grade may not have been as good as you wanted it to be for some personal reasons but you know that you put a lot of work, wrote beautiful notes but the assessment just didn’t work out for you.the Cheer yourself up by uploading all the work you did for the quiz and show the world that you deserve a better grade.

Thirdly, any kind of projects are welcome. It might be a extra project which you did not do for any particular grade but simply out of curiosity. It might be your reflections on the course or any topic which wasn’t counted at school or college. It might be mind maps or infographics for you to better understand topics. It might be summary of a required reading and your thoughts and ideas on it. Literally, you can put everything there!


Pro tip: Create a complete degree/curricular with all the work you’ve done.

Create multiple Slates for each course and one Slate for your degree. Insert the Slates for courses into this degree Slate. This way, your degree will be more organized and contain much more information which will give more credibility to your Slate.

You can even win $150 Amazon voucher for your learning. So don’t forget to enter your formal learning Slates to Accredible’s Slates contest:

The next hack will be for the most difficult but very interesting Slate category – knowledge/skill. Don’t miss it!

This post is part of a series on the Hacks to Create Winning Slates:

0. Contest Announcement

1. MOOC Slates

2. “Saylor category for self-paced learning” Slates

3. Formal Learning Slates (current post)

4. Knowledge/Skill Slates 

5. How to Make the Most of Accredible?

6. Skills ToolBox. Overview

What were the most interesting courses during your academic experience? What were you struggles? How did you overcome them?