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.
- 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.
- 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 GradSchools.com. If you’d like to learn more about continuing your education online, find out here.
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.
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 Edutechdebate.org, 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+.
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: http://www.kdow.biz.
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?
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
- William Arthur Ward
Times have changed. The new rock stars are top professors from top universities. The brave knights of 21st century fight the darkness of ignorance, earning the love of millions of students around the globe. Why? In this chaotic ocean of knowledge and amongst the great variety of learning resources, teachers are what matter the most – their talent to incite interest in students and inspire them to dive deeper. Their charisma and support can create real magic. In this article we’ll take a look at 5 instructors you don’t want to miss.
Dan Ariely of Duke University
Habitat: Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior by Coursera
Persona: Jedi who fights the darkness of human irrationality.
Dan Ariely brings to you a surreal experience, a realization that everyone around you (including yourself) isn’t rational at all. Your life will never be the same again once you’ve taken this course. The fun, entertaining nature of his lectures a-la thriller, comedy, cartoon, with a superhero-like professor makes the experience truly wonderful.
People behave irrationally, that’s a fact. You think that you are not in this category? Take this class and think again. Dan Ariely shows that obvious is usually not so obvious and the rational human being is a myth. You will learn aspects of psychology and behavioral economics such as cognitive bias, the psychology of money, neuroeconomics as well as everyday life hacks such as why “play hard to get” is a great strategy for dating, how to split the bill after the dinner at a restaurant with friends and what are the best hacks for boosting personal productivity.
Interestingly enough, Dan Ariely never had an intention of becoming a behavioral economist. Initially, he studied Physics and Math at Tel Aviv University until the last year of university when he switched to Psychology. Although, Dan Ariely has no formal experience, he is recognized as one of the brightest minds in the field of Behavioral Economics. He has written numerous papers, bestselling books, popular articles in major business and economics newspapers and magazines and has broad teaching experience in universities such as Sloan Management School and Duke University.
Trivia: Now he’s getting magical power aka valuable information on human beings in the Center for Advanced Hindsight and sharing it with the world by writing books and giving ted talks.
“A Preview to “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” can give you a precise idea what fun this class is.
David J. Malan of Harvard
Habitat: CS50x by edX
Persona: The Captain who guides through the rough seas of Computer Science.
David J.Malan is a Senior Lecturer of Computer Science at Harvard. However, for the majority of online students he is known for his course CS50x. Computer Science is now sexy. Many prominent entrepreneurs, business executives and journalists support the idea that everyone in 21st century should be able to code. This belief is based upon research on the future of the labor market, corroborated by the huge $500 billion gap between CS job demand and supply within the next 5 years. However, Computer Science is a difficult discipline and can be very challenging even for the most motivated self-directed learners.
Here comes David J. Malan and CS50x. Every “play” click will take you to a Harvard auditorium. The course is as rigorous as an actual Harvard class would be. However, you won’t even notice rigidity of the course and all the effort you’ll put into tough homework and coding. The first homework in Scratch will make even complete newbies comfortable. Singing students from previous offerings adds a lot of fun to your studies. Recommendations of documentaries and related fiction such as movies about hackers will give you some extra material to be inspired by. David Malan’s passion about his subject and faith in his students will further enhance your motivation. Why does this happen? Partially, because a professor is interested in his subject but most likely it is because apart from actually teaching he’s doing research on instructional technologies and pedagogy. This class is a great preparation for more advanced courses.
Trivia: After this class you’ll realize that there’s no wonder why Harvard students pay 200k for 4 years of education. Luckily for the world and thanks to edX, CS50X is free for everyone willing to learn.
One of the most funniest parodies on “Call Me Maybe” from Harvard CS50 students will encourage you to take this class
Chuck Eesley of Stanford University
Habitat: Technology Entrepreneurship by NovoEd
Persona: The Pirate-in-disguise who converts newbies into Pirates of Startup Seas.
You won’t see any jaw-dropping effects in Chuck Eesley’s lectures, but his modest confidence and in-depth knowledge of the subject will give you insights into starting a technology business. His course, Technology Entrepreneurship, is based on his own research at Stanford and personal experience of entrepreneurship and successful startups. The mission of professor Eesley’s work is to “empower the next generation of entrepreneurs to have the greatest chance of success”. What makes Chuck Eesley really special is his activity and interactions with students via the Facebook group and via Twitter.
What about course itself? If there’s anything hotter than Computer Science nowadays, it’s startups. The buzz around the trend of starting businesses, dropping out of school, exploring new worlds and creating valuable and useful products allures thousands people of all ages, sexes and nationalities into the harsh world of business. Welcome to the Gold Rush of 21st century!
Likely for society, creation of businesses is more meaningful and beneficial than mining gold. Because of business complexity, it requires deep knowledge and a range of skills. Books, articles and blogs can help in this case but the knowledge gained from these alone won’t be equal to what Chuck will give you – a holistic picture, deep understanding of the subject, carefully designed assignments… All the equipment for becoming a True Pirate of the startup seas!
Trivia: Indeed, Chuck Eesley is the most social MOOCs professor. You may follow him on Quora to find out his thoughts, opinons and ideas on many questions by community, from personal “What is like to be a professor at Stanford?” to more general “What are some ways to foster entrepreneurship?”. He’s written 80 answers and is not stopping, so lots of food for thoughts even after the class is over.
Haven’t heard about Lean Startup? That’s bad, but no worries – this video will give you some useful clues
Edward Hess of Darden School of Business(Virginia University)
Habitat: Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses by Coursera
Persona: The Wizard of Business who reveals the magic of growing successful companies.
Are you bored by academic, traditional lecture-style courses? Try this course. It couldn’t be farther away from bookish, dull lectures. You may even forget that it’s an online course – Edward Hess creates an atmosphere of conversation with an old friend. Serious researches and case studies sound rather like anecdotes from life, which engages you more and more with each lecture and makes digesting information much easier.
If there’s only one business course you take, Grow to Greatness is a great choice because it reveals the mystery of successful businesses in just 10 weeks. Statistically, 1 out of 10 newborn companies survives. There is a widespread belief of success: find a brilliant idea, check for product/market fit, execute flawlessly, and, voila, magic happens. However, something is missing in this recipe: business nuance and actual how-to’s. Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Companies is a perfect place to find the Holy Grail.
You might say: ”I’m not so into business, why should I take this course?” If we take a closer look at the nature of business, many practices can be applied to life to help you to become a better you, to live a fulfilled life and accomplish great things. Doesn’t it sound familiar? (Hint: bestsellers on lifestyle, productivity, wealth…)
What is business about? Creating value for society, making people happy, getting things done, achieving great things despite all odds.
Concepts such as “power of processes” will help you to organize your life and fight procrastination. “Leadership” lessons will show you how to be charismatic and confident person, bringing out the best in others and inspiring people to make great things happen. “Strategic focus” will teach you how to set the right goals and achieve them.
Trivia: More than 30 years in business world, ex-executive of serious firms, author of 10 brilliant books… Sounds scary, huh? But instead of a haughty stereotyped Wall Street guy, you will find a likable professor-friend. Edward Hess knows how to create the right atmosphere.
Introduction for the first part of course which focuses on 4P’s(Planning, Prioritization, Processes and Pacing). The second part of course is on 5th P – People.
Salman Khan of Khan Academy
Habitat: Khan Academy
Persona: The Brave Knight who created Khan Academy, the antecedent of today’s popular MOOCs.
Every self-directed learner has at least heard of Khan Academy. The story of it’s inception is fascinating. Short educational 10-minute YouTube videos became a huge catalyst for education, with more than 260 millions views so far. Now you can find more than 3000 videos covering almost everything from deep science to liberal arts subjects alongside assignments, discussions and tracking progress tools. Moreover Khan Academy successfully applies the principles of gamification, so you’ll never be bored and always motivated to learn more.
As a result, Khan Academy has been recognized as one of the most influential educational organisations in the world.
The story behind the curtains is truly inspiring. It all started from just one person, Salman Khan, a talented, well-educated hedge fund analyst who wanted to help his cousin Nadia with her math. Tutoring went well, and, as it always happens with great things, more people he knew wanted to get help. This was an “A-ha” moment for Salman: he created a YouTube channel to distribute more of his videos. Surprisingly for Khan, not only his friends and relatives watched his videos. Other learners and teachers all around the world also started to appreciate his effort. A few millions views in 3 years and a lot of testimonials persuaded Salman Khan to quit his job and begin Khan Academy.
This is a true fairy tale story, with the Brave Knight spreading the light of knowledge.
Trivia: Sal Khan’s vision is to provide world class education to anyone, anywhere. He writes about it in his book ‘One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined’. His TED talk inspired Sebastian Thrun to quit Stanford and start his own MOOC platform Udacity.
Each month there are dozens more courses going live. New universities join the MOOC movement, bringing the best talent to the scene. Today, we’ve covered only 5 instructors, but there are many others who deserve to be in this list. Who has been the best online teacher you’ve encountered? We’d love to hear about how they inspired you.
This post is part of a series on the Beginner’s Guide to MOOCs:
Although we featured major MOOC platforms Coursera, Udacity, and edX in the last post, today we’d like to introduce you to a few more great learning platforms that will help you enrich your knowledge. Read on to discover more about a growing network of MOOC providers:
Started as a Stanford MOOCs experiment (Stanford Venture Lab), NovoEd now is an independent MOOC platform, currently offering 9 classes. Unlike the courses from many other platforms, NovoEd courses are about more than just reading, watching videos and taking quizzes. Their emphasis is on collaboration and learning by doing.
The most famous courses, Crash Course on Creativity and Technology Entrepreneurship at NovoEd.
In the class Technology Entrepreneurship, for example, you need to find a team with which you will create a marketing plan, first prototypes, and even start your own startup. Assignments are unique since you are getting practical knowledge and developing new skills instead of simply remembering facts and recalling concepts.
Many NovoEd professors,- such as Chuck Eesley of TechEntr – are fantastic at keeping in touch via social media, watching and participating in discussions via Facebook and Twitter. Whilst students are discouraged from contacting them directly, most professors seem happy to participate in discussions.
Although Open Learning is a relatively new edtech startup from Australia (founded by Adam Brimo and Richard Buckland), it is already a very promising place for studying. Courses are created by professionals and teachers. Freedom of expression and a rich library of available tools allow them to make a unique experience for students.
The most popular courses started recently in OpenLearning.
Students have opportunities to engage with learning and the community in new ways: tracking progress, earning badges and blogging about your thoughts, ideas and experiences helps to enrich your learning experience. Getting lost is impossible because course structure, profiles,and notifications are easy to learn and use.
In our list of MOOCs, Open Learning is the youngest platform. However, as it introduces new ways of teaching, studying and is evolving quickly, so might stumble upon a fascinating adventure whilst exploring it.
The Saylor Foundation has a long history. It was established in 1999 by the prominent entrepreneur, founder and CEO of BI company MicroStrategy Michael J. Saylor and in 2008 switched focus to providing free, open, university-like classes for people around the world.
Saylor University’s Areas of Study.
Currently, you can find more than 200 different courses on saylor.org. There are two key features that really make Saylor stand out: lots of courses on Humanities and Business and the level of courses are higher and more college-like. All courses are self-paced but a time-advisory system helps you to plan your studies. Moreover, after completion you can go to a testing center and get credits for most of their courses.
Saylor Foundation is a great platform if you want to study at your own pace, seek knowledge at a higher-than-introductory level and have good organizational skills.
Hint for high school students: you can find a helpful course, SAT prep, on Saylor.
Featured and new courses worth taking a look in Udemy.
All courses are self-paced but most of them are not free. However, prices vary and if you find a course unsatisfactory, you can always request a refund during first 30 days without providing any explanation. Don’t have time or money to take course right now? No worries, Udemy has a Wishlist feature that allows you to save and try the course later.
Udemy is transforming education by making it peer-to-peer and going beyond traditional academic subjects.
Open Learning Initiative
The Open Learning Initiative was started in 2001 as a grant-funded project by the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. Since then, 6 charity organizations, including The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have supported them. What makes this platform unique is the integration of Carnegie Mellon’s expertise in cognitive tutoring into online courses. The idea of Metacognition (“Thinking about thinking”) helps people to study effectively.
Example of Learn by Doing at Open Learning Initiative.
Although the course database is not yet very large, existing courses involve more than just reading or watching content. Student activities such as “Learn by Doing” and “Did I get this?” as well as great course feedback will help you study more effectively and have fun along the way. Moreover, many traditional universities and some MOOCs (Introduction to Psychology as a Science by GeorgiaTech for example) decided to use the OLI as supportive material to enrich student’s experience and create higher engagement.
Today we’ve walked you through five promising MOOCs worth watching and trying. Still, there are many more places that can turn your laptop or mobile into a living university. Don’t stop searching for cool online universities – this journey is fun and brings many new experiences, knowledge and friends.
This post is part of a series on the Beginner’s Guide to MOOCs:
Want to share your experience and the places we didn’t cover? Comment or send us email at email@example.com We’ll be happy to hear from you and cover new MOOCs or anything else you want in our next articles.
On Accredible, you can add Slates to your knowledge profile to showcase your knowledge, skills, or coursework. We’re hosting a contest for winning slates, and because when everyone learns, everyone wins, we’re helping YOU create a winning Slate. The first topic we’ll explore is MOOC slates. Most of MOOCs offer a certificate upon successful completion of the course, but all the knowledge, all of your work is gone or spread out after the class is over. Creation of an Accredible Slate helps you to save this work and show it later to your friends and potential employers.
What to put on a Slate?
First of all, pay attention to syllabuses. In most courses’ information pages the syllabuses are long and obscure. For people viewing your Slate, you don’t want all of this detail. He or she wants concise and specific syllabuses which will cover all the areas of knowledge and all the skills you gained during the course. In one of next hacks, we will explore how to create such a syllabus in more detail.
Secondly, your work from the course should be present: assignments, notes and even screenshots of your grades.
Thirdly, think outside the box. How about:
extra work. Decide to dig deeper and write a short research paper on topic X? Awesome! That will enhance your Slate’s credibility and show that you’re a proactive learner.
mind maps on notes. Don’t like long written notes but enjoy structured knowledge? Mind maps are one of the best ways to show that you worked with class material and understood it well.
forum discussions posts. You were an active student and discussed your ideas with peers? That’s fantastic! Copy all your posts to a document or screenshot them and insert it onto your Slate. This way people can see that you’re a good collaborator and an articulate thinker.
If you need additional motivation to complete course X, or more organized knowledge and better planning, create a private Slate with all the course and extra work you’re going to do before starting the course . This way you’re killing 3 birds (yes, 3!) with one stone:
You know what to do and when you will do it. Many students drop out of courses due to poor planning.
You’ve already put in some effort on the course by creating a Slate – the more work you put into a particular course, the harder it becomes for you to drop out.
During the course, you will be motivated to work much more since not only are you able to see your Slate after the class is over, but also friends, potential employers and the general public. Thus, you will gain more knowledge and skills during the course.
With each Hack we’ll include an example Slate to help you visualize what we’re talking about. Danny’s Slate for his Coursera Gamification course is a great example. Pay specific attention to his syllabus as an example of providing a great outline whilst being relatively concise: https://www.accredible.com/3
We hope this brief blog post on MOOCs Slate will help you to create better Slates. In our next blog post we’ll explore the creation of Slates for the self-paced learning category.
This post is part of a series on the Hacks to Create Winning Slates:
At Accredible, we are passionate about learning. In this article we walk you through the three largest MOOC platforms today: Coursera, Udacity and edX. How are they different? What kind of courses do they offer? What platform will suit you the best? We’ll give you the knowledge to choose when and how to study from each, based on your own interests and learning styles.
So, what is a MOOC? The term has been around the web for a couple of years and Wikipedia gives the following definition:
A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aiming at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and TAs. MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.
Founded a year ago, by Stanford Computer Science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, Coursera is the most popular MOOC platform today. More than 3 million students take classes on diverse topics offered by 62 universities from various countries.
What makes Coursera unique is the wide range of subjects they cover. You can take courses in Arts, Economics, Life Sciences, Law, Computer Science, Chemistry and many more, all taught by leading educators throughout the world. This great variety gives you incredible flexibility to explore as many topics as interest you, no matter how diverse your interests are.
Each course runs on a fixed schedule so you’ll have to ensure that you have enough free time to study the courses that you want, but if you miss a particular course or there are too many that clash you can simply study them the next time the re-open. Some courses also offer archives and self-paced schedules
Coursera does not produce the courses on their platform themselves, but rather allows universities to create them under a set of guidelines and a common structure, generally consisting of weekly short video lectures, content quizzes and assignments and also including a midterm and final exam but this varies between courses. Some have only quizzes and videos whilst others have only a final exam. Also, computing courses generally have automated coding assignments while humanities courses usually use peer-reviewed essay assignments. The final decisions on teaching style, course content and grading rubrics are made by the individual universities and so quality and style can vary between courses.
Most courses offer free completion certificates (although not all) and some are eligible for Coursera’s Signature Track, which for a fee can give you an enhanced certificate for which Coursera verifies your identity.
Udacity is another Stanford-born MOOC platform and was founded by Sebastian Thrun, David Stavens and Mike Sokolsky in February 2012. Unlike Coursera, the emphasis was mainly on Computer Science but they have since expanded to include Mathematics, Physics, Business and Psychology courses to its catalog.
Unlike Coursera, Udacity courses are all self-paced; you can study as much or as little as you like each week. This can be very valuable for students that have less flexible schedules or less free time. Of course, this also requires stronger motivation and organizational skills to complete the courses without Coursera’s looming deadlines – which many students find useful. However, many students have found great ways to overcome these challenges and we’ll be sharing these secrets with you in another article in this series!
Also unlike Coursera, which has many introductory courses, Udacity courses are divided into three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Each course also has requirements and follow-up courses, making it easy to plan a more structured, “degree-like” curriculum.
Udacity create all of their courses themselves and they follow their own unique pedagogy style with strict quality control. The team of instructors, teaching assistants and video editors work closely together to create courses that are well designed and highly polished.
Founded in 2012 by MIT and Harvard, edX is the East Coast answer to Stanford-initiated startups. Initially, edX offered Engineering, Computer Science and Science courses but they now offer courses on Humanities and Liberal Arts too. Many other universities have now joined non-profit initiative: Berkeley, The University of Texas System, McGill Australian National University, Wellesley, Georgetown university, University of Toronto, Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, Tu Delft and Rice.
The nature of edX courses is much more similar to offline college courses than with the other platforms but there is a feeling of great polish and quality for each one, especially with their Computer Science assignments which are very in-depth and interactive. Unlike Udacity, courses are not self-paced and unlike Coursera, the courses usually last between 10-12 weeks as opposed to Coursera’s shorter 5-8 week average.
You may find edX courses more challenging than courses of other platforms because edX’s courses are much more rigorous than Coursera’s and less tolerant in terms of deadlines than Udacity’s. However, the studying process is organized in the way most convenient to the student. It’s consistent: once you learn how to use edX, you won’t have to change your studying approaches and habits due to the new regulations or policies.
MOOCs are a young phenomenon and they are still evolving dramatically. So which platform should you choose? Each platform has its own unique style, pros and cons and many students prefer to study on several platforms simultaneously. Each will enhance your knowledge and help you to develop skills in expertise at the amazing price of $0. If you want to diversify your knowledge, browsing Coursera’s huge breath of subjects is a great place to start. If you are more interested in gaining a deeper understanding of a subject, then Udacity and edX are excellent options for when you want to advance beyond introductory courses.
In our next article in this series we will explore other less well-known but equally valuable MOOC platforms.
This post is part of a series on the Beginner’s Guide to MOOCs:
What do you think of the ‘big three?’ Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments! If you have any ideas, questions or suggestions for future articles send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll respond to every one!
Experts believe that the two most essential needs of a learner are:
Freedom to explore and express ideas
Access to resources that aid in getting answers to their questions
Perhaps this is why massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been a catalyst for discussion and created a huge buzz. For the first time people have the opportunity to learn whatever they want from the best professors in the world, for free. 2012 will always be remembered as the year of the MOOC. Now we all have the ability to enhance our CVs, gain new skills and broaden our minds if we’re willing to join the adventure. Missing this opportunity is a huge mistake.
But the world of MOOCs can be complex and unfriendly for the new adventurer. What is a MOOC platform? What are the differences between various MOOC platforms, such as NovoEd and Coursera? Where can I gain particular skills which will suit me the best? How can I choose between two courses with similar material? How can I study effectively, succeeding in my studies whilst balancing my real-world responsibilities? Finding the answers to these questions can be frustrating and time consuming, ultimately detracting from what you’re trying to learn. Why not learn from the experience of others?
Accredible is happy to announce the series of articles which will help to make your educational journey easier and more enjoyable. We will guide you through the maze of platforms and courses, giving you roadmap to make the most of your studies.
The disruption happening in education is opening access like never before. Everybody now has the opportunity to educate themselves, regardless of their socio-economic background or geographic location. An internet connection, proper motivation and a little time are the only things needed to wield the awesome power of knowledge.
So, enjoy the ride whilst we take you on a journey through the education revolution. Let us know what you want us to explore, what problems you’ve encountered and stay tuned for the next post.
This post is part of a series on the Beginner’s Guide to MOOCs: