Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were once seen as a compromise on the quality of education in academic circles and employers. But as more and more schools and colleges have closed down because of the coronavirus pandemic, they have become a necessity.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the education’s digital divide like never before. It has also become the largest experiment in online learning worldwide. Online education has become the only means to instruct children and youth now.
Here, we will discuss why everyone should explore MOOCs as a way to enrich themselves during these stressful times:
Choose What to Study, When to Study, and How to Study
edX, the popular MOOC platform, is a consortium led by top universities of the world like Harvard and MIT. It released its first MOOC on ‘Circuits and Electronics’ (6.002x) in March 2012. The researchers analyzed 155,000 students who registered for the online course and made many interesting revelations.
The MOOC included a set of lecture sequences that were less than 10 minutes long on average. These lectures were released every week and included illustrations, text, and equations. After each lecture video, the MOOC included an online exercise to quickly practice the concept discussed in the video.
The course also included:
- tutorials (akin to small-group recitations),
- a textbook in electronic form,
- a discussion forum for students, and
- a Wiki with additional resources.
A MOOC student had to earn grades through completing:
- homework assignments,
- online laboratory assignments,
- a midterm exam, and
- a final exam.
The researchers found that while students used instructional resources (like textbooks, video lectures, and online exercises) more on weekends, they did their assignments just ahead of the deadline. After each exam, a drop was noted in the use of the electronic textbook.
Weekends are the time when students have more spare time. Assignment submission deadlines set a state of emergency to disrupt procrastination in students. 90% of students just viewed the threads on the discussion forum or delved into discussions while solving homework problems.
Researchers noted that while solving assignments, students relied more on lecture videos and discussions. But when taking an exam (which is open-source in a MOOC and allows you to view all available resources), they relied more on the textbook.
The study reveals that MOOCs give more flexibility to students to decide:
- when and where they want to study,
- which resources to use, and
- in which order these resources should be used.
MOOCs Make Education Accessible to Everyone
In the digital economy, new-age skills, practices, and innovations have become even more relevant. Our information systems, including new, media, and academia, have become more accessible. They have also become more open and individualized. As McAuley et al. noted in their paper ‘The MOOC Model for Digital Practice‘:
‘The MOOC is open and invitational. No one who wishes to participate is excluded.’
The paper also points out since MOOCs have several hundred to several thousand participants at once, they are a great way to find someone with specific expertise and similar interests. Individuals can use a range of collaborative software environments to share and collaborate with such people.
Another research published last year confirmed that the key advantages of MOOCs for university students were:
- wide offerings,
- open access to everyone,
- free access to audiovisual materials, and
- networking opportunities for participating students.
MOOCs are a Great Way of Continuous Learning
One can never stop learning – whether it is about personal development or professional environment. Today, when technology is changing at such a rapid rate, adding new skills to your portfolio has become even more relevant.
Online courses allow you to join the course of your choice from the best mentors or trainers worldwide as well as from the best universities in the world for free at a very affordable price. These courses can translate to more opportunities for you in the job market.
MOOCs also pave your way to career advancement. If you are already working somewhere, you can enroll in a massive open online course of your choice, upgrade your skills and knowledge, and increases your chances of landing a promotion.
Helen Eagleton, in her article, ‘5 important reasons to invest in Lifelong Learning‘ advises that a step as simple as learning a foreign language can spark curiosity in you about the associated culture and people. It not only helps you communicate effectively across cultures and dead with foreign clientele but also makes you more engaged and less prejudiced.
New Skills Can Help You in Professional Development
Today, employers demand advanced computer and project management skills irrespective of which profession you choose.
For example, a finance specialist who can program trading systems or develop machine learning programming codes to fine-tune predictive analytics available in the market will naturally have an advantage over his/her competitors. MOOC platforms like edX and Coursera many programs free of cost. Other platforms that offer paid online courses (like Udemy) also offer courses that are high in demand.
Ellie has rightly mentioned in her article that excellent language skills go a long way in increasing your employability. If you are a foreign student and English is your foreign language, you can take online courses to master the language. Or you can learn other languages in your free time online and be more relevant to employers with businesses or trade links in other parts of the world.
Other courses that one can learn online to fast-track their career path may include:
- 3D Printing.
- Artificial Intelligence.
- Big Data.
- Blockchain Technology.
- Extended Reality Robotics.
- Internet of Things.
Unlock Your Destiny by Improving Your Emotional Intelligence
The co-founder of GoAssignmentHelp, says, “Emotional intelligence is what sets high performers apart from their peers.” Harvard Business Review also agrees that you need to have the ability to understand and manage your emotions as well as of those around you to be a good leader. MOOCs that can teach you collaboration, negotiation skills, how to manage stress, how to coach teams, and how to give feedback go a long way in paving your success path for you.
Many popular MOOC platforms offer leadership courses. EdX offers a course on ‘Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work’.
FutureLearn offers a MOOC on ‘Developing Cultural Intelligence for Leadership’.
The University of Pennsylvania offers a ‘Foundation of Positive Psychology‘ at Coursera. All these courses can help you in overcoming personality flaws that may be acting as a barrier to your professional as well as personal happiness.
Creativity is also an aspect of your personality that can help you solve problems and exploit opportunities. And it is not something reserved for the highly gifted. There are proven ways to help you become more creative and innovative at work. ‘Creativity, Innovation, and Change‘ is a very popular course on Coursera.
More than 200,000 people from more than 190 countries have already attended it. 67% of them got a tangible career benefit from it while 25% got a promotion or a pay raise due to it.
The University of Queensland is offering ‘Design Thinking and Creativity for Innovation’ on edX. It is meant for everyone – from teachers to entrepreneurs to managers in small or large organizations. This course aims to help people use their creativity and design thinking skills to find opportunities for innovation and how to build organizations to support such creative and innovative thinking.
If you are in quarantine, use this opportunity to reflect on your shortcomings and find MOOCs to turn them into your strengths.
Become a Global Citizen by Mastering Intercultural Communication
Many businesses are operating in many countries these days. Their workforce is divided – online and offline. Communicating with each other across borders has become easy and fast with the help of technology. Still, interactions become complicated between people of different cultures.
MOOCs on Intercultural Communication can help you understand the dynamics and dimensions of intercultural interactions that can lead to conflict. When you understand communication styles, stereotypes, and generalizations in different countries, it becomes easier to plan successful intercultural communication strategies and orientations to help your organization work with cross-border talent and attract new markets easily.
Taking online courses on intercultural communication can help you understand the personal, social, cultural, institutional, and professional aspects of communication in different contexts. They also help you have a better grasp of the history and psychology of the country you focus on. It can help build your confidence and increase your adaptability in cross-cultural environments.
It can also help you professionally by making you more suitable for leadership positions in cross-cultural work teams or in situations where you have to deal with partners and clients across borders.
Whether you dream to study abroad or travel around the world, intercultural communication courses can help you learn and experience the world and its people more.
Be Fit With MOOCs – Yes! That’s Possible
Mary Beth Kavanagh offers you a course on ‘Designing Your Personal Weight Loss Plan‘ on Coursera. Starting from April 17, 2020, one can enroll in this course for free. This 5-week course offers you all the tools you need to design an individualized evidence-based weight loss program.
Many other MOOCs can help you achieve your fitness goals during this Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown without stepping out of your homes. Some help you dispel myths about diet and nutrition. Others focus on exercising hacks to make you fit and strong in less time.
Stanford University is offering an online course called ‘Staying Fit’ meant for adults interested in learning more about:
- healthy eating.
- exercise, and
- sleep habits.
This course provides students with evidence-based, affordable, and easily accessible tools to lead a healthy and happy life in the long term.
Other popular fitness MOOCs are related to:
- science of exercise.
- understanding our vital signs.
- understanding psychology fundamentals, and
- how to improve our brain health.
You can also find bodybuilding classes online for beginners. They can help you shed fat, build muscles, and get ripped. These courses offer you nutrition plans, workout plans, and motivation to help you achieve your body goals easily.
Online Degrees Are More Acceptable in the Job Market Today
Until the last decade, many employers used to wonder about the credibility and authenticity of online degrees. They used to wonder if a candidate cheated during his or her online exam. But online exam proctoring through webcam, mic, and access to the students’ screen has pushed such worries aside. Now, students from a remote location take an online proctored test.
San Jose mentions three ways in which proctoring is done in an online exam:
- Live Online Proctoring — Here, the invigilator can monitor up to 16 or 32 candidates live at a time through the screen share feeds and audio-video feeds of students. They can authenticate students and keep an eye on any suspicious activities that may signal to cheat. This process is a bit expensive and not scalable to cover hundreds of online students though.
- Recorded Proctoring — Here, no real-time invigilator is required. The audio-video and screen share feeds of all candidates taking the test are recorded. They are played by proctors at 3-20 times the speed of the recording to check out for any red flags. While recorded proctoring saves time, we still need humans here.
- Advanced Automated Proctoring— In this method, the system uses advanced audio and video analytics to raise a red flag when it spots any suspicious activity while recording the candidates’ audio-video and screen share feeds. Some of the things that it focuses on are:
- enough light in the room to record suspicious objects or voice activity in the background,
- face recognition for student authentication,
- limit candidate’s login to a specific IP address,
- blocking students’ access of the device to access other applications or use copy-paste options, and
- the focus of students on the test screen during the duration of the test.
Such advanced systems help strengthen the trust of employers in online degrees one acquires.
So, whether you are a graduate looking to add more skills to your kitty or a worker who wants a chance at a better career, MOOCs offer you new hope and open up new opportunities for you.