How To Choose The Right MOOC For You

With the advent of the massively open online course (MOOC) schooling model, people all over the world are taking advantage of this free education platform. Which option is best for you? Continue reading “How To Choose The Right MOOC For You” »

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Making the decision to continue your education can be a difficult one. Figuring out financial aid, being admitted to the school of your choice, family responsibilities, and other barriers can hold you back from furthering your schooling. Over the last few years, the offerings for online courses have become more plentiful, and non-traditional students have more options. With the advent of the massively open online course (MOOC) schooling model, people all over the world are taking advantage of this free schooling option.

Higher education portals, such as edX, Coursera, Udemy, and Udacity now offer courses from top-tier universities around the United States and beyond. You don’t need to have the grades or money to be accepted to Ivy League schools to benefits from the courses that are offered online. Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller said:

“We think education should be a right, not a privilege. Making this type of high-quality education available to everyone around the world can change the world. It allows people to learn the skills they need to make their life and their family’s life better.”

While the basic concept of online classrooms is the same, the course offerings and teaching platforms differ by website. Here is an overview of some of the most popular sites.

Coursera: Created by Stanford University computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, the Coursera platform is the result of years of collaboration to establish a platform capable of granting access to hundreds of thousands of students simultaneously. Each class begins and ends on specified dates, and consists of video lectures, group discussions, and peer-graded homework assignments. Courses are offered for free and range from “Introduction to Astronomy” from Duke University to “Principles of Obesity Economics” from Johns Hopkins University. For a more in-depth look at Coursera, see our recent blog post about Coursera’s latest course offerings.

edX: EdX is a not-for-profit open-source learning platform launched by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They recently partnered with University of California, Berkeley. EdX features courses specifically developed for online learning, and the universities conduct research on the students to see how technology affects learning. Students must sign an honor code to register, and classes begin and end on specified days. Students can watch video lectures at their own pace and have direct access to expert instructors. EdX is based in Cambridge, MA, and is under the supervision of MIT and Harvard.

Udemy: If you are willing to invest some money into courses, Udemy has some interesting options. Udemy has over 4,000 different courses available, from nutrition to entrepreneurship. Registration fees are set by the course instructor, who receives a cut of the fee, and are typically $19-99 per course. Completion certificates are available for some courses.

Udacity: Artificial intelligence experts Mike Sokolsky and David Stavens collaborated with Sebastian Thrun to create Udacity. Instead of basing the courses on a series of lecture videos, Udacity promotes academic engagement and problem solving through quizzes. The highly-specialized classes are free, and focus on science, math, technology, and engineering. You can choose between beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, and you can upload the certificates you earn upon completion.

With all of this information in mind, how do you choose the right MOOC for you? Consider these questions:

  • Do you plan to transfer in the future? Some people take online courses with the intention of going back for a degree later. See if the MOOC you choose offers completion certificates, and if the school you hope to transfer to will accept any credit for course completion. If you know you’re going to enroll in a traditional program, your efforts in free online classes may not be worth your time and effort.
  • What is your time availability? Review the overview of the course to see if assignments and tests are on a specific schedule, or you can complete the work at your own pace. If the class schedule does not mesh well with your work and family life, it can be difficult to keep up on your assignments.
  • How much money do you want to spend? The majority of online course offerings for the sites mentioned are free to enroll. But if there aren’t any free offerings that interest you, you may have to pay a nominal fee. As a not, courses that require a fee will not be eligible for federal financial aid awards.
  • Which site has the best course offerings? If you’re taking classes for general personal learning, it matters less which site you choose. If you are trying to keep within a specific specialty, review the course offerings to see which site has the broadest availability of courses in your field.

Have you enrolled in any of these online platforms? In the comments, tell us what your experience has been.

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