MOOCs have taken the world of higher education by storm, but it’s still far from being a household term.
What exactly is a MOOC, and how do they work? Here are answers to those and more of the most frequently-asked questions about these new online courses.
MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course. It's an online course that anyone can enroll in. There are no limits on the number of students, and it’s common for thousands or tens of thousands to register for a single course. MOOCs are often taught by college and university professors through a dedicated MOOC website like Coursera.org, edX.org, or Udacity.com.
Course materials usually include video lectures, reading assignments, online quizzes, and online interaction with other students. The structure allows you to participate on your own schedule instead of having to be in class at a specific time.
The massive size of MOOCs prevents teachers from individually grading papers. Instead, evaluation is done by computer or by your fellow students. Interactive quizzes and tests can provide immediate scores automatically, while written assignments can be peer-reviewed by your fellow students following a grading rubric provided by the instructor.
MOOCs are free for anyone to register and take. Some MOOCs offer a certificate verifying your identity and course completion for a small fee. Coursera, for example, offers a Signature Track that costs between $30 – 90.
Most MOOC organizations, such as Coursera or Iversity, do not offer college credit. Some colleges will allow you to transfer credit from a MOOC, but only if you’ve taken the paid version of the course and have a certificate proving you completed it.
For college students, MOOCs can help you learn topics that may not be offered at your university, and save you a lot of money if you can meet the qualifications to transfer credits.
Some experts say MOOCs are revolutionizing higher education by making college-level courses available to everyone with a computer and Internet access. Since they’re free or low-cost, MOOCs open up higher education to those who may not have the means to afford enrolling at a university.
If you’re interested in participating in MOOCs as a part of your college education, talk to your advisor to find out how you can integrate MOOCs into your education. They may be able to work with you to design a more customized degree with course offerings not available at your college.
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