Among the newest trends in higher education are massive open online courses, or MOOCs. MOOCs are free online course anyone can take.
Whether you’re a college student or a graduate, you may be interested in this increasingly popular way to learn.
The History of Free Online Courses
One of the first schools to offer massive open online courses was Stanford University. The school presented three free online courses in 2011, and each one attracted more than 100,000 people. Students of all ages were suddenly clamoring to take classes from prestigious colleges without having to meet strict academic requirements or pay tuition.
After seeing the incredible popularity of MOOCs, several other schools soon followed suit. The next academic institutions to offer massive open online courses included Ivy League schools like Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.
These days, the list is growing and includes the University of Michigan, MIT, and Georgetown, to name just a few schools offering free online courses.
How MOOCs Work
If you have ever taken online college classes from your school, you have an idea of how free online courses work. Usually there is a video lecture you can watch at your leisure, and then you may be quizzed on the material. There is often also a forum that you can use to talk to other students about what you are learning.
In most cases, you do not get college credit when you take massive open online courses. However, you do get a certificate of completion that may impress future employers who see that you have advanced your knowledge of a particular subject.
Furthermore, some schools are working on allowing college credit for free online courses, but it may take years for this to be official. Plus, there may be a small fee to take the standardized test this would likely require, and you’ll have to pay to send your transcript to the school of your choice.
Pros and Cons of Massive Open Online Courses
The clear benefit of MOOCs is that they are free. If you do not have thousands of dollars to spend per year for higher education, and you cannot obtain the financial aid you need, a free option may be very appealing.
Plus, massive open online courses provide the same flexibility as online classes you would find at most colleges, which is great for busy schedules. But unlike traditional online courses, you do not have to be a student at a university to take MOOCs. This means you benefit from the prestige of taking courses from renowned schools without having to meet the stringent standards first.
Of course, if you are looking to get enough credits for a college degree when you take massive open online courses, you will be disappointed. Even if this is possible in the future, it will likely take years for the majority of colleges to offer credit to students in free online courses, and it could take the same amount of time for most schools to accept these credits from applicants.
In general, massive open online courses may be right for you when you are interested in a particular subject but lack the money to pay for a traditional college class. You can take MOOCs in tandem with your regular college coursework, or you may decide to take them to stimulate your brain as you start applying to colleges or jobs. The choice is yours.