What is a Massive Open Online Course and how can I benefit from this type of course work?

A Massive Open Online Course, which is also known as MOOC for short, is a type of online learning course designed for learners of different ages and skill sets. These types of programs are easily accessible by anyone with an Internet connection and computer. A typical user could be anyone from a student in high school who wants to prep for college, or post-grads wishing to set their resumé apart from other individuals in their career field. MOOCs offer traditional class materials, as well as, filmed lectures, videos, and interactive courses. You’ll also receive support from professors, teaching assistants and fellow students.

Massive Open Online Course programs first began in 2006 and became popular in 2012. Since then, this form of online distance schooling has become a prevalent mode of learning due to its convenience. With its open access to all, it provides affordability that other online programs cannot offer. What’s the catch? This is where it gets tricky. MOOC programs do not typically grant academic credits; however, if you are paying tuition, they might.

Some websites may offer MOOCs for free (or at least certain aspects of the course,) for universities offering MOOC programs may require fees similar to traditional tuition, especially if you are expecting academic credits. Leading universities across the country offering MOOCs include Stanford University, John Hopkins University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Subjects range anywhere from computer science, the humanities, art and design, and engineering.

Millions of students utilize MOOCs annually, with the popular MOOC site Coursera seeing over 5 million students log on in 2013 alone. Today there are a variety of sites offering these types of courses, such as EdX, Udemy or FutureLearn, to name a few. MOOCs require four to six weeks of study, making them an excellent choice for students who want to learn quickly.

Besides gaining specialized knowledge or credits toward a degree, MOOC participants may also receive a variety of certifications based on the courses they complete, especially if it is a one-off course. These can include open badges, a statement of accomplishment, or certification. A declaration of accomplishment is free, while users must pay for the verified certificate once the course is complete. All these rewards for completing courses can be included on a person’s resumé or LinkedIn profile, showing they have extra experience in a field of study outside of their degree.

Signing up and completing a MOOC can help you sharpen your skills or branch out and learn an entirely new subject or skill. There are several key points to research on MOOCs before signing on. If you are interested in free courses, verify that every portion of the course is tuition-free. Be sure to look for hidden fees. If you are interested in earning academic credits towards a degree, research this very carefully. Some programs do not offer this option, only a certification, for example. Also, if you are working towards a degree, make sure an accredited school offers your MOOC program, or you may need to repeat the coursework later.

As Massive Open Online Courses are good for certain applications, you may also be interested in an online distance learning program to earn academic credits. If so, check out our list of accredited online degree programs, such as the Best Online Schools for Associate in Business Administration opportunities. OnlineSchoolsCenter.com is happy to assist you in all your online learning needs and inquiries.