During the last three years, I have used Coursera, FutureLearn and EdX. I am far more motivated to start and finish a MOOC, or any form of learning for that matter, if there is a structure and a deadline.
I have taken many classes offered by Coursera and I love their platform. I find it very user-friendly; the different segments cover nicely the topic and I always come away feeling like I’ve learnt something. The courses’ level varies from teacher to teacher. My favourite MOOC so far was the Constitutional Struggles in the Middle East, which is currently offered for the second time. What I appreciated was professor Afsah’s depth of knowledge and determination to cover as many aspects of the topic as possible through excellent video lectures and interesting assignments. It was a challenging course, but it was definitely worth it.
FutureLearn is a younger, somehow sleeker version of Coursera. As a platform, it borrows heavily from Coursera, but also sets itself apart with its comment section under every ‘step’ and the combination of text and video. I found the first MOOC I tried very interesting, but not particularly ambitious as far as the assignments were concerned. Then I took the Lips and Teeth class by Yonsei University, which boasted a brilliant instructor and a very compelling topic. That was the class that really showcased the potentials of the platform.
My EdX experience is limited, as I have only completed one course. Unfortunately, I find the platform unpleasant to use. My least favourite part of it is the forums, which felt chaotic, rendering any effort for proper discussion impossible. I haven’t tried to follow another class after that first experience, though I took a look at it today and no major changes in its structure seem to have taken place.
My advice is, if you decide to take a MOOC, start small. Sign up for one course, not five. If you are really interested in a few of them, choose the one that you will more likely complete. It is also very important to be aware of the level of the class and of your level. Overall, be honest with yourself and assess your skills; think about why you want to study the topic and how much time you are able to devote to it. If you don’t manage to follow a course, don’t be discouraged. Popular courses run again every few months.
That being said, is it really worth spending time studying a MOOC? Yes. Especially if you are not sure what you want to do in life, if you are in high school and you want to figure out which field and university would suit you, if you need help with your coursework, or if you just have some free time and lots of interests. For better or for worse, we live in a chaotic, interconnected world. The more we understand other nations’ point of views or the way our natural world functions, the less scary the time and age that we live in will become. However, it takes dedication, effort and the desire to learn. MOOCs, like all academic work, can only get you so far. It is up to you to get your hands dirty by reading additional material, following the news or working on that project you always wanted to.
Do you have any further questions regarding MOOCs? Please leave a comment.