MOOCs are an amazing development in self-directed, open-access education. Never before have the materials that universities and other institutions use to teach their students been freely available to anyone with an internet connection. And they’re perfect for any homeschooler interested in getting high-quality education for free (that’s everyone, right?).
You’ve heard of Khan Acadamy? MOOCS are kind of like Khan Academy, but even better. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, and they’re exactly what they say – a course that usually has thousands of people enrolled, is open to anyone, and is delivered online. Most MOOCs are provided by top universities and colleges and delivered by experts in the field. Many are actual courses offered by the university – you get the same resources as paying students, except contact and feedback from the teaching staff, and an academic transcript.
You can find MOOCs about virtually every topic – my kids have completed MOOCs about moons, becoming a vet, general science, anatomy and physiology, masonry and ecology (I’ve just realised that we’re definitely a science-loving family!). I completed one about dementia to complement my nursing degree, and my eldest daughter has just started the first of a series learning Italian.
Some provide free certificates, while others require you to pay for the certificate. Many include basic gamification, which my kids love-the small additions like progress bars and grading create intrinsic rewards.
Obviously, nothing is all sunshine and lollipops. Here’s some problems with MOOCs that are worth anticipating.
Overall though, MOOCs are fantastic. Our children didn’t use the computer for any of their work before MOOCs came along. We’re pretty old-fashioned when it comes to technology use-any technology-related learning has to prove its merit before it is added to our work (the vast majority of what I’ve seen touted as educational on computers / ipads etc is nothing more than repetitive, mindless games with a thin layer of education slapped on top as a seeming afterthought, but hey, that’s my archaic opinion).
MOOCs were good enough for us to get our older three on the computer, and anyone who knows us will know that that’s very high praise indeed.
Have I convinced you to try a MOOC? Here are the best places to find high-quality courses.
There are many other MOOCs that are run individually by universities – for example, UTAS’s Understanding Dementia MOOC, which I mentioned completing myself. A google search using the keywords ‘MOOC’ with your topic (eg. MOOC hula hooping – one exists! Really!) should show any available.
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