What should you consider when joining a MOOC?

If you are considering doing a massive open online course (MOOC) on platforms like Coursera, edX, Udacity or Udemy, you can easily be overwhelmed by all the new stuff you can learn there. Here’s some advice for beginners which might enhance your learning experience.

1. Take your time

Be aware of the fact that MOOCs require a lot of time and energy. Rearrange your leisure time. Expect to watch less TV in the upcoming weeks, and to sacrifice your lazy sundays for the writing of peer review assignments.

2. Use mobile devices

You can watch course videos on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablet-PCs – which allows you to learn while you’re commuting or chilling out in the park. However, you still need a PC for e.g. participating in group discussions ot writing peer review assignments.

3. Try out different courses

Most courses on platforms like Coursera and edX are free; that means that you can try out different courses by different lecturers and then finish those which fit best to your priorities.

4. Don’t expect too much for your career

Many MOOCs try to gain your attention by promising exciting career opportunities with the completion of the course. This might happen eventually – but it might as well turn out that you pass several online exams and still stick to your old job. After all, many employers outside the US don’t even know what a “MOOC” is and hence won’t consider employing a candidate who learned some weird stuff on the web.

5. Talk about your experiences – but not too much

Talking about your newly acquired knowledge is great, because it helps you to memorize what you have learned. Also, it might be entertaining for your friends to broaden their knowledge on whatever course you have taken. But you should also keep in mind that not everybody will share your excitement and that even some of your best friends might get bored when you keep on babbling for hours about that corporate-finance-course that you’ve taken on Khan Academy.

6. Don’t take peer reviews too seriously

Generally, the internet is full of dickheads. Fortunately, MOOC-participants have proven to be tolerant, open-minded and mostly intelligent – but that doesn’t mean that all of them understand the peer review assignments. Actually, it happened to me several times that I got a bad grade on Coursera, because another student didn’t read the assignment briefing properly. Don’t be angry at them. After all, it’s a free course and the MIT-professor can’t find the time to grade the assignments of all his 50.000 MOOC-participants.

7. You can take the exams, but you don’t have to

Passing the exams is great, because it gives you self-confidence, provides you with a final certificate at the end of the course and – most importantly – helps you to check how well you understood the subject of the course. However, there are also several reasons NOT to do the exams – e.g. when you don’t have enough time or you are basically just taking the course for fun…

8. Have fun

…which brings me to the most important part: Have fun! Enjoy the fact that you’re watching the lecture of an elite university instead of a football game, help your peers in the discussion forums and enjoy their feedback, and build something great with your newly acquired knowledge. You can learn anything you want to learn nowadays – you just have to seize the opportunity.

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Stefan is a Journalist, storyteller and troublemaker from Vienna. He loves to try out new things. Click here to buy his books. or click here to visit his blog.

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