What the MOOC? 7 things you should know.

Recently I have noticed MOOCs being discussed, more frequently, within my professional learning network (PLN). This year I heard @NatalieGoldman speak on MOOCs and I completed my first MOOC so I thought I would examine what they are, why you would use one and the benefits of them for personal development.

What is a MOOC?

MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course. They are often free and run with flexible completion times. To date they have been facilitated by large education groups often universities. Many offer a certificate at the conclusion. 

Completion Rates

The completion rate of MOOCs is quite low. Wikipedia (I know not a very good source, but easy) claims while many people enrol in MOOCs only 10% of participants complete the course. EdCentral claims a 4% completion rate. This could be because of several factors.
  • Time - MOOCs are often completed during non-work time. Many things compete for this time including family and friends. Finding dedicated uninterrupted study time over several weeks can be difficult for many people.
  • Cost - MOOCs are free!!! This could be a factor in the poor completion rate. If you pay for something you are likely to value it more. This article by EdCentral provides an interesting perspective on how the completion rates are calculated. It proposes that the figures used to calculate the completions rates should be reconsidered as it includes everyone who registers and never logs on. A good read.
  • Easy to register - MOOCs are very easy to register for. This could contribute to the low completion rate as people forget they have registered and never log on.
  • Computer Skills - MOOCs are free however they require an understanding of social media. Some people find navigating multiple social media platforms confusing or tedious and don't persevere. The MOOC I completed in June 2014 was fantastic and I had no difficulty navigating the different platforms however I can see some people finding this to hard.
    The MOOC I recently completed used: 
    • A main course page
    • Youtube links from the page
    • Google Plus community
    • Pinterest

How do MOOCs differ from traditional education?

MOOCs differ from traditional education in the following ways they:
  • Often run with thousands of participants
  • Use blended learning a variety of reading, video, chat
  • Do not have a lecturer
  • Are flexible, you complete the content when you like
  • Incorporate peer to peer learning and marking
  • Are facilitated not taught
MOOCs often incorporate a form of social networking and may include:
  • chat
  • youtube
  • forums
  • Twitter chats
  • Google plus communities. 
  • Pinterest
I think the forums and social media used is endless. The format for MOOCs is also flexible and seems to be evolving to include 

Why would someone complete a MOOC?

There are many reasons someone would choose to complete a MOOC. Some of them include:

  • A great way to learn more skills
  • Flexible learning tool
  • Social learning tool where you can complete a course with friends or colleagues

How can I find a MOOC?

There are two main ways to find a MOOC. 
Many MOOCs are cross posted on the platforms listed below.

Does the MOOC give me a qualification?

Many MOOCs will ofter a certificate of completion. While they are often issued by a university I don't think business currently recognise these as formal or post secondary education. Depending on the industry you are in they may be more or less valued. I would welcome comments regarding your experiences with MOOCs and employer responses to MOOCs.

A MOOC certificate will demonstrate to an employer that you:
  • Have an interest in personal learning
  • You are able to learn new skills or knowledge
  • Are self motivated to begin and complete a MOOC
  • Show initiative
  • Have various interests

Do MOOCs have a place in the workplace or educational settings?

As MOOCs become more popular. The question is do MOOCs have a place in the workplace and in formal education?

I believe MOOCs do have a place in the workplace and formal education under certain conditions.

The Workplace

Some questions the learner and the employer should consider together include
  • Does the MOOC relate to workplace goals?
    When undertaking a MOOC at work it is important the content be aligned to workplace goals.
  • Is the MOOC going to enhance work place learning?
    MOOCs should enhance learning in the work place. It would ideal if it could replace formal instructor led learning to reduce time spent off work related tasks or double up of information.
  • Will the employer ofter work hours to assist the employee with their completion of the course?
    By offering time at work to complete a MOOC it could increase completion rates and employee morale.
  • Is there a group of employees completing the MOOC together?
    If a group of people complete the MOOC together it could contribute to:
    • Collegiality
    • Morale
    • Completion rate
    • Increased learning

Formal Education

Do MOOCs have a place in formal education. I personal think could have a place. I would like to see MOOCs used to assist teachers differentiate school content. It is difficult for teachers to cater for the academic learning of all students in the class and alot of work goes into planning. Academic levels within a class can often differ by years. I think MOOCs could assist with this differentiation particularly in secondary students. Primary students are limited due to age restrictions placed on social media of >13 years.
  • If a student is achieving at a level beyond the current class. A MOOC would allow the student to continue on an area of interest that was different to the standard class content but still related to the topic area. 
  • The teacher would need to assist with the location of a suitable course.
  • The teacher would need to conference with the student to ensure they are understanding and completing tasks.
  • The student would need an acceptable level of computer skills to navigate the platforms used by the MOOC.
  • The student may need to create profiles on different social media platforms.

Follow others interested in MOOCs on Twitter