How You Can Benefit From Massive Open Online Courses

Wondering about massive open online courses? Learn about the credibility of these classes, benefits to students, and more with this introduction to MOOCs.

The latest trend in college course catalogs is the inclusion of massive open online courses, aka MOOCs—arguably the most revolutionary facet of higher education today. Building on the foundations of existing online courses, these classes are open to anyone, anywhere, with enrollments in the thousands, at some of the best colleges and universities in the country—all for free. Organizations like Coursera and edX have rapidly changed the face of online courses as they once were, while many colleges and universities offer MOOCS regularly alongside more traditional on-campus options. But are students graduating with the best education they can get via online learning? Is online education what small business owners and entrepreneurs want and need? Here are answers to some of your biggest questions about MOOCs and all the ways they could benefit your education.

All types of students benefit

These online courses are attractive to students who previously would have been identified as “nontraditional”— i.e., students who don’t fall into the 18–22-year age range and who do not live on or near campus. Students with children and full-time jobs find MOOCS to be the more convenient option to fulfilling online degrees and programs. The ability to take courses online from the comfort of their own homes has opened up the possibility of getting an education for many people who otherwise might not find the time. Additionally, these tuition-free courses are finding favor with students whose families struggle to afford a traditional college experience. 

Related: Online Degree Programs: The Pros and Cons 

Assessing the credibility of online learning

Many of the bigger, more elite colleges and universities have been doling out free e-courses to test their effectiveness and to see how they compare to a more traditional setting for education, according to USA Today. Most do not want to roll out an online degree program if they can’t be sure they will send the most qualified graduates into the business world. Likewise, students want to obtain degrees that employers will recognize and properly prepare them for successful careers. This is where accreditation becomes important. The US Department of Education publishes an annual list of organizations that it recognizes as approved accreditation agencies. Called the "Current List of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies and the Criteria for Recognition," the publication also includes suggested criteria by which each participating university is measured. Look for MOOCs that are offered by accredited schools only—this tells you it's a credible and high-quality course that's worth your time and energy.

Skill building for the real world

Students who are dedicated to online learning tend to be independent learners and excellent time managers. Those skills translate into being able to take instruction and produce results without a lot of hand-holding. Students who take MOOCS are usually doing so because a traditional class schedule wouldn't fit into their already busy lives. By enrolling in online courses, students are responsible for finding and scheduling the time to learn the material and produce high-quality projects and assignments by their due dates.

It takes a certain level of technological know-how to navigate the various online programs and tools that are out there. Access to a reliable computer or mobile device is mandatory as well. Students have to be ready to pick up a new set of technology skills depending on the type of course they are enrolled in for credit. This flexibility is increasingly sought after by businesses that use social media and other online marketing tools in order to grow closer connections to its customers and partners.

Related: The Top 10 Hard and Soft Skills All Employers Want 

Potentially receive academic credits for degree completion 

Not every MOOC will earn you credit toward a future degree, unfortunately. However, you may be able to receive college credit for successfully completing a MOOC if it satisfies a school's requirements. Be sure to inquire with your college(s) of interest about their credit policies to see if it's a possibility. If more schools get on board with awarding credits for MOOCs, it could lower tuition across the board for post-secondary education and open up the opportunity to earn a degree to many more high school graduates than before. High school students could earn more college credits while being dually enrolled in high school and college. With students beginning college courses earlier and at a more affordable price, there could be an influx of young professionals into the small business/entrepreneurial world.

Levels of engagement in MOOCs

Some academic professionals have concerns about the results of more students taking MOOCs and other online courses. Some have issues with the limitations of online learning, as opposed to the full discussion and idea generation from a traditional classroom setting. Where is the level of engagement? Can students in a MOOC get the same sense of classroom community and active participation in a class? Is it more difficult to connect with the material and complete the course without this engagement? When you're looking for MOOCs, be sure to look for courses that offer engaging content as well as opportunities for interaction. "Highly engaging MOOCs see participants forming online cohorts and communities of practice," writes Amy Rouse for The EvoLLLution. "Using integrated social networks and chat, learners can interact with each other and the instructor or facilitator for a richer experience." The best MOOCs offer opportunities to work with others through homework assignments, final reviews with the instructor, and more.

Related: 4 Ways to Avoid Isolation as an Online Student 

While online learning avenues are always being explored and analyzed, most offer positive outcomes for universities, students, and future employers. As the business world becomes increasingly global via technology, it’s only natural that the demand for graduates who are ready and willing to dive into the newest and greatest technological advances would grow as well. MOOCs are a great (and free!) way to prepare for that future. 

Looking for colleges with online courses? Search for schools that fit your life and learning style using our College Search tool.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Fabiola Rodriguez

Fabiola Rodriguez

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me on my journey to get to the school of my first choice by showing me all the options I have. I didn’t know of the College of Southern Nevada until I went on this website, and it helped me look for other choices and compare what colleges would be right for me.

Ariyane

Ariyane

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress really helped me by letting me know the colleges ratings and placements. They gave me accurate information on my colleges tuition rates and acceptance. They even let me know the ration between students and faculty and the diversity of the college. Overall they told me everything I needed and things I didnt even think I needed to know about my college and other colleges I applied for.

Monica

Monica

High School Class of 2023

Being a sophomore in high school, I never really worried about college. I thought it wasn't important to worry about until senior year. Through this program opportunity I came across, I realized how important it is to start looking at colleges early and start planning ahead. CollegeXpress has opened my eyes to what colleges require, what colleges are near me, and what they offer. The daily emails I get from CollegeXpress really help me look at the different options I have and what colleges I fit into. Without this website, I would not be taking the time out of my day to worry about what my future will be nor what opportunities I have. I could not be more grateful for such an amazing and useful website. It's thanks to CollegeXpress that not only me but my family now know how much potential I have in to getting into these colleges/universities that we thought were out of my reach.

Kayla

Kayla

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me organize the schools I wanted to choose from in one place, which I could then easily compare and find the school that was right for me!

Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro

Counselor

For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Hofstra University

Hempstead, NY

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI

St. John's University

Jamaica, NY

Samford University

Birmingham, AL