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Massive Open Online Courses: Benefits of MOOCs

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Online college classes have experienced a surge in popularity over the past decade, but distance learning has actually been occurring for hundreds of years. Mail order programs in the 19th century and eventually telephone and videos allowed students who could not attend traditional schools to study and learn on their own schedules.

Online College Classes offer Flexibility

These days, many students who are enrolled in college or university take some or all of their classes online without setting foot in an actual classroom. College credit and eventually college degrees can be earned by taking these classes, and tuition—which is often higher than the tuition for taking the same or similar classes on a physical college campus—is required. Taking classes online allows working adults with families the opportunity to go back to college with much more flexibility than attending traditional classes.

Free Online College Courses: MOOCs

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are a more recent development in online education. Unlike the classes mentioned above that charge tuition and fees, MOOCs are free and open to anyone interested in learning. Three of the most popular organizations and websites that currently offer MOOCs are:

Coursera, which presently offers free courses in 18 categories from 33 well-known universities including Duke, Ohio State, Princeton, Stanford and more. Coursera reports that over 1,080,000 students from 196 countries have enrolled in at least one course.

Udacity, a private organization with the goal of democratizing education, currently offers 14 free classes. Classes range from beginner levels, such as Intro to Computer Science: Building a Search Engine, to advanced, such as Artificial Intelligence: Programming a Robotic Car.

edX, a joint non-for-profit venture between Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University that was recently joined by the University of California, Berkeley. edX currently offers free courses from those three universities. Offerings include Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, Introduction to Computer Science I, and Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.

Benefits of Taking MOOCs

Although most MOOCs are not for college credit and therefore can’t help you earn a degree (some schools do have plans for awarding credit for MOOCs in the works) they offer a variety of benefits to students:

  • Massive open online courses are free.
  • All interested students can enroll. MOOCs have the ability to teach thousands of students at once.
  • Professors are qualified instructors from elilte universities such as Duke, Stanford, and Harvard.
  • Students do not have to be enrolled at the college or university that is affiliated with the MOOC.
  • Your classwork and comments can be shared with the professor as well as other class participants, giving you the opportunity to receive feedback.
  • Networking opportunities are there as well—you never know what other students will be taking the class along with you!
  • You can learn skills that may help you move up the ladder in your current industry or possibly learn skills necessary for a new career.
  • Some MOOCs offer certificates upon completion for students who demonstrate mastery of the subject. This can possibly help as a resume booster.

Future of Free Online College Classes

The Huffington Post reports that MOOCs are mainly attracting older workers who want to upgrade their skills yet do not have time or money to attend traditional classes on campus. “I believe it will ultimately revolutionize education,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau says of MOOCs.

Related Posts:

Free Online College Courses Available from Prestigious Colleges and Universities

Auditing a College Class: Learning without Exams or Grades

Retirees Going to College: Discounts and Tuition Waivers for Seniors

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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