Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ten tips for learners taking MOOCs

This post is related to my series of posts on the INASP blog on MOOCs and educational development. The tips below are especially for learners in developing countries.
  1. Coursera, Udacity, and edX are the major providers of free MOOCs as of mid 2013. Check out their websites to find out which MOOCs could be right for you.
  2. Most MOOCs are video-based. As soon as you enroll in a MOOC, try opening a few videos to see whether they stream properly. If not, see if there are downloading options or text alternatives to the videos. If you can't see or download the videos and if text alternatives are missing or insufficient, the MOOC is probably not going to be a great experience.
  3. If you're going to be given access to a software application during the MOOC, check whether you will be able to use or buy this software after the MOOC ends. If not, the potential to apply what you learn could be affected.
  4. When the MOOC starts, give yourself a couple of weeks to try the content and assignments. You'll then know if the MOOC is right for you. If it's not, feel free to quit the MOOC. Most MOOCs have completion rates around 10% and one of the likely reasons is that a lot of students enroll in MOOCs without knowing if it's right for them. Don't feel bad about quitting a MOOC, but this is best done early. If you quit a MOOC, don't assume that MOOCs in general don't work for you. Maybe you need a different course, more spare time, or something else.
  5. Most MOOCs have weekly schedules. Once you join a MOOC, set aside time every week for going through the content, working on assignments, taking part in discussions, etc. Without a study schedule that you can stick to, it might be hard to keep up.
  6. MOOCs often have tens of thousands of students, so the discussion forums can be daunting if you've never taken a MOOC before. Don't worry about getting on top of the posts at the start of the course. Usually, whatever you need to do in an assignment is covered in the preceding course content. But keep an eye on the discussion forums: students may have pointed out technical problems with the course that may affect you too. Once you settle into the course, you might find it easier to use the discussion forums to make posts.
  7. Some MOOCs have group exercises and peer assessments. Follow instructions closely and be polite and positive as you work with other students.
  8. It can be difficult to keep up your motivation to complete a MOOC especially if other commitments get in the way. One way to motivate yourself is to discuss your MOOC with your family, friends, and colleagues, as well as on social media.
  9. Celebrate once you complete a MOOC! Tell people about it and add it to your CV.
  10. Look into ways to apply your learning soon after you complete a MOOC, otherwise you might forget what you've learned.

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