What is a MOOC?
College courses are so expensive these days that, unless you have a compelling reason to sign up for a course for credit, the free online courses known as massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a very attractive option, especially for those of us simply seeking cerebral stimulation. According to this Wikipedia article, MOOCs have really taken off this decade.
A couple of months ago, I signed up for a Coursera class called A Brief History of Humankind at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Students watch video lectures, post on online forums, and take brief multiple choice quizzes. The class has been one of the most interesting I’ve ever taken.
One of the benefits of this course is that students from different cultures all over the world sign up because the course is open and free. The course is greatly enriched for me because I can learn the perspectives and ideas of students worldwide.
Several websites are currently offering MOOCs from many different universities all over the world:
Coursera: This site describes itself as an “education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.” The courses tend to include numerous topics with cutting-edge relevance from leading universities in the US and abroad. Most classes are offered asynchronously (you attend prerecorded lectures when you like), but for most, you must sign up by a specific date. The advantage is that the course forums are usually very active.
Saylor.org: This venue provides frameworks for a free bachelor’s degree curricula that you can complete on the site; for example, see this one for computer science. The discussion boards appear to be far less populated than the active discussions on the Coursera site, but one advantage is that you can start the self-paced classes anytime.
What great free courses have you found on the Web? Please post and let us know.
Till next time, stay frugal and fancy-free.