Explore the World of Free Online Courses

So you\'re a Literature major but want to learn the basics of coding? Or you\'re a software engineer but finally have the time to pick up a musical instrument?

Published: 15th May 2014 08:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th May 2014 08:18 AM   |  A+A-


So you're a Literature major but want to learn the basics of coding? Or you're a software engineer but finally have the time to pick up a musical instrument? Or you're just bored during summer holidays and could do with a quick brush up on film theory 101? Or you're a musician who wants to learn to produce your own music? Then MOOC is just for you.

The concept of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) only really took off in early 2012. Basically MOOCs allow users to access free online lectures and study material and also write tests and assignments to receive certificates on completion, but they're yet to take off in India. However, more and more students and professionals are turning towards programs offered by institutions in the West, so as to supplement their studies or interests.

There is an argument to be made for human interaction vs technology induced loneliness; but it is an irrefutable fact that these online courses are more or less a blessing for people who can't afford to study abroad or want to take up multiple courses at the same time, without denting their pockets.

And there are three major players offering these free online courses at the moment: Coursera, Udacity and edX, with Coursera clearly outshining the other two with over 5 million users and the most diverse and interesting range of courses offered as well. However, Udacity has a leg up as the courses offered don't have end or begin dates and the exams can be taken when one has the time and one can work at one's own pace.

While MOOCs hold the promise to change the face of higher education, especially when the cost of education is rising at an uncontrolled rate, it is also not meant for every one, at least not yet. Here's a look at what you need to know before you enroll yourself for an online course.

Be adventurous

It doesn't matter if you've been a science student all your life. Here's a chance to finally indulge and find out what all the hype about

Social Psychology was about.

It's a whole new world out there and there is nothing wrong in satisfying your curiosity.

You WIll need a lot of time

There's a misconception that online courses require less amount of time as compared to regular courses. Depending on the course you're doing, you'll easily need as much time you spend in college to go through the course material, do some extra reading and research, complete your assignments and review your peers' work.

   Online courses require additional time and commitment as here you're working by yourself and no one's motivating you to push yourself. Keeping a timetable for yourself and sticking by it would help.

Research your professors

Don't just check the course material before you enroll, make sure that you've done a thorough background check on the professors as well.

Many a times the course may seem enticing, but once you've enrolled, you'll figure the professors are either quite boring and haven't done the research themselves or that they're too busy to give you the kind of one on one attention you need at times. Check for their earlier teaching history and see if you can find any student reviews as well.

Peer grading can be a problem

This is an innate problem with most Coursera courses. So as to enable the grading of thousands of submissions, the assignments are graded by your peers, using a simplistic grading rubric. Chances are your papers are going to be graded either by a PHD student in the subject or a high school student or even a stay-at-home mum, and your grades are going to vary depending on who gets your paper.

  But look at it as a way to meet new people and this could turn out to be a more enjoyable process. It's also a great way to learn about the topic itself.

Forget about the certificate

You've probably spent all your school life chasing that perfect grade. Online courses are meant to increase your knowledge, the certificate is secondary.

   So it's alright if you're not going to be giving in those submissions on time or you never actually write any of the exams.

  What matters is if you're going to be learning anything at all.


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