MOOCs – how to use them for yourself and your teens

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MOOCs How to use them for you and your teen

Episode 32: MOOCs – how to use them for yourself and your teens


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MOOC = Massive Open Online Courses

The start of MOOCs is typically accepted to be in 2011 when Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig from Stanford offered an online course on artificial intelligence. Over 160 000 people from all over the world registered (including my younger son). There were a few MOOCs before this but this is the one that set MOOCs on the map.

Characteristics of MOOCs

  • Usually taught by college professors at a university level
  • Initially, they were typically free, but that is no longer the case though many are still free to audit, you will pay to get a certificate
  • Most start and end on specific dates, but some are self-paced
  • Tuition is via streamed videos but some classes will also have reading material and some live hangouts
  • Many will have automatically graded quizzes. Some also use peer reviews
  • Students can interact with classmates and teaching assistants in online forums

What are the main MOOCs?

EdX – started by Harvard and MIT offers some AP and high school classes as well as college-level classes.

Coursera – many of their short courses are grouped together to offer a “microcredential.” They monetize by a monthly subscription model. But they do still offer many courses that are free to audit.

Futurelearn is UK-based and owned by The Open University. Exams are behind a paywall and you have to pay for certificates but quizzes are usually accessible free.

Udacity is the MOOC provider that grew out of that first MOOC, but isn’t allied to any university. It offers “Nanodegrees” related to Information Technology which consists of a number of courses with human-graded projects, some mentorship and assistance finding a job afterward (ie an alternative to college). But they also still have individual free courses with basic quizzes and interactive coding assignments.

Best way to find a MOOC?

Visit Class Central and search for a topic you are interested in. This website clearly shows all the opttions, if a class is free, when it starts and how it has been rated by students.

Why parents should consider MOOCs

  • It’s a way for you to keep up with whatever you studied in college
  • You can expand your interests to new fields
  • You provide a role model for your children as they see you sticking to deadlines, not giving up with hard work etc

Why teens should consider MOOCs

  • They can get access to classes that will stretch them academically
  • You can use them as interesting electives (provide credit based on how many hours your child spends on the course)
  • See them as college-prep. Teens will get a taste of what college-level work is like.
  • Be sure they add them to their LinkedIn profiles or digital portfolios
  • They might use their experience taking a MOOC in a college admissions essay as it shows they want to be challenged academically and are ready for higher-level work.

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