Technically we have all the information we’d ever want at our fingertips thanks to the Internet and our benevolent overlords Google, but sometimes it’s easier to learn things when it’s presented nicely in bite-sized chunks, instead of the often incomprehensible vortex that is Wikipedia. This is where MOOCs come in.
What is a MOOC?
A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. While university educations are usually expensive, MOOCs get around the money issue by delivering course materials through video lectures and multiple choice quizzes, with some peer-graded assignments and discussion boards. It’s like going to uni, if you could go to uni from bed.
MOOCs are offered by prestigious universities like MIT, Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley, so you don’t have to worry as much about reliability as you would if you’re trying to learn economics from 30 different YouTube gurus. MOOCs are usually free if you just want to learn, but often if you pay a smallish fee, you can get an official certificate showing that you completed the course. Most courses are self-paced, and the lectures can be downloaded for offline viewing.
Where do I find a MOOC?
Here are some useful sites for finding MOOCs:
Coursera has a heavy emphasis on business and computer science, but there’s plenty in the sciences, health and humanities as well. As well as free courses, there are quite a few “specialisations” priced in the $500 range where you take a set of courses topped off with a project, which earns you a certificate.
- Corporate Finance Essentials
- Dog Emotion and Cognition
- Child Nutrition and Cooking
- Buddhism and Modern Psychology
edX was founded by Harvard and MIT, and like Coursera, has a lot of business and computer science courses. There’s a healthy offering of humanities too.
- Programming with C#
- Basic Mandarin Chinese
- The Science of Everyday Thinking
- UX Design
- The Science of Happiness
- Introduction to Marketing
udemy has both cheap paid courses (under $100) and some free courses (though they’re a little bit buried underneath the paid courses). The courses tend to be a bit shorter, with lots of courses that are only a few hours long, if you’re a commitment-phobe or you just want to learn a few new skills very quickly. There are lots of tiny courses on how to use computer programs (Excel, Powerpoint etc.) better.
Academic Earth has a database of links to courses hosted on other sites, including YouTube lecture series.