In the first article of this two-part series, Laura Medeiros shared her perspective on the value of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in earning academic credit. In this article, she sheds light on the different skills students can reasonably learn from these low- to no-cost courses.
The education potential of MOOCs for lifelong learners is immense. Courses can be taken for personal enhancement in subjects the lifelong leaner has always been interested in, or to learn something completely new. Those seeking professional development can take courses that keep them up-to-date in their current profession. MOOCs can provide a much needed new skill set professional students can then leverage into career advancement or a career change. One of the keys to understanding how much can be learned from MOOCs is to realize some learning benefits are not so obvious. MOOCs can provide indirect benefits beyond mastery of the taught subject.
MOOCs can provide a multi-faceted means of enhancement from study skills improvement and self-assessment to gaining a global perspective and foreign language practice and improvement. Research has shown students who participate in cooperative learning and study groups perform better academically. With peer review, a common assessment method in MOOCs, students can develop assessment skills. Assessment, either of self or of another, and understanding how to use a rubric can improve a student’s learning and improve the quality of work produced, both for the course, and in the working world.
MOOCs can help students develop language skills. Many MOOCs are available in English, but have an international student population. Forums are a good place for students to practice language skills and the vocabulary used in certain educational and professional areas. For non-native English speakers, the forums are a good place to develop their English writing and comprehension skills; the same is true for native English speakers learning another language, by participating in forums conducted in the other language. International MOOC providers offer courses in many languages, further broadening every student’s ability to interact with the learning material in a different language.
Additionally, students can gain real-world experience in MOOCs. There are several courses available where students conduct real-world analysis assessments for businesses. Coursolve, an enterprise that “connects courses with organizations to empower students to solve real-world problems,” coordinates connecting businesses with needs and MOOCs with services to offer.
Lifelong learners may find the need to bolster their skill set in order to become more attractive to prospective employers. Critical thinking, communications and problem solving skills are desired by employers. Participation in, and completion of, MOOCs can lead students to develop additional, and more specialized, skill sets.
For those thinking about college, a major attraction of MOOCs is the ability to explore college studies prior to formal enrollment. Students can explore programs of study without risk: no cost, no impact on GPA/transcripts and no commitment to complete the course. By taking college-level courses through MOOCs, students can gain an understanding of the time and level of work required for credit-bearing college courses. Participation in a MOOC can also help students to refine their online course skills (learning management system navigation, time management and meeting deadlines, participating in online discussions and online group activities). Online college courses are increasing in number, and students need to be familiar with this as a learning mode.
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