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Don’t get spooked by MOOCs

Zachary Canter

Contributing Writer

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs provide students with alternative ways of learning. With over 300 courses offered by the popular site edX alone, they are becoming increasingly accessible providing more people with more opportunities to further their education.

The Internet has created several new ways for students to learn without the need of physically attending a college campus.

Online textbooks add a new level of depth and interaction to classes, sites like Khan Academy provide tutorials on almost every topic you can think of and online databases have almost every reference a person could want.

For quite a few years now, online classes have provided people with alternative paths to a degree.

This option is ideal for those who do not have the time to attend a physical class and eliminates much of the pressure associated with going to school while still providing a similar degree of quality education and, in the end, a degree.

Recently, things called Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, have begun to become increasingly popular.

What makes a MOOC different from traditional online classes is that it is offered to students free of charge and allows them to work through material on their own time. Numerous sites offer MOOCs for free to anyone that wishes to take them, such as Coursera and edX.

While free, online education has been around for many years, the quality of this education has greatly changed.

Many MOOCs offered today are from some of the top institutions in the country. The founding members of the site edX include people from MIT and Harvard. Its partners include Berkely, Dartmouth, Cornell, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and many other world renowned institutions of higher education.

The fact that such prestigious universities back these courses should reassure the student that they are receiving an accurate and well structured education similar to one that they would get in the classroom. But why should a student take a MOOC?  What are the benefits?

Taking a MOOC, and successfully completing it, holds numerous benefits. While there is not an official degree offered upon completion of a set of MOOCs, many courses do offer a certificate of completion for the mastery of the course material.

While UMBC does not award students credits for taking MOOCs and mastering material, as many institutions of higher education have started to do, stating that you received a certificate of completion of one or more of these courses on a resume will, without a doubt, impress employers as well as better prepare students to succeed in the workplace.

Zachary Tombo, a freshman biology major, states, “I would feel a sense of comfort after taking a MOOC as I would know I was prepared for an internship or job.”

MOOCs can also be used by students to prepare for an upcoming class or to supplement existing class material.

Taking a MOOC could simply be a way for a student to satisfy curiosity about a certain subject that they would like to learn about but would rather not spend the money and time taking the physical classes.

Still many students have hesitations about abandoning the traditional in-class learning style that they are used to.

Richard Alexander, a freshman mechanical engineering major, says “I can definitely see the benefits [ but I don’t think I would take a MOOC] because you don’t really get credit for the class. The whole computerized thing just doesn’t fit my style of learning.”

The rise of the MOOC provides student of all types with alternative ways to learn.They have numerous advantages and have an increasing number of courses being offered.

With more universities supporting this effort, MOOCs will become increasingly popular over the next few years.