Currently Enrolled in a MOOC? Here are 5 Ways to Help You Stay On Track

A new door to higher education has opened with the arrival of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and university-level courses are now accessible to all learners around the globe. Despite the excitement, research has shown that MOOCs also have massive dropout rates. While the incompletion rates can be linked to the motives for signing up, including pure curiosity, it’s clear that the vast majority of learners don’t stay to complete the course. How do you get past the hype and get results for yourself?

Here are five tips to stay the course in your MOOC.

1. Be Choosy. You can find a MOOC on just about any subject, from the History of Rock music to Quantum Physics, and from the beginner to expert level. With so many choices, it’s tempting to want to sample any and all courses that sound intriguing. Before you click “sign up,” take a moment to filter through the options that pique your interest, and ask yourself which MOOC will give you the most value. How does the course workload fit with your other time commitments? Will you find the subject appealing over the long term? Does it support your future aspirations? Choose the MOOC that best fits within your life and your goals. Being choosy in the beginning will help you set yourself on a path to successfully completing the course and achieving your learning goals.

2. Plan your time. Block out a regular time in your schedule to focus on your MOOC coursework. Go to the library or a place where you can get away from distractions and dedicate the time necessary for learning. As you go through the lectures and readings, take notes to help you remember the material and pick up where you left off in your next study session. Stick with the schedule you plan. When conflicting activities come up, treat this time like a work or family obligation that you can’t skip or override. After a few weeks of sticking to this schedule, it will become routine and keeping up with coursework will be a weekly habit.

3. Get involved. Become active on the course discussion site. Distance and online learning can be isolating, which can lead you to lose motivation. The upside of online learning is that you can virtually interact with peers from all over the world that you wouldn’t meet otherwise. Beginning with the first class, start posting your questions, comments, and impressions in the forum. Reply to other students’ posts to encourage discussion. Remember to keep online discussions respectful, and avoid or discourage any negative trends you may see. Also, if you find that you grasp the material quickly, volunteer to teach others who may be struggling. Set up a virtual study group and offer to lead a video session. Hosting a live discussion will help you feel connected to your fellow students and to the MOOC content.

4. Write a review. MOOCs are experimental and researchers are looking for ways to continually improve them. Let your voice be heard. Write about your experience with your MOOC and the pros and cons of the approach. Volunteer to write a professional development article for your company newsletter focused on your MOOC experience. Review the MOOC on the host provider website and add your review to one of the  MOOC aggregator sites for students who follow in your footsteps. Class Central and MOOC List are two of the most popular choices.Write a weekly blog detailing your experience as you move through the MOOC. However you voice your experience, be sure to include examples of what worked, what obstacles you had, and constructive suggestions for course improvement. Communicating your experience can help to shape the future of MOOCs.

5. Remember the big picture. As your day-to-day responsibilities start to weigh on you, the initial draw of your MOOC may wear off. Before you drop out or fall behind, think about your reasons for enrolling in your MOOC. Jot down how the course fits into your professional, academic, or personal ambitions. Perhaps completing the MOOC will build your professional skills, helping you earn a promotion, land a coveted project, or transfer to a job in a new industry. Which skills you can add to your résumé after completing the course? Within the big picture of your future goals, seeing your MOOC through to the end can lead you closer to where you want to be.

The promise of MOOCs is there for you to harness. Stick with your course and see where it takes you.

This post comes to us courtesy of Melissa Southwell. Melissa Southwell is the Managing Editor of, which, with its family of web properties including ScholarshipAdvisor and LearningAdvisor, is the leading “all things learning” website.

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