Five Reasons to Take a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

Whether you’ve just emptied your nest, are looking to re-career, or want to advance in the workplace or just expand your horizons, there are as many reasons for taking a MOOC as there are, well, MOOCs!

As the idea of free online education gains momentum in both academic and business circles, the ranks of MOOC providers continue to grow, as does the number of colleges, universities, and instructors who partner with them.

Working with StudentAdvisor’s new resource, I’ve had the opportunity this past year to take some MOOCs, and they are teaching me as much about myself as they are about the subjects they cover. For instance, I’ve learned that I prefer self-paced courses so that new projects at work or at home don’t cause me stress over turning my homework in on time (like in those nightmares I still have where I’m back in high school).

If you prefer deadlines and structure in your education, there are MOOCs for you too. There are MOOCs for people who want to work alone, as well as for those who thrive on group interaction. There are MOOCs for people who need college credit and for those who just want to have fun – you get the idea, right?

Here are 5 good reasons for you to take a MOOC, and some recommended classes to get you started:

Reason #1: Get The College Experience

Feeling nostalgic for the good ol’ days of college? Choose a MOOC from Coursera or edX which partners with hundreds of top colleges and universities from around the globe. These courses are bona fide college-level courses taught by university faculty. You will participate in your learning with thousands of other students all around the world through online chat rooms and forums. How active you become will be up to you – much like in traditional classrooms.

Recommended courses:

Duke University’s Think Again: How to Reason and Argue

This is one of the most popular courses on the Coursera platform.

Introduction to Biology – The Secret Of Life

This course was designed exclusively for edX and is taught by Eric Lander, one of the founders of the famous Human Genome Project:

Abnormal Psychology

If self-paced classes sound better to you, try a MOOC from the Saylor Academy. Credentialed professors teach Saylor’s college-level courses and each course ends with a certificate of completion.

Reason #2: Learn A New Skill

MOOCs are a great resource for updating your skills, both for personal and work-related reasons. Udemy and Udacity are two major providers that offer thousands of courses together. Udemy offers a mix of free and fee-based, self-paced classes taught by industry experts while Udacity’s free college-level courses encourage students to become active in community forums.

Update your skill set with great classes like these:

House Flipping: How To Flip A House & Divorce Your 9-5 (Udemy)

Design of Computer Programs: Programming Principles (Udacity)

Reason #3: Broaden Your Horizons – Literally

MOOCs, particularly those offered by colleges, are very popular with international students. These MOOCs give students access to internationally renowned professors and institutions of learning without the hefty price tag, as well as offer students good places to practice writing and communicating in new languages. Coursera, for example, offers MOOCs in 13 languages other than English. Sign up for MOOCs to make international friends, and use MOOCs as platforms to practice your foreign language skills.

Recommended courses:

 From the Big Bang To Dark Energy (Coursera)

This is a sample of a course taught in English by Professor Hitoshi Murayama of The University of Tokyo.

History of Chinese Architecture (edX)

This class is taught in Mandarin with English subtitles from Tsinghua University:

Reason #4: Professional Development

MOOCs are convenient for fulfilling professional development requirements. Look for MOOCs that provide certificates of completion or certified professional development credit. Don’t forget to include the courses you take on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile.

Recommended courses:

Saylor has a section of courses specifically designed for professional development and broken down into Workplace Skills, Job Search Skills and Career Advancement. Here’s a sample from each:

Word Processing Using Microsoft Word

Resume Writing

HTML and CSS For Beginners

Reason #5: Receive College Credit

As of 2016, a growing number of higher-ed institutions are offering MOOCs for college credit and MOOC-based degrees. The American Council on Education’s Alternative Credit Project (ACE Credit) currently recommends the following free EdX courses for college credit at many of their 51 partner institutions:

Introduction to Differential Equations from Boston University

Linear Differential Equations from Boston University

 Nonlinear Differential Equations: Order and Chaos from Boston University

Along with ACE, The National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) has approved a total of 22 courses from Saylor Academy eligible for transfer credits at many of their 16 partner colleges. New courses are offered every year and the lists continue to grow, so it’s wise to check back frequently for new courses and related updates.


This post comes to us courtesy of Diane Thomas at StudentAdvisor. Diane Thomas is a part of StudentAdvisor’s editorial team. She is the mother of five students herself and enjoys online learning in her “spare” time. Diane believes in the power of MOOCs to help students around the world achieve their education goals.


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