Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are not for everyone, but everyone can benefit from them if willing to keep an open mind. Stop overanalyzing revolutionary ideas within education and stop searching for the “magic bullet.”

Every other Friday I take my son to the local public library. We started this ritual when he was about two years old, and now he’s getting ready for kindergarten. Our primary reason for going to the library is to borrow books. Occasionally we will attend sponsored events, but normally it’s just about checking out material.  Most times, we are there no longer than 20-30 minutes. We prop open our book bag and start with the children’s section. My son has no formal selection process for what he chooses to put in the bag. I tried once to figure out the method to his madness but couldn’t. Did he choose the book because it was big, small, colorful, full of pictures, based on animals, or the closest in reach? No way to tell… he just pulled them off the shelf and tossed them into the bag. When it was my turn to select a few items, I would focus on areas of particular interest or something fresh. I don’t read fiction, and prefer reading material that expands my knowledge base. In addition, I never get more than two books at a time since most of my reading is done online. As for him, he fills up the bag. We learned early that there is no limit to the number of books our library allows you to borrow. Jackpot!Once the books are home, we are officially on the clock. However, we feel no pressure. Both my son and I take the same approach to reading our selections. Sometimes we get through the whole book, sometimes part of it, sometimes none. The process remains the same regardless. Two weeks later, we return the books and get new ones (or borrow them again). I’ve come to realize that libraries are education smorgasbords. There is a little bit of everything for everyone. You can choose to “eat” everything, a little, or nothing at all. Our appetite for knowledge is still satisfied in the end.Over the last few years, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have caused much discussion. Until now, the buzz has been exciting and supportive. So what’s changed?We are starting to see some interesting data emerge. The data can be interpreted a variety of ways, but some traditionalists in academia are threatened by an innovation that has revolutionized higher education. When it comes to MOOCs, I’m extremely biased. I have taken several MOOCs and enjoyed them beyond what the courses offered on a surface level. I’m one of the 5% that have completed a MOOC, but also one of the 50% that dropped the course within the first week. MOOCs offer me the autonomy and flexibility to select how much or how little I want. Just like when I check out a library book.MOOCs are not for everyone. But everyone can benefit from them if they are willing to keep an open mind. We need to stop overanalyzing revolutionary ideas within education and stop searching for the “magic bullet.” When my son and I go to the library, there are no data about how many people completed certain books, or assessments about what they learned from their selections. We go because it’s one place to potentially learn something new. MOOCs are the same! So go out and try a few…they don’t bite!

4 Top Tips For Selecting a MOOC

Here are 4 top tips for selecting a MOOC:

  1. Something outside your wheelhouseI look for opportunities to go beyond what I know and are out of my comfort zone. Explore courses that spark interest in areas that you always wanted to learn more about but never have done. 
  2. Something inside your wheelhouse Professional development is an ongoing process. Selecting courses that reflect your professional interest can never set you back.     
  3. Credentials Are you looking for recognition at the end of a course? The popularity of MOOCs eventually spawned certificates. They vary from platform to platform and course to course. Some are free with the completion of the course, and some have fees attached.    
  4. Institutional or instructor reputationLet’s face it, just like any industry, there are “rock stars” in education. They come in the form of instructors and institutions. Why not take courses from subject matter experts and world class institutions . . . especially if they’re free.