No? Well, it’s not trendy text speak for a milk-giving bovine. That was my best guess when I first saw the term!
Until about 3 months ago, I had no idea what MOOC was either. But last December I noticed a thread on a Facebook group I belong to, talking about MOOCs. I’m a sucker for a good acronym, so I couldn’t resist investigating . It turned out MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course.
These are online courses that have no limit on numbers and require no prior knowledge of the subject being taught. These courses are being run globally in increasing numbers, but the ones that were being discussed on the thread that caught my attention are based here in the UK. They are run by FutureLearn, a company owned by the Open University and involving 21 UK universities, plus Trinity College Dublin and Monash University in Australia. The British Library, British Museum and British Council also make material available to students.
Courses are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible from mobiles, tablets and desktop, so you can carry on with any course you choose, where ever you are.
I only work very part time because I want to be able to be around for our kids when they aren’t at school, so I also have time for a little further education. Especially when it’s free, as are all of FutureLearn’s courses at the moment. After reading through the list of up-and-coming courses, I ended up enrolling for a couple.
To date, I have already completed one course; Good Brain: Bad Brain. It walked me through 3 weeks of very basic neurology, concentrating mainly on the anatomy and physiology of the human brain. This involved concepts I was already familiar with, due to my degree, so it wasn’t really the most challenging course for me. I enjoyed it though and found the links to more information and videos provided very easy to follow. There is plenty of opportunity for discussing course material with other participants, and a short quiz at the end of each week to make sure you have understood the topic so far. This course was supposed to take me 3 hours a week, but I managed to cover the material in about half that time.
This week I started a very different course, entitled Shakespeare And His World. This is a 10 week course and will supposedly take me around 5 hours a week. Again, I have found this time allocation to be quite generous, so far anyhow. This is a subject I know very little about, but I am finding the mixture of history and literacy fascinating. All the materials (plays and videos) needed are supplied online and are supplemented with access to the historical collections of museum, library and archive items from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
I am already eyeing up the list of courses and trying to decide which one to do after I have finished getting to know William Shakespeare better. Computing, Psychology, Business, Maths? There are courses in all these things available.
If you have a few spare hours a week, and fancy trying something new, why don’t you take a look at FutureLearn’s list of high quality, free courses?
What have you got to lose?