Making the Most of your MOOC

by Ruth Lincoln, Head Editor, INALJ DC

Making the Most of your MOOC

ruth.lincolnMassive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are everywhere. Offered through platforms such as Coursera, Udacity, and EdX, MOOCs are providing thousands of people across the globe with access to amazing courses. They’re perfect for librarians and information professionals because you can bone up on some missed materials (HMTL, CSS, other programming skills) or push your limits and dive into advanced statistics or database design.

MOOCs are great in that you can virtually take any course that interests you for free. No student loans, registration hoops, or transportation issues. You can begin your educational journey from the comfort of your couch.

But while enrollment couldn’t be any easier, getting the work done is another story. Educational researcher Katy Jordan dived into the data and found that “most MOOCs have completion rates of less than 13%”. I’ve successfully completed a few Coursera MOOCs, but for every success, I’ve had twice as many flops. They started out promising, but then work, life, school, all got in the way. MOOCs are great, but they’re just too easy to drop.

Here are some tips to make the most of your MOOC:

Create a Financial Incentive
Could you ever imagine quitting an MLS course after you’ve paid tuition? The horror. The last MOOC I took, I gave my boyfriend $100 at the beginning of the course. If I failed to complete the course, he could keep the money. If I finished, I got it back.

This was relatively low-risk (it was my boyfriend, not Sallie Mae), but even the smallest financial incentive can give you the boost you need. Think of the money as a deposit. Squirrel away some cash, and if you finish the course, reward yourself with that deposit.

Enroll with a Friend or Colleague
Studying, exercising, any difficult task is much easier with a buddy. If the course relates to your job, enroll with a co-worker. You can discuss the course over lunch and create study dates. Talk to your boss and see if the MOOC could count toward training hours. Your manager will probably appreciate the low cost as much as you do.

If the course isn’t job-related, find a friend and take it together. Learning something new together can deepen your friendship and teach you new things about each other. And knowing someone else expects you to show up and participate is a terrific incentive. You don’t want to let him/her down!

Friends and colleagues offer the face-to-face learning experience that MOOCs and online courses often lack. Between email, video lectures, and a virtual roster, it’s easy to get lost in the cloud. Experiencing your MOOC with a human being can provide the personalization you need.

Join the MOOC discussion
Nearly every MOOC has some forum where students can ask questions for professors, teaching assistants, and other students provide helpful tips and answers. You can certainly do well studying solo, but the group discussion will create a richer experience.

Take advantage of the global enrollment. I’ve always found the international draw of MOOCs so exciting. Exploring and engaging with the discussion boards can open your eyes to new and interesting questions. Realizing you have the same question as a student halfway across the globe gives open learning a whole new perspective.

Make a Schedule – and Stick to It!
Time management isn’t easy, and there’s no magic bullet to accomplish everything. Whatever techniques you apply in your work, school, personal life can certainly help in your MOOC study.

Here are a few free apps and websites that can help:

Google Calendar reminders
Lifehack: Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools