MOOCs are the wave of the future in e-learning.The opening years of the 21st century have been marked by the emergence of a global economy, third-world consumerism, and an amazing increase in online connectivity. A common factor behind the progress in these domains is the dramatic evolution of education effectuated by the digital revolution. The arrival of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) marks a fresh and potentially revolutionary change in the traditional approach to education, especially in the field of IT.

Popularity of MOOCs

Without a doubt, the more qualified professionals an industry churns out, the more innovative it becomes. MOOCs are the most recent and dynamic byproduct of distance education. MOOCs are an online platform enabling thousands of students worldwide to access high quality course content, audio/video lectures, readings and other interactive tools that invite unlimited participation of students, professors, teaching assistants, and so forth.

MOOCs are making significant inroads into India with 1.6 million students currently enrolled in courses offered by Coursera and edX, the country’s two most widely recognized providers of MOOCs. India’s own elite universities have created free video-taped lectures for approximately 700 courses. Anant Agarwal, edX CEO, believes that India may become an even bigger MOOC market than the United States, which currently tops the MOOC participation charts.

Although second only to the United States, the number of Indian MOOC enrollees is increasing at a faster rate. More Indian students are embracing MOOCs as a path towards skill enhancement and higher-paying jobs. The Modi government is also onboard.

In October, 2014, it launched a web portal, Swayam, to make MOOCs available for all sorts of top university-level content for every type of learner. Swayam stands for “Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds,” and is initially offering three courses. Subsequently, many elite universities like JNU, IITs, etc. have offered courses and are still engaged in the development of Swayam.

Choosing the right MOOC

Although, the phenomenon of MOOCs has been around for only three years, it’s rapidly gaining in popularity. At present there are numerous MOOC providers offering a plethora of courses. Some of the more well-known providers include U.S.-based Canvas and NovoED, Germany’s iversity, Future Learn in the UK, and Open2Study in Australia.

Udacity, edX and Coursera were the original MOOC pioneers, and are currently the largest providers offering a range of courses from algebra to app development. The majority of MOOC students world-wide still prefer starting their MOOC experience from these “big three.”

Since every provider and course has pros and cons, the decision of which course to take should be made after a thorough investigation of content, requirements and instructors. One should pay particular attention to student reviews, costs, and course policy on certificates. Some MOOCs do provide verified and free certificates for individuals who complete them. Unlike a free certificate, where there is no proof that the recipient is the one who completed the course, verified certificates utilize a web cam and photo ID to verify a participant’s identity, which is indicated on the final certificate.

This adds value to the credential in showing that the individual has actually completed the course work. Although not presently widely accepted for IT certifications, MOOCs can still be a useful tool to stay current and keep skill-sets sharp.

While some students find it easy to integrate MOOCs into their educational plan, others may experience unforeseen difficulties and may find a traditional university education more to their liking. Here are some pros and cons of MOOCs that will help you decide whether it’s the right mode of education for you.

Pros

Interactive sessions. This form of MOOCs helps foster numerous and easy possibilities of mentor-to-learner and learner-to-learner interactions. This can enable the user to have a much better experience than traditional long distance learning modes.

Availability. Students have access to various books and course contents with ease, when and where they want. The only prerequisite is a basic internet connection.

Hassle free. MOOCs can run alongside your normal daily routine, whether you are a full time student in another university, a working professional, or a homemaker looking after children.

Expense. MOOCs are an excellent mode of educating yourself for much less than attending a traditional university. Additionally, the subject coaching you receive is often easier and more personal than in a large classroom filled with students.

Cons

Placement Opportunities. MOOCs are good in terms of the education and awareness they provide, but they don’t guarantee you the placement or networking opportunities that a standard university may offer.

Vocational Training. It is not possible to provide vocational training online, which generally requires practical and manual workshops.

Useless to the digitally illiterate. MOOCs are useless for people who are digitally illiterate, or who lack the means to afford a computer or net connection.

Motivational Issues. Since MOOCs are voluntary, there is no penalty or money invested by students. This can easily lead to dropouts in the form of students who lose interest and who may need constant motivation.

Making MOOCs effective

MOOCs are the wave of the future in e-learning.Understand the course. An early start can help familiarize you with the course layout and assignments. If students explore the communication channels, credit system and course structure beforehand, it can save them unexpected trouble with deadlines and requirements.

Utilize study forums. Introduce yourself to other students, provide feedback on other’s comments and participate actively. But don’t be disappointed if you are not getting the kind of response that you expected. Also, maintain touch with the contacts you have already built, you never know when you may need them.

Motivate yourself and reflect regularly on your performance. Hang in there — remember that there is no teacher to motivate you or to review your performance. Setting up targets and achieving them on time will help you stay motivated and focused.

Learn and apply. Last, but certainly not the least, whatever you have learned should be applied before it expires. Let your knowledge get the career exposure which will help you flourish.

Conclusion

MOOCs are not for everybody. They provide a way for disciplined students to maintain old skills and learn new ones, at a discounted price. If you think you have what it takes to complete a MOOC, select a course and dive in.