November 28, 2013, by Helen Whitehead

Why take a MOOC?

There are many reasons to sign up for a MOOC.  What are yours? My reasons are very similar to the reasons I used to start every academic year by enthusiastically signing up for evening classes.  My evening classes ranged from creative writing to history, to crafts, to fencing and tai chi.  I don’t suppose the fitness classes will be replaced by MOOCs any time soon, but I’ve long participated in online writing courses.   I also looked for seminars and conferences for professional development.

The MOOCs that I’ve signed up for have met a variety of personal and professional needs. You can:

  • take advantage of professional development opportunities – for me that’s particularly relevant as my job involves online learning, but whatever your area of work, there could be a MOOC or online course out there that will let you add to your knowledge and skills.
  • follow an interest in the subject – whether it’s sustainability, digital culture, historical fiction or equine nutrition.  Your rather obscure interest may be well catered for even though you know no-one else locally miles who is interested in the topic. Our sustainability MOOC allows participants to explore changing their behaviours and how they can have an impact on society
  • learn from experts from all over the world – and hear different views. Challenge your own assumptions that you didn’t even know you had.
  • participate in a community of learning with learners from all over the world, much wider and richer than you can get with a local course.  I have often learned as much from the other learners as from the educators running the course.
  • take part as a distance learner – accessible anywhere in the world, you don’t even have to leave your home. And similarly:
  • flexibly learn anywhere any time – although a MOOC tends to follow a particular structure, usually divided into weeks or topics, you have quite a lot of choice about when to access the materials, participate in the discussions and undertake the assessments. You can do it in your bedroom with the twins asleep next door, while caring for your elderly parents, in hotels on business trips, or during your everyday commute (not all MOOC activity requires internet access).
  • benefit from intellectual stimulation – I can challenge myself with a subject I’ve never been interested in before. I feel a more rounded character!  For the elderly or sick confined to home it can be a stimulating contact with others.
  • explore subjects and approaches to learning which I might then follow up into more formal learning at a later date. If you’ve ever thought of going to (or back to) University, as many more mature adults are doing nowadays, MOOCs can help you ease yourself back into learning.

Is there a reason you have taken a MOOC or want to take a MOOC? Are you going to join us for Sustainability, Society and You on FutureLearn? Please feel free to comment on this post.

Written by Helen Whitehead

Posted in MOOCStudent experience