What to study in college? Try a MOOC first

March 28, 2013

A new world of online classes comes in the form of the massive open online course, also known as the MOOC. Besides focusing on getting college scholarships and finding the right school, another issue mothers going to school might look into is choosing the right degree. By taking a MOOC, prospective students can participate in classes for free and test the waters of different study areas.

The perks of a MOOC
One big advantage of taking a MOOC is fairly obvious: These classes are totally free. Initially introduced in 2011 by Sebastian Thrun of Stanford University, a MOOC won't give students any college credit, but it does offer them an insight into a particular area of study. 

In a 2012 Time Magazine feature, Harry McCracken describes his experience taking a MOOC. McCracken claims that the class, based on video lectures, was beneficial and efficient. Without the small talk that often leaks into in-classroom lessons, his six-week gamification course went by quickly. 

"Tens of thousands of people are taking it independently, and largely in solitude," McCracken said.

Being so convenient, such classes provide a good opportunity for those who don't have the time or extra money to take traditional courses, especially if they're simply trying to get ready to actually attend college. 

Harvard has a new approach
According to a 2013 New York Times article, Harvard University is perfecting the MOOC to make free online courses even more effective. 

This past week, Harvard called out to its alumni to volunteer on the online education scene. The university asked those who had taken a previous course on the Ancient Greek Hero to manage discussion groups and act as online mentors for the free, online version, one that has reached enrollment of 27,000 students, the Times reports.

This organized approach to larger online classes helps to give increased attention to those participating.

Online education is trending
The rise of "distance" or online education on the whole shows that students like the convenience factor provided by taking classes remotely. A study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed a 12 percent increase between 2000 and 2008 in the number of undergraduate students enrolling in at least one distance education class.

MOOC programs, as well as Harvard's innovative courses, are similarly time-efficient. These classes, in offering a well-organized and convenient education, provide a solid step for mothers planning to go to college.

When making that ultimate investment, students want to be sure of their degree choice. Taking a few free courses in different fields provides a basis for this decision.

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