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MOOCs: A Student’s Perspective

MOOCs: A Student’s Perspective main image

MOOCs (AKA Massive Open Online Courses) have been taking the worlds of education and internet by storm. Students who previously would’ve had to fork out thousands in order to gain lecture material from top universities can now access and engage in selected study materials for free, from the comfort of their very own home.

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As a recent Coventry University photography graduate, I had the privilege to take part in Phonar, an established MOOC concerned with photography and narrative. I want to tell you a little bit about my experience as a MOOC student and why I think you should try one out.

Get international exposure and feedback

As well as the diverse nature of people involved in each course, MOOCs also offer the invaluable opportunity to have your work seen all over the world, whether it’s an essay, piece of art, coding or business plan.

Often we only share our work with those closest to us before putting it online or publishing it.

But the international exposure MOOCs offer means people of different cultures, ages and backgrounds with unique outlooks on life are willing to give you feedback. Of course any constructive criticism is useful. But by reaching further afield, the feedback you get is likely to be richer and more diverse, helping you to see new angles and make faster progress.

Build an international network

Networking is one area most students struggle to excel in. However, becoming part of a MOOC community can be a way to establish links with all sorts of people looking to work in the same industry as you, on a global scale – providing a ready-made international network.

You also regularly interact with authority figures on the course, both everyday and visiting lecturers. Some MOOCs even offer one-to-one video feedback and discussions on your work, although sometimes you have to fork out a little money for that. The connections you establish during this time may come in handy when you least expect it; for a couple of people in my class they have already led to work experience opportunities.

What are the limitations of MOOCs? My thoughts...

Sound too good to be true? There are a lot of people who think it is, and that MOOCs may threaten the education system as we know it by offering the same service as universities but for free.

In fact Phonar, the MOOC I took part in, ran simultaneously in the traditional university environment as well as online, meaning my regular classes and lectures would be recorded and uploaded for the masses, allowing the online class to then engage with the content. This gives me a pretty rounded view on the differences between the physical course and the virtual course.

While the international exposure, feedback, online community and networking opportunities provided by MOOCs are hugely beneficial and unique to the online platform, the one-to-one experience and intensity of studying at university means that it’s hard to get the same experience online as you would on a full-time/ part-time course.

While most MOOCs run for a just few months, the experience of a university course requires a long-term commitment to learning. Due to set deadlines and examinations, university is not generally something you can switch off or work on just when you get round to it. Most students also invest a lot of money in university, and are therefore likely to invest more time and effort than they may do on a free online course.

Despite these points, the opportunities offered by MOOCs should most definitely be taken advantage of!

To conclude, I recommend anyone interested in education to get involved in MOOCs, but I would also point out that you shouldn't go into a free online course thinking you are getting the full educational experience. Think of university as the whole cake and a MOOC as one free slice.

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Written by Daisy Ware-Jarrett
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