MOOCs (massive open online courses) spearheaded online learning and are everywhere nowadays. While they were initially popular in the US and Canada, you can now find university and professional courses online.

What about those not at university?

At first glance, it would seem that MOOCs mainly focus on undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Are there only higher education options?

Can primary school or secondary school pupils make use of them for their own academic support?

In this article, we're going to have a look at the history of MOOCs, what they are, who they're for, and how you can benefit from them.

What Is a MOOC?

Let’s start off with a bit of history...

While MOOCs weren't the first way to learn remotely, they were the first to do so digitally. Prior to the first MOOC, if you wanted to learn remotely, you could do correspondence courses via snail mail. Thanks to the internet, the way we learn is completely changing.

2008 was a key year for MOOCs. The very first virtual learning experience seems to have appeared at Athabasca University, Canada. The trend continued in a number of other Canadian and American universities.

However, different sources do give conflicting dates. Some say that the very first MOOC was created by Sebastian Thrun as part of a pedagogic experiment. The Stanford University professor wanted to share his course with everyone in the world.

However, the very first broadcast of educational resources online was back in 2002 at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the US. Nowadays, there are plenty of top universities offering or participating in MOOCs including Harvard, Berkeley, Princeton, Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge.

MOOCs in Practice

What are MOOCs really?

Which are the best MOOC?s
With MOOCs, you can attend lectures virtually. (Source: Wokandapix)

They’re teaching programmes that are published online digitally.

Originally, MOOCs were live. However, there are also a lot of pre-recorded video courses that also count as MOOCs. While the latter isn't as interactive as the former, there are still plenty of free online courses worth checking out.

Many MOOCs are a collaboration between universities and MOOCs generally include:

  • A video of a professor teaching a class.
  • Forums or chat clients
  • PowerPoints or presentations accompanying the lessons
  • Exercises that accompany the lessons

There are plenty of advantages to using MOOCs for online academic support.

Firstly, they’re completely free and accessible. Anyone can access them by connecting to the platform where they’re hosted. It doesn’t matter where you are or what time it is. This is what makes MOOCs so interesting. You can make the most of a train journey to attend an online course from your mobile, for example. You can also connect from the comfort of your own home via your computer or tablet.

That said, a lot of MOOCs have a lifespan and operate within a given timeframe. That means that some are no longer available as the course has finished or you have to wait until the next time it goes live.

In fact, MOOCs make students responsible for their own learning in a given subject. You'll still have work and exercises to do, assignments to hand in, and deadlines to meet!

While MOOCs don’t offer degrees that are as recognised as attending an actual institution, it’s possible that in the future they will. The following MOOCs may be of interest:

  • Khan Academy
  • Udemy
  • Coursera
  • Udacity
  • FutureLearn
  • edX

Are There MOOCs for Primary and Secondary School Students?

As you have probably gathered, MOOCs mainly focus on university-level courses.

  • What about those studying GCSEs and A Levels?
  • Can you find other types of free courses?

MOOCs for Primary School Students

Primary school pupils are often too young to be in charge of their own learning. Thus, traditional MOOCs aren’t really tailored to them. The same is sort of true for online webcam tutorials, too. Primary school children need a teacher to learn effectively. It seems unlikely that they would be interested in an online course that they have to watch on their own.

That said, there are plenty of online video resources available for young learners. It's not recommended that you leave your child unattended while using a MOOC as they'll probably need your guidance.

Udemy even has coding classes for kids. With computing and coding become a bigger part of the national curriculum, it’s never too early to get kids interested in modern technology.

Are there MOOCs for younger children?
Online video is a great way to motivate younger students. (Source: josechubass)

MOOCs for Secondary School Pupils and Sixth Formers

There are a number of MOOCs aimed at secondary school students and sixth formers. Most of the larger platforms offer popular introductory courses for those getting ready for university. MOOCs like EdX, Udacity, Khan Academy, and Coursera are all offering a variety of introductory.

Pupils in secondary school have to get used to having different teachers for different subjects. They have to manage the different subjects, too. This can take some getting used to.

MOOCs and online video courses can be really useful for:

  • Catching up during the school holidays
  • Learning new skills or preparing for going to university
  • Accompanying their lessons throughout the school year
  • Furthering their understanding of something they studied in class.

Video courses are a new way to learn and get ahead.

Are there MOOCs for those not at university?
MOOCs can be useful for students getting ready for university. (Source: Free-Photos)

MOOCs are becoming increasingly open. Each learner can be taught at their own pace. While the instructor can't always answer questions in real-time, they have YouTube channels and a comment section where you can discuss things with other viewers and students.

You should also check out the disadvantages of remote academic support.

Online Academic Support: Khan Academy

We’re going to have a look at one MOOC in detail. Khan Academy was made in the United States of America and also exists in a variety of different languages. Their slogan, “You can learn anything. For free. For everyone. Forever.” explains it all.

Firstly, you have to sign up. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have access to plenty of different courses in a variety of subjects including:

  • Maths courses
  • Science courses (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.)
  • IT courses

Thanks to their clean interface, you can easily find the resources you’re looking for. It doesn't matter if you're studying sciences or humanities, economics, or programming and computer science, you're bound to find what you're looking for.

To start learning, the site can test your level. You’ll answer a few questions and it’ll tell you where to go. Once you’ve completed this step, you watch a video lecture whenever you want.

The interesting thing about Khan Academy is that videos are combined with exercises and your progress is recorded. Just like a video game, you can unlock bonuses and rewards that’ll make you want to learn more.

Khan Academy exists mainly thanks to donations from users.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much education you’ve had, you can learn something from their site. There are people as old as 70 proving that.

Food for thought: independent learning works well for some but would be so much more effective if done in tandem with online tutoring!

Where can you find educational online videos?
Students of any age can find educational videos online. (Source: StockSnap)

MOOCs are just the beginning when it comes to open education. At the moment, they’re mainly dedicated to university courses. There’s a better offering when compared to courses for secondary school and primary school pupils. However, as you’ve seen, more and more of them are turning towards teaching younger pupils.

In a few years, we’ll probably see online courses where everyone can learn and work on projects together.

Is this realistic?

Only time will tell.

Online education is changing and MOOCs are a powerful tool for those wanting to get academic support outside of the classroom. Since they're relatively new, they're constantly exploring new ways to teach and continue to improve.

Since younger students can't benefit from this style of learning environment or do an open university course, it's probably a better idea to hire an experienced educator to help them with their studies online. Of course, it's fundamental that they have fun while getting private tuition.

If you need more support than offered by MOOCs, why not consider hiring a private tutor from Superprof?

No matter what subject you want to learn, you just have to search the subject, skill or topic, and where you live. Additionally, you can get tutoring from all over the world to help you if there aren't any suitable tutors near you or you'd prefer to save money.

Tutors aren't just for academic subjects, either. You can learn to dance, paint, play the piano, etc. You don't necessarily need to get one on one tutorials, either. If you want to save money, you should consider hiring a tutor to teach you and some friends!

You are now invited to chime in: is online tutoring effective?

If you've long wondered about online teaching jobs, why not join Superprof and find out for yourself what it's like!

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