Making the Most of Online Training with MOOCSE
Since 2006 or so, there's been an increasing proliferation of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. The M in MOOC represents the massive scale of such courses, which aim at "unlimited participation" in theory, and in some instances may actually involve tens of thousands of students once they're actively up and running.
In addition to providing courses with lectures, some MOOCs also include all the trappings of an honest-to-gosh academic experience. That is, they come with online communities to facilitate student interaction, regular "virtual office hours" with faculty, access to teaching assistants, labs, links to reading materials, and more.
The aim of all those extras, of course, is to make the experience as much like a real college-level course as possible. Students who want academic credit must pay for that benison, but those who simply want to learn can do so at no cost to them, other than their time and effort.
MOOCs Live in, and Depend on, "The Cloud"
What really caused MOOCs to take off and establish a major presence in learning and training circle is the massive proliferation of cloud computing technology. This is what led the New York Times to refer to 2012 as "The Year of the MOOC," as it documented edX, Udacity, and Coursera as three major players in the MOOC space.
That's in addition to offerings from all kinds of big-name universities, including virtually the entire Ivy League, plus Duke, Stanford, MIT, and state universities in California, Illinois, and Virginia.
Today, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure offer more-or-less-canned MOOC environments for use in the cloud, along with all the scaffolding needed to support educational content inside several of the major MOOC platforms (e.g. edX, Coursera, Udacity, and others). There are, in fact, thousands of MOOCs now readily available to anyone and everyone who might wish to partake of such offerings.
The massive availability of massive open online courses, however, raises an interesting and challenging question: "How does one find and select a MOOC for learning?"
MOOCSE to the Rescue!
Rather than drowning in a sea of alternatives, interested parties can turn to MOOCSE instead. Regular readers may recall that I first banged the drum for MOOCSE in March, but this is a topic worth returning to. If you aren't already making use of MOOCSE, then my mission today is to haul you aboard the bandwagon.
MOOCSE is a specialized search engine that guides people to what's available online. Then would-be MOOC students can select from listings that are relevant to topics that interest them.
The most important element of a search comes from the search line in the MOOCSE interface, where one is encouraged to enter "Keyword(s) or Subject Area." I chose the phrase "Data Analytics" to put MOOCSE to work, and shortly found myself swimming in alternatives.
By reading the URLs for MOOC offerings carefully, one can often elicit university affiliations. For example, the first listing that pops up includes "utarlington" in its URL, which tells me that the University of Texas at Arlington is involved with the edX course titled "Data, Analytics and Learning."
Otherwise, browsing a course through its provider listing tells one much of what one needs to know. Thus, for example, MOOCSE also provides an entry to the edX page for "Data Analysis & Statistics," which aggregates that platform's 166 course entries for that topic. You can get to the same information by clicking the edX tab underneath the search box on the MOOCSE.com home page, too.
When it comes to picking courses that are just right for you and your needs, things can get a bit trickier. I recommend you stick to offerings on one of the big provider platforms, from a source you know and trust. Depending on the subject matter, this could mean picking something from a big-name university or a well-respected training company.
You could also try digging into vendor-sponsored/developed content (like the courses developed for the various tracks in the Microsoft Professional Program, or MPP). You can also turn to various sources of MOOC ratings and rankings data, such as Class Central, CourseTalk, MOOC News and Reviews, and so forth, to see how others who've already taken courses of potential interest have rated and reviewed them.
As long as you do your homework, and zero in on top-quality offerings, there's simply no way to lose out by taking the MOOC route to building skills and knowledge. Once you check it out, you'll probably find yourself adopting a whole new outlook on lifelong learning.