MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course.

MOOCs are really exciting for people interested in lifelong learning as they offer the potential to study virtually any topic at any time, all from any internet connected device.

Not only that, but the tutor on your course could be the world leader in that topic.

Not only all of that – but you could do all of this for FREE – now that sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

Lets explain:

Have you ever watched a YouTube video to learn how to do something?  If you haven’t you should know that YouTube is not just for seeing cats playing the piano! Try it out if you like, maybe you’ve always wanted to know how to plumb in a sink or the best way to lay laminate floor – two examples that I’ve used myself. You’ll find that for most tasks there’s not just one but a selection of videos explaining how to do it. YouTube is great for finding a quick guide to carrying out a new activity.

However, with so many videos to choose from, how do you pick the right one for you? – a knowledgeable speaker, not too long or too short etc etc. what about if I have a question about the video? – I could post a comment, but there’s no guarantee the person will respond. With a task like plumbing in a sink, I’m probably going to want a few sources of information at the same time – my YouTube video, a written guide and  maybe the product specs of the actual sink I’m using. After I’ve plumbed in my sink – who is going to check that I’ve done it properly? what if I’m interested in further aspects of plumbing?

That’s where a MOOC comes in. Effectively the MOOC is a space to gather a load of information together in a logical order to enable learners to progress through their chosen topic, get feedback and even gain accreditation if that is what they want. In terms of progression, that has a lot more potential use than me simply watching one YouTube video.

By participating in a MOOC you are going to  learn about a topic in a group environment, gaining the knowledge, experience and skills of not just the tutor, but also the other course participants.

Continuing with my sink example – If I want to fix the sink right now maybe YouTube is the best place, but if I want to be able to put my sink in the best place, avoid plumbing problems in the future and potentially be paid for sorting other people’s sinks, then a MOOC offers a risk free way of seeing if plumbing is for me without having to commit to a long and expensive course.

What to expect:

Before you start a MOOC you will know how long the course is, what sort of level it is at and who the people leading the programme are.YOu should pick programmes that suit your commitments, maybe starting with a short course and moving to longer ones.

A MOOC will often consist of some or all of the following.

  • A weekly task list including videos to watch, papers to read and quizzes to complete -usually online, but most MOOCs can be accessed from any web enabled device – like your smartphone.
  • A discussion forum used by all of the learners on the course
  • Assessment tasks like multiple choice tests or assignments – note that assessments are often not compulsory – you can usually see all of the information without taking the assessment.

How can Midlothian Lifelong Learning and Employability service help?

We will offer sessions on ‘introductions to MOOCS, if you want to come along and check that you will be able to complete a programme, get advice on whichh programme to choose or if you have all of the equipment that you might need

We’ll also be running some ‘guided’ MOOCS, where groups will meet for a regualr weekly session to go over the information in the MOOC and think about it together.

In the future, we’ll also hopefully be able to offer some of our own MOOCs

How to find and join a MOOC?

If you are still unsure:

Here’s a YouTube video about MOOCs

And here’s a TED talk about why MOOCs matter to learning providers

Lastly, here’s a link to an actual course about plumbing, in case you are interested!




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