In January 2014 I started my first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) after reading a blogpost on Poets & Quants. I did not know back then this would be the start of the many MOOCs I would complete in the next 10 months. Over the course of these 10 months I learned 3 important things about this new way to gain knowledge:
The wealth of knowledge accessible through MOOCs is enormous
Whether you want to study about the work of Scandinavian authors, the intricacies of app programming or just want to know something about horses there is a MOOC that will fit. The wealth of knowledge that is currently available through MOOCs is amazing. They cater to people with different needs from those who are working towards a MBA equivalent (I am one of them) to people who just want to know more about their field of interest and professionals with many years of experience. This wide range of people have something in common though: the desire to learn something new and to update their knowledge. This is great in an economy which requires everyone to keep on learning after they left formal education.
Completing a MOOC requires a good amount of discipline
With completion rates around 10% there is a fair chance you will not finish a MOOC you sign up for. Even though this low completion rate is not necessary a bad thing, it does indicate it requires a fair amount of discipline to complete a MOOC successfully. As there are no incentives other than your own motivation and discipline to continue learning, dropping out becomes easy. Where you have peer support and financial incentives (you already paid your tuition fee for the whole year) to help you to continue studying if it gets tough, these things are all absent in MOOCs. This is why MOOC users fall back on traditional forms of support such as study groups to maintain their motivation.
Employers do not yet know how to treat MOOCs
If you completed one or more MOOCs you might put it on your CV to demonstrate your learning. However, you just might soon find yourself explaining what MOOCs are to potential employers. As a recent graduate who was looking for a job I was in contact with several recruiters, none of which knew how to interpret those 3 lines on my CV. During the initial phone screening this was something that came up regularly. The most interesting questions I got was when I intended to finish my MOOC studies. As I see MOOCs as part of a lifelong learning strategy I kindly answered him I probably would never finish after which I explained the idea behind this answer. These interactions with recruiters show to me employers do not yet fully understand the potential impact of MOOCs can have on the professional development of their employees.
Having enjoyed this new learning opportunities, I continue in my journey towards new knowledge.
This post has first been published on LinkedIn.