You’ve heard of them—now discover what MOOCs are and how you can utilize them to enhance your teaching and create better student outcomes.

As MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have gained a large following of ambitious learners, the concept of adult learning has changed dramatically. By registering for classes that are open to the public and available online through some of the most recognizable institutions of higher education, adults are now able to customize their courses to suit specific needs.

MOOCs 101: History of Open Online Ed

MOOCsMOOCs were introduced nearly 10 years ago, changing the model of higher education. According to the University of Prince Edward Island—a MOOC pioneer—its Manager of Web Communications and Innovations, Dave Corimer, introduced the term during a conversation with the two innovators who introduced this learning method. The concept of MOOCs launched through the University of Manitoba in 2008 when University of Athabasca professor Dr. George Siemens and Stephen Downes of Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) first opened this type of course.

Who Uses MOOCs?

As MOOCs grow in popularity with ambitious adult learners, it has become clear that teachers occupy a considerable amount of space in the student population that engages in these courses. Through Harvard and MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) joint venture into MOOCs, known as edX, teachers have been provided with extraordinary opportunities that fit within the demanding schedule of an educator. According to the report “HarvardX and MITx: Four Years of Open Online Courses,” authors Andrew Ho of Harvard University and Isaac Chuang of MIT discovered that 32 percent of students who had taken MOOCs were teachers. Through courses such as edX’s Columbia University-based Innovating Instruction: Reimagining Teaching with Technology, Coursera’s Get Organized: How to Be a Together Teacher and Emerging Trends & Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom, teachers can participate in courses designed to help them cultivate their own skills in the classroom to increase impact on students.

Benefits of MOOCs

MOOCsWithin the Harvard and MIT network, students can pursue courses in STEM, government, health and social science, humanities, history, religion, design, and education. Computer science offers some of the most popular courses in Harvard and MIT’s joint venture into MOOCs. Chuang and Ho’s study found that 19 percent of the educators participating in MOOCs teach the subject that they were studying through edX.

Though not all MOOCs offer free certification, many of these classes provide excellent opportunities for comprehensive, complimentary education from some of the world’s most reputable higher-learning institutions. By exploring the coursework offered through MOOCs teachers are able to practice the enduring passion for learning that they want to instill in students. As teachers continue to search for affordable options to enhance their skills, MOOCs, free lesson plans, and STEM apps are only some of the options to expand reach through efficient means.

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