I spent two weeks this January teaching a classroom of college students about Business Communications. At the end of the class, I was exhausted, but energized by the little light bulbs that blinked on as they made connections between what I was saying and their experiences. It also made me think about the last time that I learned something so new that my perspective was turned sideways, whether in a classroom or through an online learning setting.
Lifelong learning is something that I feel strongly about, so when I came up empty when tracking down my last mind-stretching activity, I knew it was time to take action. Thankfully, there are plenty of learning opportunities, and one of the hottest new trends in education are adult learners taking MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. Organizations like Coursera, Edx, and Udacity have created partnerships with university professors across the world to offer free online courses in a variety of subjects.
[Kaplan University teaches 13 core classes for free online.]
No, you don’t receive credit (yet), but you are also unfettered by the restrictions of a degree program checklist. Want to learn about the Modern and the Postmodern from Wesleyan University? Or maybe Sociology from Princeton? How about Human Health and Global Environmental Change from Harvard? The possibilities are endless, and definitely brain stretching.
But before you dash off and sign up for a class on Greek mythology, here are my top 10 tips for adult learners taking MOOCs from my experiences with online learning and adult learners.
Top 10 Tips for Adult Learners Taking MOOCs
1. Do your research.
Each organization that manages these online learning experiences takes a slightly different approach. Find the one that fits your learning style, whether it is live dialogue with the professor or self-directed activities.
2. Know thyself.
Pick a course that you are going to be excited about when you need to take time away from watching The Bachelor to do your assignments.
3. Find a friend.
Convince a friend to take a class with you, or be deliberate about finding a virtual friend in your class. Support is key!
4. Pencil it in.
Set aside time to work on your MOOC and commit to it. If you have to head up to a coffee shop to focus, just do it. You won’t regret it.
5. Participate in class.
This could include participating in live dialogue, posting on discussion boards, or working on group projects. You get out of the online course experience what you put in, and participation is the best way to jump in with both feet.
6. Ask questions.
Not only will this allow you to stand out in a sea of computer-mediated relationships, but it will also make your learning experience richer and more fulfilling.
7. Share your experiences.
One of the benefits of learning as an adult is the amount of rich experiences that each person brings. Don’t be shy; share yours!
8. Stay committed.
When you are in the thick of life, it is easy to let things that seem like a “luxury” to fall to the wayside. Don’t put learning in the “do someday” column; keep it on your “A” priority to-do list.
9. Tell your friends.
MOOCs are relatively new, and by sharing with your friends, you may just find a new learning buddy.
10. Celebrate your success.
After you complete your first MOOC, shout your accomplishments from the rooftops and treat yourselves to a manicure after all that typing.
I love what MOOCs have to offer, from the top-notch professors to the zeros on the price tag. However, navigating a successful online learning experience takes a bit of planning, intention, and hard work. Maximize your MOOC with these easy tips, and watch the little light bulbs blink on over your head!
Updated from original post on March 13, 2013
Rachel Hammond is a writer and editor for Mom Colored Glasses and has her own blog, Circle of Quiet. She has a family of five and is a wife, mother, daughter, and sister all at once. She considers herself a work in progress. Connect with Rachel on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.