What are MOOCS?

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aiming at large-scale participation and open access via the web. They are similar to college courses, but typically do not offer academic credit. MOOCs are also used for faculty development, educating the general public, providing learning opportunities for those who lack access to college courses, and spreading new ideas rapidly to large numbers of people.

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In the year of 2012 MOOCS became known as "The Year of the MOOCs" when companies such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX emerged and became the leaders in this innovative revolution. MOOCs from private and non-profit institution emphasized prominent faculty members and expanded open offerings to existing subscribers into free and open online courses. The term MOOC was made up in 2008 during a course called "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge" that was presented to 25 students who pay tuition in extended education at the University of Manitoba in addition to 2,300 other students from the general public who took the online class without being charged. All course content was available through RSS feeds, and learners could participate with their choice of tools, such as threaded discussions in moodle, blog posts, second life, and synchronous online meetings. MOOCs attract large numbers of participants, sometimes many thousands of people who want to use the program. The goal is to redefine the idea of a course, creating an open network of learners with emergent and shared content and interactions. Last year when Peter Norvig and Sebastion Thrun of Stanford decided to teach a MOOC called Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, it resulted in 23,000 students completing it which was more than they would ever teach at one time at Stanford. Thrun, was so taken by this, that he left Stanford and founded Udacity, one of the mainstream MOOC offering websites right now.

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Future MOOCs

Stanford’s Art factual Intelligence MOOC drew more than 160,000 participants, other MOOCs may attract as few as 100 students. Open generally means that anyone who wants to participate is allowed to at no cost. However, some institutions do charge participants who want to earn college credits for MOOCs, and this is likely to be become more common. While some MOOCs offer open-licensed content that anyone can remix and reuse, others are based on proprietary, copyright-protected content. Online is perhaps the one unvarying element of these courses. They all are offered in an online format, though many have a face-to-face component too. There are other variables across MOOCs. Some have intensive, ongoing involvement of instructors, and others have instructors with less active roles.

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MOOC's are one of the most innovative up and coming ideas today. The idea that you can take a class completely online, whenever you want, and completely free is revolutionary. We have never heard of anything even comparable to this and as this idea advances, it could be a complete course offered by your college. And I'm not talking about some crappy online college where you can get a degree that might make you look legitimate until someone looks at where you got it from. I'm talking about top professors at top colleges: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, courses that will count for credits completely online. No more having to get up and worry about being late for a lecture. Now that lecture will be saved online, for you too access anytime, anywhere. Isn't that insane? Because that's the kind of innovation that MOOCs offer.

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Why take a MOOC?
At first glance, MOOC's, though they seem like a cool thing to have, also seem completely unnecessary. Despite that it's free, it doesn't count at all, so why bother with it? Here's why? Imagine your in college taking a computer science program and your almost failing. The final is next week and the best you can even think to do is pass. Your professor is no help at all, he's half the reason your failing the class in the first place, and if you don't do good on this, you"ll fail the class and halt getting your degree by at least a year, maybe even transfer or switch majors. You obviously don't want to transfer, you've spent the whole year making new friends and doing that again would suck. Switching majors is also out of the question because you've wanted to work in this field for years. So you try to study but still can't get anything done. Than, when trying to find some information online about the subject you see that there is a free curse, you can take on your own time, that will help you study. You take it, what other choice do you have other than fail? You work your butt off in that course for the weeks leading up to the exam and finally the day comes and your future depends on it. You need to pass this exam and not only do you pass, but you do well, getting a B+ which for you, who would have failed this course otherwise is practically a godsend. Though this is an extreme example, many college students find themselves in a similar situation. Having no clue about anything going into an exam is a classic scenario and a MOOC will help you prepare for an exam on your own time and free of charge. Also, many colleges are beginning to consider storing lectures online and actually using MOOCs to help students, and maybe even offering entire classes (that do count) through MOOCs. This is not only innovative, but also it's the future of education. Who knows, maybe instead of dropping your kid off at school sometime in the future, you'll sit him down with a computer for a few hours.