Experience college minus the social life with MOOCs

What’s it like to be a college student in 2013? If you’d like to find out, enroll in a MOOC, i.e., Massive Open Online Course.

MOOCs are available from the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Duke, Northwestern, and my alma mater, the University of California. Now that information is at our fingertips, alternatives to traditional learning can be had. Time was, students sat at the feet of the master, read books, searched card catalogues, and lived in college dormitories. I know, some still do.

But the Internet gives us access to a seemingly unlimited amount of information.

Problem is, it’s not all accurate. Enrolling in a MOOC can do more than make you doze off in class. It can teach you how to really learn. That is, you can learn how we know that we know what we know.

A MOOC is a real course. It has starting and ending dates, real students (by the thousands), a real curriculum, materials, and participation. However, it can be more than just a huge online course.

It can be a way to learn about learning by connecting, communicating and collaborating with others. In sum, it teaches you how to be a student. It teaches you how to sort out facts from fiction or popular opinion.

Hint: Hearsay is not always accurate. Information must be vetted. Some type of structured, systematic verification of information must be used to ascertain truth. This is more important now than ever before, again, because all kinds of stuff is at our fingertips on the Internet.

The beauty of a MOOC is that you don’t have to pay to participate. You can take the course for free. You do all the work involved in the learning process, but only pay if you want college credit. What a great way to experience higher education, no?

The problem many have with MOOCs is that experiencing higher education should be more than vicarious participation. It should be a lifestyle. It should be social as well as intellectual. In fact, learning is best, perhaps, when both social interactions and psychological phenomenon take place.

If you think watching college football on your monitor is exciting, you should try being part of the real life crowd.

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