3. Check out course prerequisites, syllabi, preview videos, and student reviews to make sure a particular course fits your goals and your personality. And there’s no shame in enrolling just to check out the first week of lectures and assignments to see if a particular course (and professor) is a good match for you.
4. Most importantly, only commit to taking a MOOC to completion if you are ready to treat the course with the same level of seriousness you would a residential college course on the same subject. This means giving lectures your full attention (no multitasking), taking notes, putting yourself on a schedule so that assignments get completed on time, and treating exams and other assignments as genuine (and honest) tests of your ability.
The only exception to No. 4 is if you decide you are going to audit a MOOC, rather than earn a certificate of completion. But, even then, you need to commit to giving class lectures your undivided attention (not just listen to them while on the treadmill).
On top of the utility MOOCs can provide students exploring a major, the skills and discipline needed to succeed in a MOOC are the same ones a student will need to succeed in college. With younger students currently making up the smallest percentage of MOOC enrollees, involvement in massive online courses might be the very thing that allows one’s application to stand out from the crowd.
Jonathan Haber is a writer/researcher who has worked in the fields of professional assessment, employment, curriculum development, and educational technology. This article first appeared in World Wide Learn.