4 vital tips for using MOOCs for majors

Involvement in massive open online courses (MOOCs) might be the very thing that allows one’s application to stand out from the crowd

moocs-learning-majorIt’s not easy to select a college major, especially when the choices include subjects outside the core curriculum of primary and secondary schooling.

Programming, web design, or entrepreneurship, for example, might sound appealing to students who’ve built a homebrew app or read Steve Jobs’ biography.

But how can students tell the difference between dipping into a subject in their free time and studying it at the college level without the academic equivalent of a preview button?

Enter Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), free internet-delivered programs offered by some of the world’s better-known colleges and universities that provide students the opportunity to experience college-level learning before committing to a major.

Given that many schools allow students to choose a major at the halfway point in their college career, or to switch majors (sometimes more than once), previewing a major might not be a pressing concern for everyone. But with many schools and fields requiring earlier major commitments or prerequisites, MOOCs can provide a cost- and risk-free way to determine if you love (or hate) that “life’s dream” subject before tying the academic knot.

(Next page: Four tips to consider before taking the MOOC plunge)