When you think of “school,” what are the first images that come to mind? Sitting in a classroom, listening to a teacher? Coming home and working on homework? That’s what I used to think of as “normal” school, until I started homeschooling for my freshman and sophomore year of high school. During those two years, I was completely in charge of my education, free to pursue my interests (on top of other requirements, of course!) and work when it was convenient for me. I became an independent learner and “school” did not necessarily mean classroom-based learning. That’s the idea behind MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses, a force that growing at a rapid pace and changing our definition of “school.”
MOOCs are online-based classes led by professors from universities across the country and even the world, such as Harvard, Yale, UCLA, and more. These courses may have as many as 5,000 (and some have more) enrolled at once and are organized by an online provider, such as Cousera and EDx. Professors of MOOCs put all required material on the course portal and students are able to sign in and retrieve their work for the week and work at their own pace. Some of these organizations even offer certificates for courses completed. Now, here’s the best part: these courses are FREE! Yes, that’s right, free. You can take any course you are interested for absolutely no charge. You can work whenever you have time and wherever you can.
Right now, I have accounts with both Coursera.com and edx.org and have signed up for a few courses: Introduction to International Criminal Law, Buddhist Meditation in the Modern World, and The Challenges of Global Poverty. These are all subjects that I am interested in and that I think will help me specialize my studies in Political Science and Middle East Studies. MOOCs are truly changing the face of education because they grant access to a world-class education for anyone. With education costs being one of the most pertinent concerns of our generation, MOOCs are crucial. It doesn’t matter your financial situation or your schedule — you can take charge of your own education. To me, a Smart Girl is one who pursues her passions and her dreams, no matter her situation, so I believe MOOCs are a Smart Girls’ best friend.
Here is a link to a TED talk about MOOCs: http://new.ted.com/talks/anant_agarwal_why_massively_open_online_courses_still_matter
Here are a few of my favorite websites for access to MOOCs and other educational resources: