You can get a free education from the best universities in the nation, without ever leaving your home. Finally, you can tell your mom that you made it to Yale! Or attend your next class reunion and brag about your professor at Princeton!
There are probably quite a few phrases in those previous sentences that sound too good to be true. In fact, you have probably been trained to be skeptical of the word free, but this is one of those rare, unicorn in a field of four-leaf clovers, kind of moments when free actually means free: no strings attached.
What is a MOOC?
A MOOC is simply shorthand for massive open online course. While several non-profit organizations now offer MOOCS, Coursera.org was the first to offer free online classes from some of most renowned professors who teach at ivy league universities around the world. The idea to both globalize education and make if free went live in the form of Coursera in 2011 and in just two years, it has tripled its funding and reached an enrollment of 4 million students. Since then, other organizations have followed suit, creating an even more diverse selection of free courses to choose from.
Who will your classmates be?
In a struggling economy, racked by consistently high unemployment numbers, MOOCs can provide an affordable way for workers to brush up on their skills and make sure that they remain relevant in their fields. For other lifelong learners, it can simply be a great way to engage in intellectual discussions and continue to exercise their brains. This can be especially helpful to seniors who need to fight the onset of diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s and the natural slowing down of cognitive function that can occur with age. Unfortunately, aging means that your body is naturally deteriorating and the brain doesn’t get left out of that equation. A lot of articles will advise you to pick up a crossword or buy a book of Sudoku puzzles, but why not go big? Go back to college!
More Reasons MOOCs are Great for Seniors
Online courses also offer a great alternative for anyone who is experiencing limited mobility. You can take classes right from the comfort of your own home, without having to navigate large campuses. One drawback is that there might be a bit of a learning curve for those who are not completely computer literate. Getting used to the setup of an online course can be a job in and of itself, but once you get the hang of it, you will have the world’s best universities at your fingertips.
You might also assume that taking an online course means that you won’t be able to interact with your professor or other students, but discussion boards create a great way to connect, exchange ideas, and get answers to your questions. In addition, you will probably be pleasantly surprised with how much access you have to your professor and teaching assistants. A lot of thought and planning has gone into designing each course and making sure that everyone is engaged, no matter what the size of the class.
Did I mention that it is free? While you won’t be able to complete a degree through this site and others like it, most courses do offer a certificate of completion that will verify your successful participation. Whether you are looking to build your resume or simply continue a habit of lifelong learning, MOOCs will allow you free access to some of the best resources in the nation and the world. It is an especially great option for seniors who want to stay sharp and ward off the effects of aging.