Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): What is it and how it can help you?

Image courtesy of [sheelamohan] /

The Internet has changed a lot of things in our lives. Some of the most significant changes are getting tons of “free” movies and being exposed to seemingly endless Harlem shake videos. 😉

Kidding aside, the Internet has also changed one of the most important elements in personal development: education.

Decades ago, you would have to go to an actual university in order to go to college. Now, you can get a degree without leaving your home. All you need are internet connection, a very long attention span, and sheer determination. With online universities offering distance education, more people than ever have opportunities to pursue higher education.

The internet has also paved the way for MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

 So, what is MOOC?

When I first heard about MOOC it reminded me of MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). 🙂 I’m not totally crazy for for connecting these two online activities because there are two things similar between MOOC and MMORPG: They’re both massive and they are done online. And in a way, MOOC is also a multiplayer because thousands of students are enrolled in one class.

 How can it help you?

Trial and Error


Are you planning to finish college, get a master’s degree, or simply want to learn a new topic that complements your existing career? MOOC is one of the best ways to get your feet wet before committing to a full-blown college or master’s degree. Enrolling in a free MOOC allows you to choose what subjects might appeal to you without spending money on tuition fees. It’s like one of those apps that allow you to try different haircuts before getting an actual haircut. 🙂

Time Management

Another advantage of MOOC is it allows you to better manage your time. If you want to pursue a degree at a local college or university, you’ll have a clear picture of how much time you’re going to spend each week. This way you can better prepare yourself before committing to enroll.


Most importantly, it teaches self-discipline, which is an important quality one must posses in order to succeed in school. Although schedule is more flexible, you still have to abide by the deadlines set by the professor.


What is Coursera.Org?

This is a list of the courses I’ve enrolled in. I’m done with the Gamification course! 🙂

One of the most trusted websites when it comes to MOOC is I learned about Coursera from a friend at work. Since last year, I’ve been playing with the idea of going back to school to get a Master’s Degree. I thought taking online classes is a great way to gauge my enthusiasm in pursuing another academic adventure.

 The logical choice for me is getting a Master’s Degree in Communication. But I’m also fascinated with Psychology. If I have the time and the money, I’d take both. But getting a master’s degree is not like watching a TV series where you can watch The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones in the same week.

How is Coursera Different from other Free Online Courses?

The first course that I completed is Professor Kevin Werbach’s Gamification course. It is one of the most popular MOOC in Coursera, with more than 60,000 students who enrolled from different parts of the world.

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems. (Wikipedia, 2013)

Courses from Real Universities

There are plenty of free online courses online that cover a wide selection of topics–from dog training to understanding String theory., for example, offers a lot of information on all sorts of subjects.

However, most of these courses are simply a compilation of information.

The experience is passive. You’re limited to soaking up all  the information without really testing your knowledge., on the other hand, are courses from real universities and are conducted by actual professors. Through video lectures, you can see your professor speak as if you were in a classroom. The only difference is that he can’t see you when you’re dozing off. 🙂

This quick video gives you a pretty clear picture of what you can do in Coursera:

Quizzes, Written Assignments, and Deadlines

Like real courses, you’ll also have quizzes and written assignments that you have to accomplish before the deadline.

When I took the Gamification course, there were a total of four quizzes, three written assignments, and one final exam. Quizzes are automatically graded by the system, while written assignments are graded by other students enrolled in the course.

I was actually quite worried at first about getting graded by my “peers”. I was afraid that they might be unfair in giving grades. But it turned out pretty cool and exciting! I’ve always gotten the grade I’ve expected based on the work I’ve put in. It was also exhilarating to check my score every week. 🙂

Certificate of Accomplishments 

One of my motivations in finishing the six-week Gamification course is the promise of getting a Certificate of Accomplishment. In order to get it, my total score should be at least 70%. I just got my certificate the other day, and I’m really happy with my accomplishment. From the 60,000 students who enrolled, 5000  people only got the certificates. 🙂

Side note: Not all courses offered through Coursera give out Certificate of Accomplishments. So, if this matters to you, make sure to check the course syllabus first.

If you haven’t tried enrolling in a MOOC, I highly recommend checking out They offer a lot of interesting and radical courses! You’ll not only learn, but you’ll also get to communicate with different types of people from around the world.

It’s definitely a great way to take advantage of your internet connection and your PC, netbook, or your tablet.

If you’ve already tried MOCC, let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to hear about your experience! 🙂




Irene Chan

Irene Chan

Irene Chan loves two things: communication and technology. With this tech blog and her role as Head of Communications at Veems, she believes she has the best job in the world. 🙂 Besides those two things, she's also crazy for coffee, dogs, and zombies.Follow her on Veems to get tips and fun updates from her geeky life.
Irene Chan