Is Online Learning a Good Option for My Student?

College is all about gaining knowledge and learning how to learn. That quest for learning does not begin on the first day of classes, and it should not end at graduation.

Continuing education is an important part of life – and a requirement for a successful career. Perhaps that is why so many students are looking into Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These classes for online learning provide students with access to some of the most coveted classes in academia from Harvard to Yale to other prestigious institutions.

The evidence shows that many students are already taking advantage of MOOCs to expand their horizons, decrease the cost of higher education and help advance their careers. A recent study by the Babson Survey Research Group found that the number of college students enrolled in at least one MOOC rose by 9.3 percent from 2010 to 2011. That same study found that some 32 percent of students are now taking at least one online course, an all-time high.

MOOCs certainly have their advantages, and there are some good reasons for parents and their college students to consider them. MOOCs may never replace the traditional college classroom for your student, but these courses can provide some important benefits for both parents and students. 

What is a MOOC?

According to Randy Riddle of Duke University, there is nothing particularly revolutionary or new about the MOOC concept. Most colleges and universities have been offering online courses and distance learning opportunities for years. What sets MOOCs apart is their scale – these courses are available to thousands of students at once, opening up new learning possibilities and presenting new challenges for the schools that offer them.

MOOCs do have their limitations, including a lack of direct interaction with faculty and a pre-programmed course of study. So far MOOCs seem best suited for certificate programs and the like, rather than a true replacement for the traditional campus experience. Since there is limited faculty involvement with MOOCs, these courses are best suited to motivated students with a desire to get ahead and delve more deeply into their favorite subjects. 

New Opportunities for Learning

If the school your student will be attending offers MOOCs, it is a good idea to discuss these online learning opportunities with your son or daughter. Incoming students can use MOOCs to brush up on certain subjects, gain additional knowledge and test other college courses before enrolling. Some MOOCs also come with certificates and credits, making them potentially more valuable.

Parents of high school students can also use the MOOC concept to save money. Some high schools are using these freely available online courses for their advanced placement students, allowing them to experience a bit of college and possibly even earn college credit. If your student is getting ready to finish high school and thinking about college, ask the school about the MOOCs they offer or support and how those courses can help your son or daughter prepare for higher education.

Whether your student is on or off campus, it may be wise for your student to investigate how MOOCs can benefit them.

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter for additional tips and advice to help your college student succeed. You can also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group

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