MOOCs, or massive open online courses, can be very useful and a lot of fun. But why do them alone? Turn your next online course into a book club-style exercise.
Photo by State Library of NSW.
I know, I know, you participate in online courses with people from all over the world, so you're not actually alone when you do them. But you're still doing all the listening, reading, studying and conceptualising all by your lonesome in front of your computer. I say meet up with a couple of friends instead and turn one of these courses into something that feels like a real classroom.
For one, MOOCs usually cost money, and they can be pretty expensive. There are plenty of great free online classes out there, but a lot of the good stuff will run you anywhere from $75 to $150 — even up to $2000, depending on what you want to learn. If you gather up a couple people to take the class with you, the cost goes down dramatically.
Also, doing these classes in a group format makes it easier to discuss the ideas being presented to you. Almost every online course has a forum or some place you can chat with other students, but it isn't the same as having an open debate in person. You communicate faster when you're able to speak out loud, you can express your thoughts more clearly, and you learn more from the people you're with. If you aren't able to grasp a concept, one of your buddies might be able to explain it in a matter of seconds.
Lastly, doing these courses with a group in person helps you keep each other accountable. You know when someone isn't pulling their weight because they didn't show up or they don't have the completed assignment in front of them like everyone else. There's a lot more pressure to follow through when you're working with real people and not some screen names on the online course's forum.
Now, this setup might not work for every MOOC out there; some of them require you to hand in assignments in order to continue. Others, however, don't require anything but time and dedication. The popular MasterClass courses, for example, work great for this kind of group work. My friends and I would gather together in one place (this part is key), watch the lectures, have a discussion, and do the assignments for each other's sake. We each had our own print-out of the course materials and made sure to meet once a week. And while we never actually handed anything in, or even technically completed the course, we still got a lot out of the class. But hey, it isn't like you're getting any real credit or certification through most of these courses anyway. So grab some friends and go learn something. It's fun.