Brush Up On Healthcare, Medicine & Biology with MOOCs

By SCMA On 14/01/2016  

When time has become the most elusive of currencies, a recent report on massive open online courses (MOOCs) enrollment hitting an all-time record comes as no surprise to a lot in the education field. 

According to the report, the 35 million who signed up for MOOCs in 2015 represents an impressive 18 million more individuals taking courses online than 2014.

To those still unfamiliar with the learning format, MOOCs are freely-accessible and open-licensed short courses that have drawn a lot of interest in the last few years mostly because these have changed the way people perceive education, particularly in the higher education community.

Shifting the mindset that pegs quality education as expensive and requiring huge sacrifices in personal and work schedules, these self-directed courses are characterized by three (3) main aspects: open content, open instruction & open assessment. MOOCs cover a broad range of subjects and have become particularly attractive to many enrollees because of their personalized approach to learning.

In Class Central, for example, courses offered under Health and Medicine (368 courses) provide options for those who may not have the flexibility to take time off from their hectic in order to brush up or keep up-to-date with everything from Biology (109 courses, 20 of which are self-paced) to Diseases & Disorders (73 courses, 12 of which are self-paced).

Most of these MOOCs do not come at any cost. Some that do charge, only do so minimally to defray the cost of creating the MOOC. The courses engage the enrollees in a wide variety of interaction formats: watching videos, discussion threads, reading lectures and numerous lessons on the Web.

Its open format allows access to thousands of participants taking the course at any given time, each moving at their own pace while still enjoying the expertise of educators in various specialties. Many even say that more professors and resource persons make the extra investment in improving their course lectures, in order to derive maximum learning from their online format and ensure that these archived courses may address shortcomings that MOOCs are sometimes unable to do without.

Definitely, this learning format has as much setbacks and challenges as it has its advantages. One very important thing to take note of, though, is this: open nature of MOOCs, many universities will not provide credit for courses taken in a MOOCs format.

For example, grading papers is next to impossible. In some MOOCs, graduate students come in to help the professor out. However, with thousands enrolled at one time, this is more an exception than the rule and will have to be one of the things an enrollee must be prepared to do without. Alternatively, one may seek peer evaluations. This comes with a caveat, however, as there is no established baseline in the capability of one's MOOCs "peer".

Moreover, the format makes discussion and professor-student intimacy a bit of a challenge. Its critics argue that even with MOOCs' electronic alternatives of message boards, forums and chat rooms, nothing beats live face-to-face communication.

However, for those whose goal is to learn, then MOOCs is a good way to go. Especially for those who are great at self-direction and are willing to do what it takes to ensure maximum learning.

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