Thanks to top universities offering online courses – some for free – the time-and-cash-strapped can become mini-experts at just about anything.
Too strapped for time – and funds – to pursue a much desired course at a regular university? No worries. Topnotch institutions including Harvard and Stanford are offering a diverse range of courses online. And best of all, many of them are free, discovers
If you’re an avid video gamer, you’ll be familiar with the acronym ‘MMORPG’, which describes games played online with other people – or, more accurately, Massively Mulitiplayer Online RolePlaying Games. As many people know, its opposite number in academia is the “Mooc” – the Massive Open Online Course. But what you may not be too familiar with is just how popular online learning like this has become. In the decade since courses like this first started springing up online, Mooc has been embraced by dozens of world-class educational institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, the National University of Singapore and the Australian National University.
Some experts say that this is just the beginning. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and the idea that you need to put your life on hold and place yourself within walking distance of your lecturer in order to further your education will probably seem old fashioned. The internet is disrupting some long-standing traditions and making learning more accessible to everyone. What is especially appealing is the chance to become a mini-expert on something that’s always intrigued you. Small ‘taster’ courses typically take just a few weeks and you’ll be tutored by some of the finest minds in academia. You’ll also have thousands of fellow participants to engage with if you want to. Best of all, the course will probably be free – unless you want to buy a certificate that says you’ve done it.
In 2013, when 36-year-old Hamed Khadem first heard about one of the world’s leading providers of online courses named FutureLearn – a company started by the Open University in 2012 – he was intrigued. Having graduated from high school in 1998, Dubai-born Hamed worked for seven years until he had amassed enough money to do what he’d always wanted to do: enrol at the American College of Dubai, where he took a major in Information Technology.
Studying was very much in his DNA, and he was instantly taken with the FutureLearn website and its 500-plus courses.
‘My brother and I immediately started selecting some,’ he says. ‘The Secret Power of Brands was the first one I did, and now here I am after a couple of years with more than 30 courses completed and experience in almost every field imaginable.’
Hamed says he considers himself addicted to learning, as he puts it, and admits to having signed up for another 50 additional courses. ‘I feel the need to learn something in all places and at all times,’ he says. ‘If I don’t learn something new every day I feel like something is missing inside me.’
He’s certainly not alone – people love to broaden their minds. ‘There are two big groups when it comes to Mooc,’ says Mark Lester, FutureLearn’s director of partnerships development. ‘There’s the professional audience seeking to
Hamed Khadem says he is addicted to learning – he has already completed more than 30 online courses