Saturday, December 15, 2018


This robotic-feel term is pretty new to the English language and can sound alien to some people, especially those who are not on the stage of education.

What are MOOCs?

First off, let's dissect this coinage. As you might have realized, the word, possessing an -s ending, is actually plural in form. The singular construction, "MOOC", is an acronym of "massive open online course" and pronounced as /mu:k/ (ugh, I love the IPA). Bear in mind that this has nothing to do with an agitated cow. I have always been mind-blown by the astounding advancement of technology and MOOCs are a revolutionary product of this civilization phenomenon.

Just by looking at the individual words themselves, we pretty much can understand what it refers to. Let's work our way backwards. A MOOC is (1) a course that (2) can be taken online, (3) is open to anyone, and (4) can be done by a huge number of people. In other words, as long as there is a decent Internet connection, anyone from anywhere in the world can take a MOOC. This is to speak nothing of the fact that many or most, if not all, MOOCs can be joined for FREE, and that many TOP universities and institutions develop and offer them! Let that sink in for a moment and be mesmerized at how cool it is!

Where can we take MOOCs?

Coursera logo
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MOOCs can be taken through a number of providers. The most popular one is probably Coursera, whose partnering institutions include Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, and Imperial College London. The second most famous is perhaps edX, on which you can attend courses offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, as well as the University of Oxford. Other prominent names comprise Udemy, Udacity, and FutureLearn.

Another way to answer this question is through phrases such as "from home". Definitely, you can learn about your favorite subjects through MOOCs in your sugary home or at the coziest cafe in town, while taking enjoyment in a cup of Vietnamese coffee or Thai tea. While it is probably best to study on a laptop/desktop, MOOC providers such as Coursera and edX have created mobile apps which you can download so you can take their MOOCs and learn conveniently via your phone.

My experiences with MOOCs

I enrolled in my first MOOC in 2013, thanks to my first brother, who brought it to my attention. To date, I have completed six (6) MOOCs. Here they are in the chronological order I took them:
  1. Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology, offered by the University of Alberta (UoA) (Coursera)
  2. Shaping the Way We Teach English, 1: The Landscape of English Language Teaching, offered by the U.S. Department of State and the University of Oregon (Coursera)
  3. Shaping the Way We Teach English, 2: Paths to Success in ELT, offered by the U.S. Department of State and the University of Oregon (Coursera)
  4. Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds, offered by the University of Alberta (UoA) (Coursera)
  5. Teaching Grammar Communicatively, offered by the U.S. Department of State (World Learning, Canvas)
  6. DINOx: Dinosaur Ecosystems, offered by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) (edX)
As you can see, the subjects that I have learned through MOOCs are English and dinosaurology, which are two of my greatest interests – the other being Jay Chou's music. Nevertheless, there are numerous fields of study that you can learn about through MOOCs: business, computer science, music, languages, and copious others.

The activities I did in my MOOCs included watching videos, reading course notes, taking quizzes, doing projects, and participating in discussion forums. Different MOOCs may have different requirements, so you need to read the information carefully. For example, to pass the DINOx: Dinosaur Ecosystems course, I had to take 6 quizzes and achieve an average score of 50 or above, whereas for the Shaping the Way We Teach English course series, I was required to create lesson plans which would later be checked and graded by three random fellow participants.

The MOOCs I took generally lasted for a month or two (4–8 weeks) and the dedicated time I spent on them was, on average, between 2 and 4 hours a week. For me, it wasn't really demanding, but I definitely had to make sacrifices – delaying my book reading being one of them. However, it is ultimately worth the effort I put and the sweat I secreted!

I received certificates for completing all the abovementioned MOOCs (I also acquired a badge for passing the Teaching Grammar Communicatively course – it can be seen on the left-hand section of this blog). This recognition feature is particularly interesting and could help improve your career prospects: Beautify your resume by anchoring your achievements in it and let potential employers admire and be impressed by them. Nonetheless, note that not all MOOCs provide free certificates. For instance, I had to pay 50 USD for my DINOx: Dinosaur Ecosystems certificate but I obtained my Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology and Teaching Grammar Communicatively certificates without any fees. Here are a couple of certificate examples that I have collected:

My Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds certificate

My Shaping the Way We Teach English, 2: Paths to Success in ELT certificate

My DINOx:Dinosaur Ecosystems certificate

On the whole, it has been a great experience to take part in this staggering development in education. I could learn "at" fabulous institutions from abroad, without having to travel to the otherwise unreachable places. Additionally, now there are probably MOOCs offering degrees to their participants as well! Certainly, MOOCs are in vogue and continuing to gain more and more fame as a way of learning. It is very exciting and I cannot wait to see what the future of MOOCs holds.

Have you ever taken MOOCs? If not, would you like to take them? Please share what you think of MOOCs in the comment section below!
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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Quote #53

"To start fathoming how terribly inconsistent English pronunciation (and spelling) is, just look at two basic words: do and go." - Klinsman Hinjaya
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