Moocs: Have you done one yet? by Chris Longmuir

This is not the first time I’ve written about MOOCS, but I’m currently enjoying one entitled Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime, and I’m a sucker for anything that involves crime.

I’m getting to be an old hand with MOOCS, and I’ve taken part in quite a lot of them now. I’ve studied everything from crime, forensics, criminal justice, and a beauty called Identifying the Dead where we got to learn all about bones and skeletons and things as part of a course on forensic anthropology. But I’ve also done courses on the First World War, the Irish Revolution, as well as digital marketing, and how to read minds. Quite a selection.

So what is a MOOC? I suppose you could say it is the modern equivalent of a correspondence course. The word MOOC means Massive Open Online Course and it is an online course of study with open access via the web. As well as using traditional course materials such as videos, readings, podcasts, and online lectures, it encourages participants to communicate in online forums to build a community of students, lecturers, and so forth. It is a fantastic way to study and the courses are completely free. Here is a link to a You Tube video telling you how a MOOC works

There are several ways of enrolling for a MOOC through different providers, but the provider I use is FutureLearn. They have loads of courses delivered by different universities and organisations, covering a variety of subjects. If you want to browse the courses you will find them here

The first course I chose was an Introduction to Forensic Science, delivered by the University of Strathclyde. This course ran for six weeks with an average of three hours per week study. Of course the amount of time devoted to study is optional, this decision to be taken by the student. But as I said above, I’ve done many more courses since then.

The amount of people taking part in these courses is phenomenal, and the interaction between them, which is optional, is lively. The participants engage in many discussions over various aspects of the course, comparing notes, and learning from each other. You can access these courses long after the date given, but you do lose out on much of the interactional sharing if you do them at a later date.

FutureLearn is a good provider of these free courses and the selection is varied, including philosophical subjects, medical, mathematical, social sciences, and I noticed journalism and fiction writing among them. I heartily recommend you have a look at the courses link for this, which is earlier in this article. In the meantime if you want to know how FutureLearn works, then check out this link which will give you a video of how it all works as well as links to why it works and other aspects. Here is the link which will take you to how it works

I am enjoying studying this way and I am sure many of you would as well therefore I would urge you to check out the links.

Chris Longmuir


Wendy H. Jones said…
Great post Chris. I too love MOOCS. I've learnt so much through doing them
Mari Biella said…
I did the Introduction to Forensic Science course, too, and was impressed by how it managed to make the subject accessible - even to me! Given that it was free, I can't praise it enough. I'd definitely recommend Future Learn to anyone who has the time to spare (which is a problem, admittedly...).
Ever since you first mentioned these, Chris, I've meant to check them out - the one you're doing now would definitely have interested me! So many thanks for this post and the links!
Jan Needle said…
thanks for the tip-off. but i fear my brain is already full!
Bill Kirton said…
I'm another convert to FutureLearn. They offer so many courses, and they're so varied. I've followed 3 so far, including the forensic one and, while I'd love to have spent more time entering into the discussions with others, I resisted the temptation because it could eat up so much time. I'm sure it would have been time well spent but it's all about prioritising. They're very stimulating and, from each one I've taken at least one idea or technique which I've used either in my own writing or in literacy workshops I give as an RLF Fellow. I join Chris and the others in recommending them, even to people with full brains, Jan.
Susan Price said…
I did one on investigating a murder, on your recommendation, Chris. It was excellent -it really took you into the case, with videos of the scene, and made you question the obvious assumptions and the evidence. It was Strathclyde University.
I keep getting the emails from FutureLearn and keep meaning to check out what's on offer - but like Mari and Jan, I feel I have neither the time mor the brain-space. But next time one drops into my mailbox, maybe I should take a look...
Lydia Bennet said…
Thanks Chris for spreading the word - a great tool for research for writers. Yes I'm a MOOC fan too, and like Chris have done a couple of forensic crime-related ones including the excellent murder investigation course. They are not all as good, there's quite a bit of variety - I tried to do a cyber security one but it wasn't so well put together - one minute explaining very simple things, the next assuming a very high level of expertise in the inner workings of the cyber world - the great thing is, they are free and you can drop out or in any time you like with no repercussions. the murder investigation one took up quite a lot of time but it was time well spent - you can go at your own pace and take much longer over the course if you are short of spare time as most of us are.
Sandra Horn said…
Thank you, Chris. I love these courses! I have taken part in several, not all university-based: an excellent radio playwriting course, a poetry-writing course by Second Light (in the middle of that one now and it's great, and am about to start one on screenwriting (A MOOC). If nothing else, they keep the brain engaged and ticking over, but I have also learned a lot.
Umberto Tosi said…
Thanks, Chris: You've laid this out with such clarity I've sent it on to a couple of my daughters who have been interested in online learning. I often find myself writing a story that requires way more than I know about a given subject, be it robotics or the 80-Years War. I've always been a DIY guy when it comes to exploring topics and added skill, except for extension courses I used to take. I never tried a MOOC, but now I will.

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