Thursday, November 22, 2012

Using MOOCs while in Grad School

Graduate school certainly invokes your curiosity. You are sometimes so intrigued that you want to learn more but it is not a part of your coursework. What do you do? Of course, you could look it up on the web, go to a library but you want more. You actually want to learn in a more interactive way. My answer is to take advantage of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) including udacityCoursera and edX. You get quality courses from highly qualified professors from some of the best universities in the world. I use it to supplement my coursework. You can even get certificates for some of the courses you complete.

For a graduate student the questions are -

·         how do I fit this in with all the other things I have to do while in grad school? My answer is to do just one course per semester of just do portions of a course that you want to. If you take more than you can chew, you will give up.

·         how do I make a choice among the many courses, they all seem so interesting? If you are going to use the course to supplement your coursework, read the syllabus and choose the ones that will augment your schoolwork. If you are doing a course that your school does not offer, but you want to do anyway, make sure you are willing to commit three to four hours a week for the course especially if it is learning something new.

·         how do I keep myself motivated to keep going while I have so many other grad school commitments? Know before you start you are going to have to face this point as you reach are midway into your grad school semester. Be ready to dedicate the time before you commit. One good time to start a MOOC course is during a semester break, this way you are likely to finish before the semester mid-terms.

·         how do I know I am learning what I set out to learn? Start with a check list, especially if your aim is to learn a specific concept or technology. Check yourself by doing a small project post learning. I know that is better said than done. Do it during your semester break.

·         how do I translate my coursework onto my resume? If you have completed the course, you get a certificate of completion. If you have done only specific parts of the course, a project you did using your newly acquired knowledge is the best bet. 

I know what I have said here is in no way comprehensive, feel free to add your comments and experiences. So far I have partially completed three courses - Stats 101 and CS 101 from Udacity to brush up my statistics skills and basics of CS, and Data Analysis from Coursera to learn R in a structured manner.


  1. 3 or 4 hours a week is far less than a regular course. It may be ok for review, but don't expect to learn much new material at that level of commitment.

    1. Have to agree with you on that !!! When it is new material, my experience is around 6 hrs per week in addition to the time you spend listening to the lectures.