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10 Ways Taking MOOCs Can Improve Your Life

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MOOCs–Massive Open Online Courses–allow anyone to become an independent learner.

A little while ago I started a “Become Well-Read” project. I read quite a lot in high school–as well as at Georgetown–, but I decided I wanted to read certain books that were left out of my education, as well as re-read others which I read at some point but are now just vague memories.

In addition, I decided to supplement my reading by taking MOOCs on literature. That’s how I came across a MOOC taught by La Universidad de Los Andes (Los Andes University) in Bogota, Colombia. It’s called “Reading Macondo”, and it’s about five of the books written by Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez.  I’m currently taking the course, and I’m loving it. In addition, taking this MOOC has inspired me to write a post on how MOOCs can improve your life.

Below you’ll find 10 ways taking MOOCs can improve your life.

1. Fill the Gaps In Your Education.  Let’s face it, we all have a list of things we wish we had learned in school, but didn’t. This can include things such as the following:

  • How to Network
  • Study Skills — Learning How to Learn
  • How to Negotiate
  • How to Make Decisions

Whatever gap you feel there is in your education, chances are high that there’s a MOOC you can take on that topic. Find it, take it, and fill in the gaps.

2. Improve Your Resume. Add a “Professional Development” section or a “Skills” section to your resume and include any job-related MOOCs that you’ve taken.

  • First, this tells employers that you’re intellectually curious, as well as proactive–both of which are highly valued skills.
  • In addition, you can add a short explanation on how the skills that you acquired by taking the MOOCs relate to the job that you’re applying for.

If you really want to knock the socks off of prospective employers, do the following:

  • Complete a project by using the skills that you learned through the MOOC.
  • Create a portfolio showcasing your newly acquired skills.

Both a project that showcases your skills, and a portfolio of your work, speak much louder than a certificate of completion. Another thing to consider is that there are web sites that allow you to upload your MOOC certificates, as well as sites that allow you to create online portfolios.

Here are some of them:

3. Decide Whether To Pursue a Particular Career. Suppose that you decide that you want to change careers. After conducting some research you decide that computer science sounds interesting, and that computer scientists are in high demand, so you start looking for a program you can enroll in.

Once you find a good program you quit your job, you ask your relatives for a loan, and you enroll. Then, a semester into the program, you realize that you absolutely hate computer science. But now you’re stuck. This scenario doesn’t sound too good, does it?

A much better approach is to enroll in a few MOOCs on computer science. By doing this you’ll get a good feel for the area and be able to make an educated decision on whether or not it’s an area that you really want to pursue.

4. Dabble in Different Fields. This point is related to the point above. If you know that you want to move in a new career direction, but you’re not sure which field to pick, take MOOCs in several different fields and see which one you like best. You may be surprised to discover that you hate the law, but love engineering, or vice versa.

5. Become an Expert. It’s often said that if you want to become an expert in a subject, relative to the general population, you need to read five books on the subject. Obviously, it takes more than that, but it’s a good start. Gain more knowledge in an area in which you’re interested in becoming an expert by taking MOOCs.

What do you want to be an expert in? Do the following:

  • Read the top five books in the field or area.
  • Identify the top five MOOCs in that area and take them, from start to finish.
  • Read the top five articles you find online in that area.
  • Watch the top five YouTube videos in that area.

Then, you can go on to prove your expertise by helping someone else with your knowledge. Finally, share your expertise with the world by creating a blog, an eBook, a product, or a service.

6. Learn Business Skills. You hear it all the time: someone wants to start a side business or turn their hobby into a start-up. However, they complain that they can’t do it because they didn’t go to business school, and, therefore, they don’t have any business skills. Well, now all those people who use the “but I didn’t go to business school” excuse can stop whining.

They can acquire any business skills that they need by taking MOOCs (on refining your idea, on marketing, on finance, on accounting, and so on), and launch their business. It’s even possible to get a No-Pay MBA by taking MOOCs.

7. Be a Lifelong Learner. I’m a lifelong learner. I love learning new things. Right now I’m reading “La Hojarasca” for the “Reading Macondo” MOOC that I mentioned in the introduction above. Is that going to help me make more money or look great on my resume? Probably not.

But I’m doing it because it makes me happy to learn, and doing something just because it makes you happy is a good enough reason to do it.

8. Get An Ivy League Quality Education. Many people dream of going to an Ivy League school. Nonetheless, for most people, that’s not going to happen.

The good news it that many Ivy League schools are putting several of their courses online. This means that you may not be able to say that you went to Harvard or Yale, but now you can say that you’ve taken Harvard and Yale courses by taking the MOOCs that they offer.

9. Achieve Your Goals. One reason you may not be achieving your goals is because there’s a skill –or more than one–that you need to have in order to achieve your goals, which you lack. For example, one of your goals may be to be financially free.

However, you lack the financial knowledge that you need to manage and invest your money wisely. In that case, find a MOOC on money management, as well as a MOOC on stock and bond investing, and take them. Doing this will allow you to acquire the skills that you need to achieve your goal of financial freedom.

Do the following:

  • Ask yourself what your three most important goals are.
  • Identify the skills that you need in order to achieve those goals which you don’t currently have.
  • Take MOOCs that will allow you to acquire those skills.

10. Keep Your Brain Sharp. Challenging the brain can keep the mind and memory sharp. And one way to challenge the brain is by learning new things. Keep learning through MOOCs and keep your brain strong by being mentally active.

Conclusion

If you haven’t taken any MOOCs yet, I hope this post has convinced you to do so. And if you have, I hope it convinces you to take more. I know that I have three more MOOCs that I want to take lined up for when I’m done taking “Reading Macondo”. Live your best life by taking MOOCs.

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