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How Moocs can help #1: deciding on university

Massive open online courses (Moocs) are free, increasingly diverse and open to anyone with access to the internet and a willingness to learn. Find out how they can help you…

If you're weighing up whether or not to go to uni, a Mooc might just offer an insight into university studies that helps you make that all-important choice. Mooc providers FutureLearn are here to explain more.

How a Mooc works

Online courses like those offered by FutureLearn (but also on offer from US counterparts such as Coursera or EdX) are designed for unlimited participation over the internet. You get many of the readings, discussions and resources of a traditional ‘face-to-face’ course, but you’re sat in front of your computer rather than in a lecture hall (read more in this Moocs explained article).

That doesn’t stop it being an interactive experience; there are quizzes, interviews, social learning, and discussions with participants all over the globe. Plus there are additional benefits: on the University of Strathclyde's Introduction to Forensic Science course, for example, you'll get to put everything you learned watching CSI to the test as you follow two detectives' attempts to solve the case of an armed robbery.

These online courses are free and timed to fit in just as exams finish, before summer starts. They are taught by academics across 12 UK universities, so it's a great way to get a taster of higher education before you head off to uni.
 

How can a Mooc help you decide?

Make choices alongside others in the same boat

Deciding whether or not university is the right path for you is a daunting decision. But you’re not alone - Moocs are packed with participants in a similar situation. By joining courses like UEA's Preparing for Uni or the University of Sheffield's How to succeed at writing applications, you’ll get the chance to interact with other people going through the same process, share your concerns and your hopes, and also get an idea of what is to come.


Test drive your university learning skills

The shift from school or college classroom learning to studying for a degree can be a sharp one. An online course can offer you a taster of this different style of learning, focusing on necessary skills to get ready for independent study - try topics such as critical thinking, developing a research project, numeracy skills, calculus or mechanics.
 

Sample a new subject

Similarly, Moocs could give you the opportunity to try a subject you've not previously studied at school or college, such as dentistry, medicine, archaeology, computer science or robotics.

Find a subject that interests you, follow the course through to the end and then try and reflect on what it showed you about your interests and learning skills.
 

Mix and mingle before the freshers' fair

You’ve probably known your current classmates since primary or secondary school. When you go to university this will all change. Being part of massive online communities allows you to learn alongside like-minded people from all corners of the globe. You can find yourself discussing content with people young and old - mirroring a typical on-campus university experience with your fellow coursemates.

 

Taking the next step to uni

Of course, there are lots of aspects to university life which an online course can’t prepare you for; there is (as yet!) no course which will teach you how to avoid dealing with the three-foot high pile of crockery in the sink which is slowly tearing your flatshare apart.

In the meantime, though, at least there's a painless way to check out the academic side...


Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. FutureLearn is a social learning platform funded by the Open University. It works with 35 universities and academic institutions to offer free online courses.
 

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