This month’s App Fix is going to be a little bit different. I’m not going to be reviewing an app, but at the same time I will be reviewing many apps. Over the summer I read a number of articles about expense and value of a college education and how a student can get the most out of college. The tips were good but they all overlooked MOOCs. I asked a current college student about their experience with MOOCs and was shocked that he had never heard of them. So this month we take a look at MOOCs and the apps that can help you manage them.BlogPhoto101315

What is a MOOC?

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. In case you overlooked that let me break it down for you.

Massive = BIG, sometimes really big, but not always. I have participated in MOOCs that were 1,000 students and ones that were less than 50.

Open = everyone can join. Rarely do you need anything more than to sign up and pay the fee. Some will ask that you apply to college, that’s usually because they are offering a certification or credit. Typically, you don’t need to deal with admissions requirements or test scores.

Online = no sitting in class, no driving or riding a bus to campus. Your commute is basically the time it takes for you to turn on your computer and get an Internet connection.

Course = Did I mention this is a class? You’ll probably have reading assignments; you might have projects and papers to write. If you didn’t have these it would not be of much value.

Why take a MOOC?

There are many reasons to take a MOOC. I usually take one because it is a topic that is interesting to me. We are starting to see more and more certification courses being offered as a MOOC. These are certifications that were/are offered at local universities and community colleges. In the past you were limited to the certifications that your local college or community college offered. But now you can get a certification from schools across the country, even the world.

If you are considering taking an online course in college, I strongly recommend that you try a free or low-cost MOOC first. I see so many students struggle and fail at online classes because they need structure and even the best online classes rely heavily on you managing your own learning experience. I would much rather see you struggle to get through a $25 MOOC than a $600 or more degree level course.

A friend of mine came to me saying she needed help because she was required to take statistics for her degree. She is a self-admitted C student when it comes to math. I introduced her to Coursera where we found a MOOC about understanding data. It took her about six hours per week to do the class, cost her about $10. She finished her stats course at the university with an A! She told me she never once felt like everyone was ahead of her. MOOCs are a great way to prepare yourself for success in your most difficult classes.

What you need to know before taking a MOOC

Some MOOCs are free, but typically there is a cost. Many times it is a low cost option. If the end result is a certification, or if the institution is a recognized name in higher education and they will validate your performance, then you’ll likely have a higher cost. Still, the most expensive MOOCs I found are less than what you would spend on the same thing at a university. For instance, I found a MOOC on Data Analysis offered by Duke University. The certification was four courses for $395 total, resident tuition at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln is about $660 per course.

You are on your own, for the most part. There are people you can reach out to for help, but I would not plan on relying on these resources. If you can’t figure out the answer you’ll need to find it on your own. If you have a friend who is also interested in a MOOC it would be great for both of you to work together. I would go into the course planning to be on your own.

Speaking of being on your own, you’ll need to get creative with your financing. Unlike college courses you don’t get grants and loans to pay for these courses. Rarely will they transfer for credit to your college either, so you are not directly saving money there. The costs are usually reasonable, but you might need to save up for the course you really want to take.

There are some apps that can help you find and manage MOOCs. Keep and eye out, I might review some in the future.

Udacity: iOS | Android

Coursera: iOS | Android

GroupMOOC: iOS

iTunesU: iOS

Love this app? Have an app that is helpful or one you just love? Let me know in the comments – maybe I will feature it in a future Education App Fix.