Consider enrolling in a MOOC course

By Rajkamal Rao 

Go back to Step 7: Finalize your application

7. Consider enrolling in a MOOC course.  When you are in your third or fourth year of your degree, consider enrolling in a MOOC course.  As you may have heard, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are the latest trend in higher education. 

The New York Times reported in a brilliant article in November 2012 that "edX, the nonprofit start-up from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has 370,000 students this fall in its first official courses.  Coursera, founded just last January, has reached more than 1.7 million — growing “faster than Facebook".  Thomas Friedman of the New York Times suggested in a Jan 27, 2013 opinion piece that MOOC courses could change global higher education.  We highly recommend this article.

What is a MOOC?  It's a course of study offered by a provider online.  All you need is a computer, an internet connection and the interest to participate in the course.

There are several benefits to a MOOC course.  First, it's free.  [Some MOOC providers may charge a nominal fee for a certificate of completion but this may be well worth it].

Second, you can strengthen your knowledge in a field in which you are either weak or in which you want to know more.  For example, a Civil Engineering student could take a refresher course in Engineering Mechanics from Georgia Tech or an Electrical Engineering student could learn more about Nanotechnology from Rice University through the many courses available at Coursera

Third, you will get to learn from some of the most qualified instructors in the world.  The content is likely to be world class.  edX is a partnership of MIT and Harvard with schools such as UT Austin and UC Berkeley joining it.  We salute the contributions and leadership of Dr. Charles Vest, the president of MIT who died on December 16, 2013.  Dr. Vest was the pioneer of MIT's OpenCourseWare project which to this day has no parallel and is the precursor to today's MOOC courses.  Over 2,000 MIT courses are available online for students to take for free and even earn certificates for coursework.

Fourth, you will get to test-drive American education from the comfort of your home, school or your local internet cafe.

Fifth, you can take courses at your pace and online.  There's generally no deadline.  You take the final exam when you are ready for it.  This could be a problem for some students who perform well only when an external deadline is imposed on them, but it will showcase how you should begin to take ownership of yourself including planning your schedule.  Regulars to this website will note that this is a theme we constantly promote. 

Sixth, you will get to network with other online learners.  Studies have shown that most other learners - from around the world - signed up for the course because they were interested in it.

Seventh, you could explore opportunities for internships (and even full time jobs) even before you start school in the United States.  We are not suggesting that you think about jobs right away but you can make the right networking contacts now.  Udacity, an online provider of computer science related courses supported by giants such as Google and Microsoft, claims that job placement is part of its package.  And according to the Wall Street Journal,  a new service aims to help navigate the sea of web classes with links to explicit employment opportunities.  This service, dubbed Balloon, will look like an "online marketplace" to aggregate online courses, akin to or iTunes.

We have stressed that many things in the online world - including our own website - continue to be excellent and free!  If you can take a few strategically positioned MOOC courses and get certificates of completion to go with your official transcripts, you are able to tell a better story overall to the admissions committee.  And the investment in time when you are still in India well help you be better prepared when you land in the US.

In fact, there are newer developments in the MOOC area which might interest you.  The first is the so-called MOOC2 courses.  According to the New York Times, "dozens of public universities plan to offer an introductory online course free and for credit to anyone worldwide, in the hope that those who pass will pay tuition to complete a degree program."

And on Aug 15, the New York Times broke a story about an elite university - Georgia Tech - planning to offer its entire Computer Science Masters Degree online using the MOOC2 model.  Students never need to leave their home countries but get a full Georgia Tech degree for a fraction of the cost of attending Georgia Tech. 

 There is a lot of experimentation going in the world of higher education - to lower cost of delivery while increasing quality.  We are glad you are here!

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