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Articles / Applying to College / A MOOC Point

A MOOC Point

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | May 14, 2015

The MOOCs. Are you a Seinfeld fan? Remember the "Bubble Boy" episode where George Costanza is playing Trivial Pursuit with the young man, "Donald," who is enclosed behind the clear, environmentally protective plastic screen (the "bubble")? The exchange goes like this:


GEORGE: All right BB. Let's just play... [reading the question] Who invaded Spain in the 8th century?


GEORGE: Oh, Noooo, I'm so sorry. It's the MOOPS. The correct answer is, The MOOPS.


GEORGE: I'm sorry the card says MOOPS.






You're asking, "What does MOOPS have to do with MOOCs?" Well, no deep meanings here. MOOPS simply rhymes with MOOCs. I thought the above sitcom anecdote would be funny way to lead into the topic at hand, kind of like a keynote speaker beginning his address with a joke. [My ploy may or may not have worked.]

Anyway, the point of all this is to answer a question: What are MOOCs and how do they relate to current or prospective college students? Let's explore that ...

First, a definition from Wikipedia:

A massive open online course (MOOC /mk/) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions between students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education which was first introduced in 2008 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012.

Next, thanks to Campus Grotto, how MOOCs relate to college students:

Colleges want students who take initiative in their learning. One way to do this is through MOOCs by making an effort to learn on your own time.

Known as massive open online courses, these online courses allow anyone with an Internet connection to pursue an interest in learning.

The key point of the above is "students who take initiative in their learning." Do you want to be competitive in those ultra-competitive applicant pools? Do you want to distinguish yourself among your peers? Or, do you want to simply learn more about whatever your passion of the moment may be?

Grotto continues and answers a pertinent question:

Why should prospective college students take MOOCs?

Students preparing to enter college can take these courses to ease the transition to college by getting a taste of college-level coursework. These online courses allow students to dive deeper into a subject they have an interest in and get a head start on their prospective college major.

Taking these classes demonstrates interest and shows a passion for learning. It is a chance to set yourself apart from others and provide yourself with a well-rounded education or solidify experience in a specific subject.

If you are applying to colleges, completing these courses can help prove that you're university-ready.

That's how MIT found Battushig Myanganbayar, the student from Mongolia who stood out in a MOOC and was accepted into the school.

“Given that we know how rigorous MITx classes are, seeing a student's performance in that class can help calibrate us to their readiness for an MIT education."

How can you benefit from taking MOOCs?

- They can help close the college readiness gap.

- They can further your education.

- They are a cheap and easy way to explore a possible major.

- They give you an idea of college-level coursework.

- They can help cover any subject gaps in your transcript records.

- You can gain added experience in a specific subject.

- They can keep you busy over summer break.

The article continues with this encouraging statement:

Here [are] 10 MOOCs that will prepare you for college. Now, one may not have time to take all 10 of these courses, but this list helps narrow it down from the hundreds of MOOCs that are out there to a specific few useful online courses that will prepare incoming college students. Many of these are self-paced courses you can take at your own schedule, and the great thing is, they are free to take.

Those final words bear repeating:

" ... they are free to take."

Grotto then lists 10 MOOCs you may care to consider. Here are just three:

Introduction to Mathematical Thinking via Stanford University

What you'll learn: Practice and enhance your critical thinking skills and learn how to think outside the box.

“One of the most useful, real-world applicable courses on Coursera or the entire Internet, and I would recommend it to anyone. It's so rare that a course teaches a new way of thinking, rather than new concepts or new data."


CS50x: Introduction to Computer Science via Harvard University

What you'll learn: Problem solving and an introduction to computer science for both majors and non-majors. Highly regarded as one of the best online courses, the on-campus version of CS50 was Harvard's largest course in the fall semester of 2014.

“Much more than any other learning experience I've ever had online because it successfully managed to make it a journey. CS50x isn't just the quintessential Harvard course, it's now the quintessential online course."


Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence via Case Western Reserve University

What you'll learn: Build leadership skills and gives you an opportunity to apply the learning to your daily lives.

“This course might help you become a better leader, but a better (more aware) person as well. It helps you understand your inner "you" and how to interact with other people."


Grotto concludes with this wisdom:

Whether you are preparing to enter college or not, take a MOOC this summer and improve yourself.

MOOC Resources: Edx, Coursera

MOOC Reviews: Class Central, CourseTalk


Explore the other seven MOOCs for even more choices. If you have been looking for a way to gain an edge in the increasingly competitive applicant pools, this is one superb way to do so. The added bonus is that you will learn a lot along the way. So, don't be a MOOP. Take a MOOC!


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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