Thursday, 3 April 2014
To MOOC or not to MOOC?
OK admit it,you don’t know what a MOOC is and what it stands for, but you keep hearing everyone talk about it. It sounds nerdy though, right? Well, don’t be alarmed as it isn’t a weird alien from Star Trek (…apparently there was a profitable pharma industry in Star Trek. In fact a MOOC is a concept that’s being debated as a way to revolutionize education.
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and as the full name states is designed to make education accessible wherever you are. Supporters of MOOC have even optimitstically claimed that they will make education “borderless, gender-blind, race-blind, class-blind, and bank account–blind
If you cut through the jargon, a MOOC basically uses modern technology to deliver an educational course online for free. Many MOOCs appear to be slimmed down versions of modules that might feature in a degree. Learning takes place in a kind of distance learning format, often with video-based lectures and via a website for group course work and assessments (including quizzes and exams). However, there seem to be no entry requirements, no fixed structure for the educational content, no set length and no universally accepted standard certification. Also there is no sign that MOOCs will replace mainstream qualifications (i.e. what you need for a job!).
If you have no initial set ideas in choosing a MOOC, then you can become a bit overwhelmed by what’s on offer. It’s a bit like your “eyes being bigger than your stomach” when you are faced with the opportunity for a fantastic meal. The fact is that you can study anything – yes truly anything! The list of MOOCs on offer is truly mindboggling and is growing by the day – ranging from areas such as quantum physics, ancient history and corporate finance – through to more unusual subjects such as card magic tricks and knitting socks.
If you are in the pharmaceutical industry, all you have to do is sift through this giant list and you will find courses that are ideal for areas you want to know more about. So yes, it is possible for you to ditch the opportunity to pursue underwater basket weaving and instead learn about more career-related areas such as drug discovery and development, clinical trials, medical statistics, healthcare ethics, health technology assessment (HTA) or current global health challenges. Some MOOCs could even help you figure out where you want to work in the pharma sector.
If you are interested in educating yourself in new areas then MOOCs can be an excellent way to achieve this at no cost. You may not be able to convince your employer to accept the self assessment certificate you gain from a MOOC as a substitute for a formal qualification but they might be impressed by your new-found knowledge on a subject. However, be warned that hard work is needed if you want to get the best from a MOOC and that if you don’t motivate yourself no one else will. Although thousands of people often sign up to popular MOOCs, the completion rate for courses remains shockingly awful – often 90% do not finish.