Just about a couple of years ago, if someone had told you that you could take a course from the top universities of the world, from stalwarts in the field, sitting in your home, for free, would you have believed it?
It is wonderful how MOOCs are growing. And I experienced it myself first hand, when I took a course "Think Again: How to Reason and Argue" from Coursera early this year. It was good fun, in many ways. The video lectures and assignments and quizzes were well-structured, and technically, it was excellent. One of the instructors, Dr.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, was very good, and I thoroughly enjoyed his lectures. I later found that he is a very well-known person in his field. The discussion forums on this course abounded with comments by students who gushed about how lucky they felt to be learning from such a bigwig.
The best part about this course was the fact that I could view the lectures whenever I wanted. And if I didn't understand something, or if I dozed off in the middle (I did!) I could always play the video again. What an advantage over a real classroom situation! I earned myself a certificate with distinction too at the end of it.
There are a couple of things I learned about online courses. One, the instructor matters. I signed up for another course, but I didn't find the instructor impressive enough, and I un-enrolled in a couple of weeks. Another thing is that you have to choose the course depending on your level of interest and the time you have available to do it. I know, sounds obvious. But I signed up for Astronomy with a lot of enthusiasm, but I couldn't spare the kind of time or attention needed for the level it was taught at.
I have now signed up for an Archaeology course. I found to my great joy that the instructor is a very robust, ebullient, likeable lady, and I actually feel like she is talking to me personally (felt that way with Dr.Sinnott-Armstrong too) and it makes me want to give my best to the course.
There are many other sites out there, like Udacity, apart from Coursera where you can find online courses. And of course, if you go the websites of several top universities, you can see information on courses they offer there.
A great way to learn more about something you're already interested in, or to add to your skills. From the comfort of your home. For free.