Enhance eLearning in Your Homeschool with MOOCs
By Christina Lorenzen
Homeschooling has evolved since its early roots in the 1970s. With the advent of the internet, there are far more resources available for homeschoolers than ever before. While there is no shortage of books and workbooks for curriculum, eLearning has taken education to another level, making it possible to study any subject parents and their children might desire. No subject is too obscure.
eLearning, or electronic learning, is simply a means of delivering educational information through digital resources. Besides the fact that students can learn from anywhere, using the internet for curriculum resources helps homeschooling families expand their studies to subjects beyond a grade level’s basic scope. Most homeschooling families use computers or tablets to enhance their learning experience. Many homeschoolers have turned to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to make the most of eLearning.
*On Anything Academic’s platform, eLearning refers specifically to MOOCs. All other varieties of online learning can be found under learning resources. Want to find just online learning resources besides MOOCs? Search for computer/online formats in Learning Resources.
What is a MOOC? (Nope, not a cow)
While there are thousands of educational videos, websites, and courses to use throughout the homeschooling years, MOOCs are growing in popularity for several reasons. MOOCs offer homeschooling families the opportunity to take comprehensive, high-quality courses from some of the country’s best universities, either free or at a low cost.
While many adults are turning to MOOCs to gain career development training or a career change, they are highly beneficial for the homeschool student who is advanced in their education or the high school homeschooler who is preparing for their college career. MOOCs are not only an excellent tool for preparing for college but can provide homeschooling students the opportunity to earn college credits during their high school years.
How Do MOOCs work?
Generally, there are two ways that a MOOC works. Most of these courses are either synchronous or asynchronous learning.
Synchronous learning, even though it is learning at a distance, means that the student will attend a class session each week simultaneously as the instructor and other students in the class. These classes are a firm weekly time commitment. While synchronous learning gives students a sense of community and an opportunity to engage and discuss with other students, parents can help their homeschooler decide if this fits their learning style.
Asynchronous learning is a popular student-centered learning method where learning can occur at different times and in different spaces for each student. The learning path is planned and set up by the instructor, and the student can engage at their own pace. Asynchronous learning is quite common with online colleges. It better suits the online student who may have work and family obligations and a schedule that doesn’t allow them to take synchronous style classes.
Both styles provide an excellent eLearning experience for the homeschooling student. It’s recommended that parents discuss both styles’ pros and cons to determine which is most suitable for their student and their homeschooling style. Some of the considerations to keep in mind are how much flexibility is desired and the student’s comfort level with interacting with other students. Whichever style you choose, both offer an excellent opportunity to learn a broad range of subjects from the comfort of your homeschool.
What are the benefits of using MOOCs?
There is a multitude of benefits to making MOOCs a part of your homeschooling program.
One of the greatest benefits of MOOCs is that they are free and open to access. Taking courses of this quality would normally be expensive and out of reach for so many homeschooling families. Apart from some courses that may charge a nominal price, MOOCs allow homeschooling families to take free courses, taking their education to another level. For the high school homeschool student, it’s an ideal way to obtain transferrable credits from the comfort of their home. On that same note, it’s a great way to acclimate the high school homeschooler with a university environment in a relaxed way, helping to prepare them for college in the future.
A third benefit of using MOOCs in your homeschool is the opportunity to let your children dabble in their interests before graduating from the homeschool and committing to a degree program. It’s not uncommon for traditionally educated children to enter college under one degree and switch to another degree, sometimes more than once. Taking MOOCs can help fine-tune a homeschooler’s interest when it comes time to choose a college major.
A fourth benefit is the good old fact that by utilizing MOOCs, your homeschooler is honing their computer skills. We all know that computer skills are a must in today’s work world and the academic world. MOOCs will help your homeschooler learn and perfect computer programs that a book or workbook cannot offer.
Lastly, for the advanced student, even those as young as ten years old, MOOCs offer a chance to spread their wings and learn beyond their standard grade curriculum. It’s a wonderful way to let them explore what interests them. MOOCs can help encourage children with specialized interests and advance their learning in subjects that may not be obtainable otherwise.
What should parents know about MOOCs?
While MOOCs foster an independent learning experience for homeschooling children, there are certain things parents should keep in mind.
Some MOOCs may not live up to your or your child’s expectations. There are times when, even after reading an appealing course description, the course may end up being boring. With a free course, it’s quite easy just to let the course go. If you’ve paid a nominal fee for the course, you might want to consider contacting the facilitator or instructor to discuss your concerns. If your child isn’t enjoying the course or complaining they are bored, it’s best to move on. To avoid this problem, something to keep in mind is to make sure the course meets your child’s preferred learning style. If they prefer to learn exclusively by video, make sure the course offers lots of videos. If your child needs a varied approach to learning, it’s important to be sure the course offers a balanced mix of videos, activities, and lectures.
While homeschooling promotes independent learning, with a MOOC, parents should expect to offer some input while their children are working on their courses. Depending on the course work level and your child’s capabilities, parents will need to offer some help during the learning experience.
Most times, the MOOC is all-inclusive, and everything the student needs for learning is available within the course. However, some courses may require parents to find additional online resources or buy books that complement the studied subject. When you register your child for the course, be sure to read over all the details to see if you will need to purchase additional resources. If it isn’t stated, you can always email the course facilitator and ask to be sure.
Lastly, while the high school homeschooler may be ready for certain subjects, it’s best to audit subjects that your younger homeschooler wants to take. Because most MOOCs are created with the adult learner in mind, there is always the chance that the text of a course may have content that isn’t appropriate for the younger learner. It’s always a good idea to make sure the course doesn’t contain anything you, as the parent, deem explicit or violent for your homeschooler.
How Do We Get Started with MOOCs?
If you are interested in enhancing your homeschooler’s eLearning experience by adding MOOCs to your curriculum, it’s easy to get started right here on Anything Academic. We have tons of them. We learn what you’re looking for so we can sort through which ones you might like the best.
For the high school homeschooler who is planning to go to college, it’s best to see which courses will get them college credits that transfer to the colleges they plan to apply to. Anything Academic will save you the time of having to track down all of the MOOCs yourself. Instead, you can start searching and see your results narrowed down for you right away.