January 2021

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In 2020, online learning leapt to new levels of prominence as people all over the world adapted to challenges imposed by the pandemic. Students found new ways to learn, instructors found new ways to teach, and organizations found new ways to support their communities.

In 2020, a record number of people turned to online learning as a source of hope, growth, and resilience amid economic uncertainty and workplace disruptions. Since March 2020, there have been more than 69 million enrollments on Coursera -a roughly 430% increase compared to the same period a year before.

Coursera’s most popular courses showed learners striving to gain control of their mental health, better understand COVID-19, develop job-relevant skills, and pursue personal passions. With more time at home, learners took courses that appealed to their personal interests.

MITx announced last month that it passed the milestone of 10 million enrollments on online courses within a decade. Last year, between March and June, enrollments doubled with 787,000 registrations. This year, MITx is launching 45 courses. In addition, eight MITx free courses taught by MIT Faculty have been recognized on Class Central’s list of the top online courses of all time, a list based on the reviews of tens of thousands of learners.

Future Learn has reported that enrolment in online courses increased by almost 200 per cent since the first lockdown. The vast majority of new sign-ups were women who looked to pivot careers and combat impact of Covid-19.

I have done courses on various topics of interest using the following MOOCs: edX (designed by Harvard University and MIT), Coursera, Future Learn and Udemy.

I completed two courses on edX –Leaders of Learning (Harvard University) and a course in Italian language and culture (Wellesley College, Boston). Both are highly recommended.

On Coursera I did ‘Learning how to learn-Powerful mental tools to master tough subjects’, jointly offered by Macmaster University (Canada) and University of California, San Diego; a course in ‘Mindfulness’ offered by Leiden University in Holland and a course in French language (B1-B2 Level) offered by l’École Polytechnique de Paris. All three were excellent courses and I enjoyed them very much.

On Future Learn I did four courses –Introduction to Applied Linguistics and TESOL, University of Leicester, UK, Introduction to Psychology: Sensation and Perception, Monash University, Australia, Teaching Phonics in early childhood, University of Queensland, Australia, and Language Assessment in the classroom, British Council.

On Udemy I took a course in French (100 hours) and a course in Spanish (700 hours –not yet completed). When I completed the French course I received a certificate stating that I had done a one-and-a half hour video course. I wanted to send an email to Udemy but there was only a ‘Frequent questions and answers’ section on their website. I found the email of the tutor, who has her own Youtube channel, and I complained to her. She could do nothing about it, since certificates are issued automatically as soon as the course is successfully completed. I don’t know what the certificate in Spanish will state since I am still at A2 Level.

All the courses I have attended were really challenging. I had to write hundreds of essays, take tests, and do peer reviews. In the French course a l’École Polytechnique de Paris, in each section, I had to review three peer assignments and rate them following a detailed rating scale before going to the next chapter. It took me about an hour to read the assignments and rate them all. I also had to provide feedback in French…Mon Dieu…

The pass rates in all courses ranged between 70% and 80%.

The most challenging, for me at least, was the course on Introduction to Psychology: Sensation and Perception. It was an entirely new area of study with a lot of unfamiliar terminology. I made extensive research on the subject reading articles, interviews and watching videos on Youtube that made terminology easier to understand -the Internet is an inexhaustible source of information.

Is there an end to learning? In my opinion there isn’t. The MOOCs are doing an excellent job offering accessible and affordable remote learning opportunities to millions of people who sign up to acquire new knowledge and skills from the comfort of their homes. 

Anastasia Spyropoulou - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.