How To Find The Best Courses For Learning Online

Web-based classes are a great way to enjoy learning and networking. Here’s how to find the courses that make the most sense.

Ever been scratching your head and wondering what courses to take online? You’re not alone—there are millions of excellent online courses available through massive open online courses (MOOCs), but now there’s an entire option for non-traditional students too, called Udacity, a platform that offers classes online as well as in conventional classrooms. We talked to the company’s CEO Sebastian Thrun, who was the co-founder of Google-acquired online educational platform Udacity, about the key areas to look for when choosing a MOOC platform.

The Udacity classes themselves are made of either 60 or 120 videos that take anywhere from 20 to 60 hours to finish. After you’ve completed the classes, they’re available to re-watch with just the click of a button and appear on Udacity’s library.

“We offer the full course. If you want to take it again and again, you just click on it,” said Thrun.

Unlike most MOOC platforms, you can choose a class to take twice or thrice. “We see the student as the master of the course, so we don’t view them as an enrollee and we don’t treat them as a non-voting member of a classroom. You can always re-watch the courses and see how you did. So, we believe strongly in helping students learn because we’re a student,” said Thrun.

The other key thing to look for is learning goals. This means making sure you’re learning, growing, being challenged, and growing the most possible. So, take a class that is geared toward your career goal or one that you want to start a new career in. Or, you might want to take a course that shows you how to get a better job or become more advanced in your current job.

What should a student be looking for in a MOOC?

The biggest difference to note is that these courses are taught by people not directly teaching you. And, that poses a big issue for students trying to pick a course that will help them grow as learners.

“If you learn with somebody other than the person who’s teaching you the course—even if that’s a professor, even if that’s an essay and/or a lecture that you can come to anytime to watch, but even if that’s something like learning with a robot, even if that is a tutor, if that is a person you are learning with, that knowledge is not going to remain in that person. And that’s why people go for a great course.”

So, we want to see videos or documents, and this applies to content that you’ve watched before too. “So, we really want to make sure that every student has the same access to information. And if we can empower the student to do this by connecting them with somebody else who can do it, that’s awesome,” said Thrun.

It’s also important to know that you can only take a certain course every semester so you need to choose a class based on what you need.

“The University degree is more than just a degree, it’s really the process of learning, the process of going through what you just watched and doing a test afterwards and then learning the next, so in order to learn about learning that is available with the Udacity platform it’s absolutely necessary to have taken the same course before. People can only go back once a semester, so if you take the same course, say, one year ago, you can’t go back,” said Thrun.

Not all students need to stay online the whole time, however. The team at Udacity strives to make classes interactive to make you come back even if you’re not staying online all the time.

“The major thing that we focus on is understanding how much information you need to get from your course. And then secondly, you also learn by doing. You learn by doing as well. Your learning has to happen as well. If it’s not happening at the same time as you are learning, that’s a big problem for the platform,” said Thrun.

If you’re struggling to figure out what to take online, you can also follow Udacity on Instagram. Just follow the hashtag #UdacityClass, and the app will show you the latest classes.

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