The internet is full of good data...once you get passed all the Justin Beiber updates. But there's a big difference between data and information.
Data is a blog post by a sociology professor describing what Anthropology is. Information is a course on Anthropology by that professor. But who had the time (or the money) to take a course? You usually have to get accepted to a degree program before you can even take one. Then there's the whole needing-to-pay-the-bills thing. So work will get in the way of classes. Even if you could finagle your schedule and take a night class, the commuting will wear on you fast. Believe me, I speak from experience. So what's a person interested in getting some information to do? Why take a MOOC, that's what!
"What on Earth is a MOOC?" you ask? It stands for Massively Open Online Course. Ok, I realize that didn't clear much up. Allow me to elaborate.
- The Massively part refers to the fact that there is often 1000s of students signed up for a course.
- The Open part refers to the fact that it's FREE! (Be warned, though, it seems there's a trend making some courses cost.)
- The Online part refers to the fact that all course materials are on the internet.
- The Course part refers to, well, the fact that it's a class; complete with readings, homework, tests, etc.
As with everything on the internet, you must be careful when you sign up for one of these. Just because it's freely available doesn't mean it's worth your time. You can't trust everything you read on the internet. Luckily, such universities as Standford and MIT were at the forefront of MOOCs. The majority of the MOOC sites will contain courses from professors of reknowned universities. So the information in a MOOC is usually trustworthy.
That said, these courses are not for college credit, though another trend is playing with the idea of making MOOCs for credit. That's where the whole non-open trend comes into play as well. It's still a new enough technology trend that MOOCs are changing constantly. The course themselves, how they're offered, what they're worth are all in flux. But if you're interested in learning for learning's sake, then it can't hurt to check out some of the sites. And we can help.
If you go here: http://www.wilmlibrary.org/databases and expand the Online Courses section, you'll see two examples of MOOC sites: Coursera and EdX. If you have taken a MOOC, or know someone who has, please leave a comment and let us know how it went.