By Sharon F. Danzger

The start of the new year is a popular time to commit ourselves to new habits and routines. We often focus on self-improvement with the hope that we will be healthier, learn more, and find new ways to create our best work.

Over the past few months, I have enjoyed taking a number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs.) Although I knew of the concept (free online courses offered from top universities around the world),I only recently began to take advantage of this unique way to learn.  

What I like most about this format is that most lectures are 5-7 minutes; it is the rare lecture that exceeds 15 minutes. And, because I am easily distracted on the computer, I found that by increasing the video speed to 1.25x or 1.5x, I am forced to give the lecture my full attention. This prevents me from giving in to the impulse to check emails or work on my to-do list while I'm learning.

Most courses run 4-6 weeks and I commit about 2-3 hours a week to cover the material. The courses have weekly quizzes to confirm that you have mastered the content (but don't worry, they give you many opportunities to retake the quiz if you don't pass initially.) For those motivated by documentation, there is an option to purchase a certificate for a small fee at the completion of each course.

Coursera, the largest platform, was started in 2012 by two Stanford professors. If you can't find what you are looking for there, this article provides a listing of some of the top MOOC providers. Most platforms offer apps so you can learn on a phone or tablet as well.

If you can find the time, learning through a MOOC empowers you with knowledge and is a great use of time.


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