About MOOCs : experience feedback and perspectives



I first heard about MOOCs quite…two years ago, I guess ? I tested out a few courses on the french dedicated platform, and I came away with mixed impressions. Opportunely, we had an in-house training lately on this topic at the library with my workmates, so I think it’s time for me now to :

  1. make you benefit from what I experienced tooking part in those MOOCs.
  2. review the different kinds of MOOCS, in english and french language.

By the way, what is hiding behind this curious acronym ? MOOC : Massive Open Online Course. It’s about learning things on the internet, at your pace, with many other people…whom you’ll never meet. Said something like that, it’s quite seductive, but reality doesn’t match the promise, we’ll see why.



1. Experiencing MOOCs : how you must be determined and motivated

Up to now, I’ve tried five MOOCS, let’s see how I went through each one of them :

  • « Introduction à HTML5 – Animations et jeux – session 1 », that was an introduction to the HTML5 web language. This MOOC stretched out on 7 weeks, I went through….two and a half. Not that I wasn’t motivated, but I guess I was short of time.
  • « Python : des fondamentaux à l’utilisation du langage« . That one was about Python language, much harder than the previous. Despite having practiced programming in my school years, I did not go that far. Again 7 weeks for this one, I only went through three. I tried to be the most serious I could, but I think this time the content was too abstract for me, I lacked prerequisites in coding.
  • « Web sémantique et Web de données – session 1« . This was about semantic web and linked data, so it’s definitely connected with the librarian’s skills. Yet again, it was displayed through 7 weeks, I only went through two.
  • « Découper le temps : les périodes de l’histoire«  ; I subscribed to this course because I was interested in the subject : « divide time, the periods in history ». I am a complete moron since I…didn’t even have the time to start this one. But because I have joined this course, I am able to access its content, even if it’s over now.
  • Last but not least « Open Wine University – Université de la vigne et du vin pour tous » (!). You’ve understood this one is about wine, yes 5 weeks to know more about wines ! From growing the vines to tasting the wines, this one was exciting, but during the third week you had to buy different wines to taste and compare your impressions, so I quited.

Well, what can I say about all this ? I enrolled on 5 MOOCS, I didn’t even finish one. Ok, studies show that few people bring the MOOCs they choose to an end, but actually, I reached half the journey only for one MOOC among the five I tried : the one concerning the wine, well I guess…I’m definitely French (!).



More seriously, if you are interested in a MOOC, don’t hesitate to register : on at least two occasions, I know I didn’t have the time to start the MOOC on the week of its beginning. Anyway, I started it one or two weeks later, and it’s not a problem, a lot of people do that, because you do things at your pace, and that is really fantastic.

Secondly, you have to be careful about the prerequisites. Some MOOCs are for beginners, some others for intermediate, some apply to professionals. If you are not sure of your level, you’d better chose the lower one, I assure you.

Finally, attending a MOOC requires time, you’ve got be aware of that. It sure depends on your agenda, but you’ve got to have a serious motivation if you plan to reach the end of the road.



2. A (very) brief panorama

If we try to have an overall view on MOOCs, we must not forget that we’ll have a look at the current situation, as for January 2016. There are many economic players in this sector, they tend to gather to have more weight, so there may be less players in one or two years from now. We’ll only mention the main platforms, first in english language, then in french :


a. in english :

If you’re looking for a MOOC directory, such a tool exists, it’s called MOOC-LIST. Among the abundance of propositions, you can say there are two main platforms in the Anglo-Saxon world. The first is a paying one, it’s called Coursera, prices depend on the MOOC you choose.

The second is based on a freemium model and it’s called Edx. The courses are free but you can support the initiative on a dedicated page. Last month I discovered on Edx a fantastic MOOC about chinese grammar.  So yes…I enrolled for my sixth MOOC. I am completing the second week these days, it’s an excellent tool when you’re around HSK3-HSK4 level :




Not only does it present key points in chinese grammar in a very clear manner, but it also makes you learn phrase patterns, revise your vocabulary and learn some more. What is very useful is that all the course is subtitled in characters. Without that, I would even have begun, this is of great help : you can pause the course anytime to search the meaning of the character(s) you don’t understand. It’s better to watch it on a tablet : the subtitles come along at the bottom of the screen. On a laptop they are at the right side of the screen and it’s less convenient. So, it’s a great way to practise your chinese and learn essential grammar rules, I highly recommend it !


b. en français :

This may be unique in the whole world : the french Ministry of Education is subsidizing the FUN platform, that’s a great chance we have to access a lot of MOOCs totally free of charge.

A similar platform is providing courses in Canada, it’s called Edulib, and it’s highly advisable.



All in all, MOOCs are one of the best new tools education has to offer to everyone. Just pick up the right one for you, prepare to devote time and time again (but as you should if you had to attend a live course, anyway), and…walk the road to learning and beware the traps !