The Library is all about creating opportunities to learn. But what if you want to grow your knowledge base without having to rely on an actual, physical building? For those of you who like to learn late at night or in the convenience of your own home, or wherever the Library building itself cannot follow you, I present a wonderful, free resource: MOOCs!



First, a MOOC is not a robotic cow with magical teaching skills. MOOC stands for “Massive Open Online Course,” and it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to take free or extremely affordable online classes from world-renowned universities, taught by reputable professors, and supported by thousands of peer co-learners. The MOOC universe (MOOCiverse?) offers such a staggering array of courses that it sometimes seems as if it covers the entire breadth of human knowledge. For example, the ten most popular MOOCS last year included design thinking, literary analysis, robotics, software design, social work, human rights, and activism.


Since it can be hard to choose from among the thousands of gems in this particular treasure chest, I’d like to give a special shout-out to two of my favorites, both of which count among the most popular MOOCS of all time: Big History and Learning How to Learn. Big History uses “the power of a transdisciplinary perspective to explore broad trends in the grand narrative of 13.8 billion years.” Without requiring an advanced physics degree, “anybody interested in the history of the Universe” can take this course to gain a better understanding of “the Universe, space, time, and everything in existence.” A tall order, you say? Take it and find out!

Mooc class central

Learning How to Learn is considered the most popular MOOC of all time, and it’s a course I think every student should take at some point in their lives, preferably before bad study habits get entrenched and frustrations ensue. This course can help students across all spectrums of learning make the best use of their time and develop practical techniques to improve studying and test-taking skills. I’m also excited about its companion course, Mindshift, which is more career-focused but provides a similar range of tools and insights to help make the most of your time and resources. 


To dip your toes into this ocean of awesomeness, check out these major MOOC providers from the U.S. and the U.K.: Coursera, edX,FutureLearn, and Udacity. Another great option is Khan Academy although it isn’t really a MOOC provider, it is an excellent source of free online learning. And let’s not forget one of the most useful websites in the MOOCiverse, Class Central, which is not a MOOC provider either, but instead offers a catalog of MOOCS from around the world (much like your Library!).

Speaking of your Library… if you do find yourself inside our building and desiring a physical book to accompany your digital journey, we have the book recommended by the professors of Learning How to Learn A mind for numbers, as well as the beautifully designed coffee-table book Big History, which accompanies the eponymous course. And of course, don’t forget about our extensive Great Courses collection, which contains DVDs, audiobooks, and physical books to provide hours of educational fun.

So, what you are you waiting for? Get out there (wherever that may be) and start building your better world.

Vanessa Velez, Collection Development Librarian

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