If you’re looking for some experience that will help your personal statement stand out from the crowd, then you should consider taking a MOOC.
MOOC stands for ‘massive open online course’. They’re online courses that use videos, articles and sound recordings to help you learn something new – they’re free and anyone can join. Taking a MOOC will let universities know that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about your subject.
Most of the courses are run by universities and most let you study at university level, so you can get a real flavour of what your degree might be like. That means potential universities will know that you have a good sense of the course you are applying for.
You study for a few hours a week so if you find yourself at a loose end this summer it might be worth taking a MOOC to improve your chances of getting into the course you want.
It could certainly give your personal statement a boost. "Taking a MOOC is an indicator of a personal commitment to learning beyond the formal environment of school and we value this," says Professor Frank N Coton at the University of Glasgow. "[Students who take one] are showing evidence of the kind of personal development and improvement that we promote heavily at university."
You can access MOOCs via websites like Coursera and Futurelearn. Some universities (such as Southampton) also offer MOOC courses.
There are courses in almost anything so you’ll be able to find a MOOC relevant to your degree. Cyber Security, Causes of Climate Change and The Importance of Money in Business are among the courses starting soon at Futurelearn.com.
TSR user k3ro has been using MOOCs to improve their programming skills:
Dr Harriet Jones at the University of East Anglia (UEA) created a MOOC called Preparing for University. "One of the key things is that it allows the student to see lecturers talking and working with students," she says. "It lets students listen to the views of undergraduates going through the system. It provides students with some idea about what we mean when we talk about independent study".
UEA asked students for feedback after they completed the MOOC, and students said that they feel better prepared for university.
Some institutions like the University of Glasgow are even starting to integrate MOOCs into their undergraduate courses.
"The benefit here is that we bring other learners from outside the university, with different expertise and experience, into the same space as the students," says Professor Coton. "The learning experience of the students can be significantly augmented by this."
If you’re going to be applying to unis this September and you've taken a MOOC that's relevant to your course then don’t forget to mention it in your personal statement as it demonstrates your commitment and passion and could help you get a place on the course you want.