Need PD, no budget? Consider a MOOC.

What is a MOOC?

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A MOOC or massive open online course is a course that is open to the public and is typically free of charge.  MOOCs are available on the internet.  They are offered by a wide spectrum of institutions including universities, colleges, for profit concerns, and diverse interest groups.   There are thousands of courses available.

Why use a MOOC?

MOOCs are usually free with the option of a purchased certified credential delivered on the completion of course requirements.  The cost of certification commonly ranges from $15 to $50.  Many of us are experiencing limited budgets in the education sector. MOOCs offer the potential for career advancement or skills improvement without the need for requesting funds from your institution.

MOOCs are online, often with open starting and suggested completion dates.  This flexibility accommodates teachers’ busy schedules.  They can select their course starting date and work at their own pace based on their schedule. Instructors can take the courses from any location at any time they choose. There are MOOCs that are on set schedules due to discussion and credit reasons.

As MOOCs offer open access, some of the content can be used as learning objects in your classes. Videos, animations, slide presentations or notes may be adapted for your teaching.  Naturally, this depends on the licensing specified by each course.

Are there MOOCs for Language Instructors?

There are thousands of MOOCs.  I have found a variety of useful English language teaching courses: Lesson Design and Assessment; Second Language Listening, Speaking, and Pronunciation; Speak English Professionally; English Grammar and Style; and Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests.  These are just a few samples of what you can find.  Links to these are in the list, Samples of TESOL MOOCs, below.

Where can I find a MOOC?

I have created a MOOC starter’s sheet that provides links to six of the most common MOOC providers.  The Open Culture project and the MOOC List provide a comprehensive listing of current and upcoming MOOCs.

Taking a MOOC?

As a veteran of twelve MOOCs, I can attest that MOOCs can be approached in a manner that suits your needs. Similar to auditing a university course, one can join and lurk just to follow the interactions and content as the course progresses.  As there are no official manuscripts or cash outlays, this is a common way for people to experience a MOOC.  Another way to attend a MOOC is to only participate in a module that matches your requirements. Fully completing many MOOCs is similar to the challenges of normal courses at college or university. Forum discussions, project work, peer assessments, and viewing content are common features of MOOCs.

I have completed seven of the twelve MOOCs that I have started.  I consider a 437 average (baseball hitting average reference) to be pretty good. Reasons for not completing the others were:

  • personal fatigue
  • course did not meet expectations
  • course too demanding
  • simply wanted to audit the course.

Completing some of these MOOCs resulted in a sense of real accomplishment.  Especially as they were self-motivated and challenging. I have learned new skills through coaching MOOCs, acquired knowledge from the History of Internet, earned certification on the completion of the Facilitating Blended Learning MOOC, and received an electronic badge at the end of the Moodle Mobile MOOC.

Final Thoughts

MOOCs offer a solution for education professionals who are looking for continuous, flexible and affordable professional development opportunities.  I have stopped requesting professional development funds over the past two years and have used MOOCs as a crucial source of professional learning.  I hope you look into this vast resource and give them a try.  If you have any experience or thoughts regarding MOOCs please feel free to comment below.

MOOC Resources:

MOOC List’s MOOC list


Samples of TESOL MOOCs

Coursera’s Teach English Now! Lesson Design and Assessment
Coursera’s Teach English Now! Second Language Listening, Speaking, and Pronunciation
Coursera’s Speak English Professionally: In Person, Online & On the Phone
Coursera’s Theories of Second Language Acquisition
Future Learn’s Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests


Hi—I'm John Allan. I am an educator who works in the technology enhanced language learning field. I create online learning opportunities and mentor instructors on the Avenue project. I have experience teaching ESL and EFL in Canada and the Middle East. I hold an MSC in Computer Assisted Language learning, a M.Ed. in Distance Education, TESL B. Ed., a B.Ed. (OCT), and a variety of TESL relevant certifications from TESL Canada, TESL Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Education. For more articles, learning objects, projects and blog links see


2 thoughts on “Need PD, no budget? Consider a MOOC.”

  1. There’s an upcoming MOOC that some TESL Ontario members might enjoy: Technology Enabled Learning. This MOOC is “designed to help teachers build their knowledge and skillset in teaching and learning with technology”. It runs for 5 weeks: Jan. 9-Feb. 10, and you can find information at, and even register, if you are so inclined.

    1. Nancy, thanks for this share! It looks like an interesting offering for teachers. who are thinking about using technology in a more organized fashion with their instruction.

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