Advice for Parents: Helping Your Student Manage MOOC Study Time

Tips to help your student overcome the difficulties of taking online classes.

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) give students the opportunity to take classes from talented professors from all over the country in the comfort of their own homes. Professors at prestigious universities, like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford, participate in these courses. Thousands of students were drawn to one course offered by Stanford University on artificial intelligence in 2011.

The classes allow for flexibility and access to incredible amounts of information, oftentimes for free. But there are some challenges. As a parent, you can help your student deal with the difficulties they may face while taking MOOCs.

Encourage your student to choose one or two methods of seeking support and stick to them. This would be better than trying to keep up with all the different ways MOOC students can connect with each other.

Problem: Finding a Place to Study

Students at all levels of learning usually benefit from having a designated study space. This makes it easier to get in the right frame of mind. Students taking online classes don't have the luxury of a college campus, so they have to create the right study space.


Everyone has different needs for studying. Some people need complete quiet while others need a little white noise. Cafes can be good places to read or write essays, but there may not always be a table available. You can help your student by setting up a designated study area at home. It can be as simple as making sure the kitchen table is cleared off after dinner or more elaborate by setting up a desk in his room. With a clear place to work, students are more likely to do well.

Problem: Wide amount of flexibility

One of the benefits of MOOCs is also one of the drawbacks. Students watch the lectures and complete the homework whenever they want--day or night. Because there are no set times for class, it's entirely up to the students to make sure they do everything they need to do to pass the course.


In order to help your student focus and remain disciplined, encourage him to set up a specific time for their class. He can put it on a calendar or in a planner and set alarms on his phone so he doesn't forget. A planner can also help him organize homework and time to study for tests. This is especially important if he is taking more than one MOOC.

Problem: Computer Troubles

Several sites say that one of the benefits of MOOCs is that all you need is an Internet connection. But what happens when the Internet isn't working? Or if something goes wrong with your computer, like a virus?


Help your student come up with a Plan B when it comes to his study time. If his computer goes incapacitated, make sure he has a backup computer either at your home, at a friend’s, or at the library. Also, have the phone numbers for your Internet provider handy so that you can call quickly if there's a problem.

Problem: Varying Support Outlets

A 2010 study on networking in MOOCs points out that one of the drawbacks is the non-linear nature of the courses. Students turn to blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter and other outlets to discuss course content. Because there are so many ways to connect, it can become disjointed and be hard for students to find the support they need if they don't understand a concept.


Encourage your student to choose one or two methods of seeking support and stick to them. This would be better than trying to keep up with all the different ways MOOC students can connect with each other. Facebook groups and forums set up by the host site are probably the easiest way to connect with other students and the professor.

MOOCs and Your Student: Quick Tips

  • Both Android and Apple markets have calendars and "to do list" apps that can be useful to students. Many of these apps also connect to the computer, so students always have access to their planners.
  • Social media can be a great tool for connecting with professors and other students, but it can also be a great distraction. Having trouble shutting down social media when it’s time to do homework? Apps like Antisocial will block any social media sites you want for whatever amount of time you set. Antisocial is only available on Macs, but Cold Turkey is the alternative for Windows users.
  • With MOOCs, your student may not have access to the array of library databases many colleges offer to students. This can make researching for papers difficult. But many public library systems have subscriptions to academic databases and Google Scholar is a good resource for journal articles.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

Colleges with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
How MOOCs Can Help You Choose a Major
How to Use MOOCs to Get Your Dream Job
What is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)?

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