Close up of a man's hands typing on his MacBook with a mug and phone next to him

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a great resource for anybody wanting to learn something new and it’s easy to sign up to one, but it can be hard to make the most of them, as it’s you who has got to put in the effort, stay focused and keep learning. With all this in mind, how to you stay on track to make the most of your time?

Your own space

As with any form or learning, you’ll need a space where you can concentrate and not get distracted from the world around you. Whether this is in your local library, a cafe or at home, the choice is yours, but the more comfortable you feel with your surroundings the more you’ll learn and be able to focus. 


Before you start your course get all your deadlines in your calendar sorted, whether it’s announcements or due dates - it’s much harder than traditional university and lectures to not show up or do the assignment as no one will ever keep an eye on you. Commit a certain number of hours to your online course, whether it’s a three-hour block once a week or three short evenings every week. The courses tend to recommend a number of study hours every week, but how much time you dedicate to it will depend on what you are trying to achieve. 

Once you’ve decided when you are going to study, sit down at your allocated times and tell yourself that you won’t do anything else until you get this week’s lecture watched or this week’s articles read. 

Ask yourself why 

Why are you studying this course? Is it to learn about something new? Do you need to learn a new skill to help with that promotion you’re after? Setting objectives for yourself will give you a reason and a motivation to undertake the MOOC and make it relevant and personal to you, and you’ll be more likely to finish it as a result. Once you begin studying, use your goals to guide you, and keep a record of how and when you achieve them.

Reach out

With your friendly face already out there, take the time to take part in conversations and debates, whether it’s liking other people’s comments to replying with one of your own. Reaching out to people in this way is a great way to stay motivated and achieve your personal learning objectives, and you’ll also find that it’s the interactions with others you’ll enjoy the most. Building these relationships is a great an opportunity to broaden your perspective as well as add depth to your knowledge of the material, while you might also find that you find like-minded people and build your personal and professional network.

You can also think about using your social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, or your blog to share your reflections on the course content and how it is helping you achieve your personal learning goals. They don’t have to be text-based - why not take a photo, create a mind map, or create a video that demonstrates what you've learned?

Navigate the platform

Especially with your first MOOC, you’ve a new platform to get to grips with which might include finding the course materials, understanding when information comes online, and the times of the live sessions you want to participate in.

As you can connect with others during the course, make sure you’re a friendly face by uploading a friendly profile picture, write a brief and interesting text to go with it and, if you have one, add a link to your Facebook group, Twitter handle or blog. 

You might also have technical requirements, for example needing specific computer software to get started. Take time before you begin to get the software up and running on your computer so that when you actually get round to starting the course you can do so with guns blazing, and don’t have to use valuable time figuring everything out.