How to survive a MOOC in 5 easy steps

We’re only into week one of the “E-learning and Digital Cultures” course but I’ve already seen quite a few posts and blog comments from people who feel a little lost and overwhelmed by the constant stream of communication. Here’s my tips for keeping sanity in the information landslide!


  1. Prioritize. With numerous platforms (Coursera, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Flickr, blogs etc.) and over 40 000 students who live in multiple time zones you have to be superhuman (or have no life and need no sleep) to follow it all. Choose one or two platforms that you like the best and focus on those, forget about the rest. Just do not forget to make sure that you get the updates from the course teachers!
  2. Skim. Even if you follow only one or two platforms, it is still likely that you’ll have quite a lot of information coming your way (well, unless you’re on G+ ;)). Don’t try to read everything: skim the contents, locate the topics that interest you and black out the rest.
  3. Group-up. Communication with coursemates is an important part of online learning, yet trying to have a conversation with thousands of people can make you feel like your voice disappears and can be very demotivating. Try to find (or form) smaller groups to keep engaged and active. And there’s a lot of choice: from language-based groupings to interest or quadblogging groups (which I personally find to be among the most valuable).
  4. Organize. Find a tool that helps you to keep your course notes in order and easy overview and edit. My favorite is MS OneNote which allows me to paste and sort the course contents, add my own notes and comments, link videos and relevant blog posts, as well as other valuable resources.
  5. Have fun! Remember that you are doing this course for yourself, it should challenge but not overwhelm you. So be selective, focus on what excites you and don’t fear that you might be missing out on something.

Image credits: Mar.tin & Will Lion (Flick Creative Commons)



  1. Great post – though I”m not sure how the group-up works for massive courses like this. Have you found any way to do this that works well? On another course they’ve tried to allocate us into smaller groups – which seemed like a great idea in theory but in practice it’s been a nightmare. So any thoughts on how best to approach it ourselves?

    1. Karen, I have been thinking about that too. I assumed that allocation by the course teachers wouldn’t work that well as people have different interests, not everyone is equally active etc., and what you say about your experience confirms that.
      In EDC we have the choice ourselves which has its good and bad sides too. The two ways I’ve found to be useful (but I’m sure there’s many more) is (1) the “Study groups” section on Coursera where you can join one of the groups or try to form your own or (2) check out the course Facebook page – maybe you see a subgroup that’s interesting for you, if you write a blog you can join one of the quadblog groups, or you can always post and ask whether anyone wants to form a group based on something that interests you.

      1. Thanks – I’ll take a look at the coursera one. I’m trying not to use facebook for the mooc stuff, but I can see lots of people joining in there so I might be persuaded in.

  2. […] A couple of other folks I’ve come across have also shared tips for success in a MOOC.  Ilzele at Random Ramblings has her own 5 steps to MOOC success: […]

  3. Thanks , your advice is well taken , I was getting over whelmed with all these forums and the comments on them , felt quite lost .

  4. Here’s another person’s suggestions (not mine) Interesting that the one you both have specificied in common is ‘have fun’ – a definite must for self-directed learning!

    1. Thanks for the link!

  5. Thanks for your tips Ilzele. This confirms what I pretty much discovered during my first week in MOOC as well.

  6. Paldies, Ilzele!!!
    I do feel a bit overwhelmed with the course and not as confident as you with blogging in English. I left Riga in 1990, and now live in Toronto. Your 5 steps feel encouraging and lighthearted.

    1. Thanks for your comment! So there are people from Latvia on the course after all, they just live in other countries 🙂

  7. […] had more than 25 hits, my infographic of the content analysis study received over 60 hits and the how to survive a MOOC post recently hit over 300 without even landing on the course blogroll. Do I need to say […]

  8. Thanks for your comments about my digital artifact! Here is the correct link to the Jenkins book:

    1. Thanks for the link! I hope you were happy with the reviews that you got!

  9. […] There was also one student who wrote a blog post about how to survive the MOOC, […]

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