How to Make the Most of Your MOOC Obsession

Pie graphs of work-life balance and imbalance

By Pat Bowden, published June 13, 2017.

If you are trying to improve your career prospects you may need to spend every possible minute working on your online study. You may miss out on other life experiences because you are so busy with your work as well as your study.

Sometimes it’s necessary to temporarily sacrifice other areas of our lives to concentrate on studying to improve our situation later on, but other times we take MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) for fun or interest. What happens when the fun goes away and a particular interest starts taking over all aspects of our life? When does MOOC learning turn into MOOCoholism or MOOC addiction?

Danger Signs:

  • Waking up at the crack of dawn or staying up into the wee hours to study, even when you know you should be looking after your health by sleeping more.
  • You spend your paid working hours watching the clock for when you can get back to your MOOCs.
  • Your family says “Not beans on toast again!”
  • At a party you spend the time thinking about your MOOC assignment.
  • You are going on holidays but wish you were staying home to do your MOOCs.
  • Your family starts threatening to throw your computer or phone in the bin.
  • You realise you haven’t eaten when you start feeling light-headed.

My MOOC Obsession

There have been times when MOOCs took over my life and I enrolled in too many courses at once. Just before going on holidays a few years ago, I enrolled in six courses. I rushed through as much as I could before we went, had a frustrating time with very limited internet access during the two weeks we were away, then caught up afterwards. Every possible moment was spent in front of the computer once we arrived home. Time away from the screen was spent thinking about my MOOCs. I managed to pass five of them. I didn’t score enough marks to pass the sixth after I totally forgot about it when we came back from our holiday. I only realised I had missed the deadline after receiving an end of course email. Whoops! Since that experience I have tried to rein in my obsession with MOOCs, with fluctuating success. Sometimes it’s just too easy to click the enrol button and start another interesting course.

The MOOC world has changed somewhat in the past few years, with many MOOCs becoming available on a regular basis as well as having more flexible deadlines for assessment items. This creates less pressure on a weekly basis, but can also lead to a build up and frantic cramming just before final deadlines.

Avoiding MOOC Burnout

To avoid MOOC burnout, enrol in only one or two courses at a time and do not enrol too far ahead of the course start date. If an interesting course is coming up, instead of immediately enrolling, make yourself a diary or calendar reminder for a week or few days before the start date. You can then review your personal situation immediately before the course starts. A big advantage of MOOCs is that courses do not fill up and you will not miss out by waiting to join. With the trend towards self-paced MOOCs being available at all times, it will become even easier to fit a MOOC into your less busy times.

What if you realise your life has turned into that of a MOOC addict despite the above strategies? How can it improve your life?

Make Your MOOC Obsession Work for You

If you can keep control of your MOOC obsession, it might help your career. By making the most of your MOOC time and with some perseverance you can learn a lot in a short time, perhaps enough to change your career or life path. Prepare for higher education, or learn an entirely different field. Introduce family members or friends to new horizons. Keep up to date while on extended leave from your day job, such as maternity or long-service leave, especially if you have been thinking of a career switch. Make the most of your retirement years and keep your brain active, as long as a healthy interest doesn’t evolve into an unhealthy imbalance and your wellbeing suffers.

A Final Thought

Remember what your priorities are, as well as the priorities and well-being of those around you. What will make you happy in the long run? A stack of knowledge at the expense of your health or happy relationships? Or a bit less knowledge plus those happy relationships and good health? Taking MOOCs a bit more slowly to leave time for a balanced lifestyle can make a big difference.

Do you have a MOOC obsession? Share your story in the comments section below.