MOOCs and coding – how they transformed my life

Just over 12 months from now, I was celebrating my last day in a sales & marketing role at my previous employer. Today, I’m writing this in my home-based office near Ipswich in the UK at the computer I use to run and manage my new website from. Reading over that last sentence seems like a paradox – back then I had zero coding knowledge, had no idea what lay behind a web page and had never heard of the acronym MOOC. For those of you who also fall into that category, MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and is a free online course open to anyone, anywhere (well, in theory, anyway). Now I live and breathe MOOCs and coding and I’m loving it! It all started when my brother approached me to ask if I’d be interested in setting up a web based resource based around e-learning. Charles (my brother, that is) is CEO of Ibis Capital ltd, a specialist investment and corporate finance advisory business focusing on the media and media tech sector, and co-founder of EdTech Europe, an annual summit which explores current industry and investment trends in the e-Learning and EdTech sectors. With this background, he saw the scope that the e-learning sector was promising and thought there would be some exciting avenues for me to explore. After a few months of research to familiarize myself with this new market, I decided to take up the challenge and dived into the world of e-learning to see what I could come up with. First task: identify what was missing in this vast ocean of online courses and platforms. I spent my time trying to gather as much information as possible which involved jumping around from one website to another, doing copious amounts of googling. It was this task in itself that led me to realise what was needed: a central hub which would provide all the information and guidance on online learning in one place. And so, the initial concept behind was born. Right, so I had an idea. That was the easy part. Now I had to think about what to do with this idea. Of course, I needed a website so the next stage was back on the internet researching what software to use which best suited my needs. I finally opted for a forum software (Xenforo) which had great reviews and decided to start by creating an online community website where e-learning enthusiasts could interact. This is where my encounter with coding began. I had to at least understand what powered the site I was about to build, so I did a few basic tutorials with Codecademy. Then began the mammoth task of transforming a virtually blank web page into a full-blown website with all the frills. And I did it! MoocLab was launched in September 2014 as a simple forum website and has gradually grown with added resources, such as free guides to help people get started with MOOCs and online learning, independent reviews and ratings of platforms offering online courses, news and insights, and the latest feature, “Find a Study Buddy”, allowing members to find compatible study partners based on their interests, preferences and even specific courses. So, there you have it. In just over a year, I have become a bit of an expert in the field of online learning and MOOCs, and have gained respectable knowledge of the workings behind a web page. My mission now is to continue to grow and develop MoocLab into the must-stop place for e-learning newbies to start their journey, for experienced learners to share their experiences and offer advice, and to help people pursue their educational goals online. AUTHOR: Carolyn McIntyre

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