If you’re into online learning you’ve probably started hearing about . MOOCs are, indeed, large (the bigger the better) and open (often free of charge) to the global public, with both participants and course materials distributed across the web.

Often MOOCs don’t have requirements or even prerequisites. Some educators view MOOCs as a tool for making higher education, even elite courses at world-class universities, available to those who cannot gain admission to the institution or pay the tuition. For example, recent computer science courses taught by well-known Stanford professors have attracted over 160,000 students.

In 2013 Stanford plans to offer thirteen courses “open to the world,” including subjects like game theory and cryptography. Students can browse courses online on sites like Coursera, Udemy and Udacity. MIT also recently offered its first MOOC, and plans to include some sort of credential for those who successfully complete them.

Learners are clearly excited about these opportunities to gain marketable skills. Some courses even come with credentials or badges, though these usually are not free. However, the number of students completing these huge courses is often less than 10% of those registered.

Large-scale courses have been known to evolve to include volunteer translators, wikis, Facebook groups and online discussion groups. The MOOC format organically creates a web of social networks, as students engage in their own, freeform discussions. Education innovator and blogger Dave Cormier likens MOOCs to “rhizomatic learning,” through which learners can get familiar with a domain and begin building their own “maps of knowledge.”

Whether you’re an independent tutor or work for a training company, private school or other organization, teaching a MOOC gives you multiple opportunities to grow your business:

  1. Connect with learners from around the world – many of whom might wish to pay you for private online learning time
  2. Make profitable connections with organizations offering the courses, such as universities and for-profit companies
  3. Expand your own knowledge on a topic through collaboration with experts
  4. Enhance your reputation as an educator on the leading edge of technology
  5. Enhance your hands-on understanding and experience with an online learning modality that is exploding in popularity and importance.

You might not get paid directly for teaching a MOOC, but its cost to you should be little more than your time spent in course development and delivery. Like any class, MOOCs have a schedule, syllabus/course outline; assignments and tests (usually self-assessments – who could grade 100,000 exams!); and a learning space where participants meet and exchange ideas and information.

Not sure how to set up a MOOC? One of the best explanations out there is offered by Thomas McDonald – a multi-part series that answers many basic questions about social media tools, instructional guidelines, tips to enhance mobile access and more. The course is just getting started so why not jump in?

With technology and web access always improving, and the cost of university courses skyrocketing out of reach for many, the MOOC model’s time has surely come.

Are you ready to embrace the MOOC format? Where do you think MOOCs will be in five years?

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