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Back to School with a MOOC

Tuesday, September 3rd 2013
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A question from Executive Editor Adena Schutzberg: It’s fall and the kids are going back to school. How about you, dear reader? Are you going back to school? She thinks you should take a MOOC. And she’ll not only tell you why, but suggest a few options.

When I use the acronym MOOC, a stand-in for Massive Open Online Course, in pretty much any context, I get one of three responses:

  1. “Huh?”
  2. “Those just sound weird.”
  3. “I just took one on ...” [continues excitedly to tell me all about it]

Take a MOOC!

My goal here is to tempt you GIS professionals to move from that first response to either of the second two. How? By convincing you take a MOOC this fall.

If you are at “Huh?” start by reading this article about my experience as a student in my first MOOC.

The rest of you are surely asking: “Why should I take a MOOC?” Here’s a short list of reasons:


  • Enhance your resume
  • Learn a new skill
  • Learn about new resources for your organization
  • Learn about this new way of teaching and learning


  • Be a good role model by highlighting how learning never stops
  • Suggest MOOCs that your kids, friends or parents might enjoy
  • Become a happier person


  • Rekindle a (perhaps lost) love of learning
  • Be a happier person
  • Work toward and accomplish a new and different goal

What MOOC should I take?

The short answer, from my perspective, is any one that interests you! A longer and perhaps more helpful answer for Directions Magazine readers looking at professional advancement, is the list below. I think these courses would provide a nice addition to any GIS practitioner’s experience and skill quiver.

All of these courses are free, but details on course length, time commitment per week, deliverables, hardware requirements and certificates of achievement vary from provider to provider, institution to institution, and instructor to instructor. I selected these upcoming (and ongoing) courses from several catalogs (the bold headings below). Many courses can be joined successfully far after the start date, so think of them as just guidelines.

I picked just four from each provider, but all had far more that I thought would be relevant. I encourage readers to explore further, including at a few other platforms noted below the list!

Suggested MOOCs for GIS practitioners and students





Other Catalogs to Explore

Image by IlonkaTallina licensed under CC 2.0 BY NC-SA .

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