Nowadays, whether you are unemployed, underemployed, in transition, or working you have to be a lifelong learner. Employers and Hiring Managers alike expect you to keep up with trends and any of the technological changes or advances in your industry or area of expertise.
The problem – very few people have the time, or money, to take the multitude of high-priced courses necessary to keep up with such changes. That’s where Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) come into play.
Essentially, you can advance your professional knowledge by taking any number of MOOCs online, at your own pace. Prices range from free to low-cost to a few hundred dollars. One big challenge to taking one of these courses is that you have to stay motivated since you set your own schedule.
Classes run for five or six weeks, on average, and consist of video lectures, discussion boards with classmates, and readings. Your peers help you by reviewing all your quizzes and written assignments.
Altogether, there are hundreds of MOOCs offered by a variety of schools, colleges, and universities in the United States. So, at last, here’s your chance to take a class at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, or Vanderbilt University or any one of the other well-known schools or Ivy League colleges.
Recently, Coursera and EdX, two companies, collaborated with colleges and universities in the United States, Europe, and Asia to create MOOCs. They offer classes in Science, Law, Engineering, Humanities, or Teacher Professional Development, etc. (See the end of this article for a short list of MOOC offerings.)
Be aware, though, you won’t receive any credit toward a college degree by taking a MOOC, but you can list the courses on your résumé and LinkedIn profile. Some schools even offer certificates upon completion.
Recently, Coursera offered its students verified certificates, called Signature Tracks, which pupils have to pay for. Over 80 percent of these verified certificates cost under $49, yet they can range in price from $25 to $195 per certificate. You can sign up for the certificate before the course begins or during the first few weeks of the class. Shortly after you complete the class, you can access the certificate at the Coursera web site and share the link with Hiring Managers.
By verifying that an individual finished the classwork, Coursera hopes to boost the perception that a MOOC is a legitimate educational resource. It should also be noted that students who pay for Signature Tracks tend to complete their classes at a much higher rate than those who don’t.
Last November, LinkedIn also got into the certification act by collaborating with some providers and offering a “Direct-to-Profile Certification” pilot program, whereby they give those who received a MOOC certificate the information so they can load it into their profiles.
Curtis J. Bonk, Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University, believes the MOOC certification process will further evolve. In the future, “We will see a heavy emphasis on taking three or four MOOCs and getting certificates, which will serve a useful purpose on people’s résumés,” says Bonk.
Down the road, MOOCs may eventually affect the hiring process. When she hires people, Sabine Heller, Chief Executive of A Small World, looks for job candidates who are self-learners. “Are they willing to self-educate … If someone has gaps in their [sic] knowledge, they [sic] need to be willing to fill them,” said Heller in a recent New York Times Corner Office column.
Jeanne Meister, a Partner at Future Workplace and Founder of the 2020 Workplace Network, agrees with Heller saying companies will use MOOCs to recruit talent.
“If a corporation is looking for someone with a hard-to-find skill, or someone who knows certain programming software, they’ll create a MOOC and use that as a way to find who they’re looking for in the pool of those who finish the course,” says Meister.
Since people set their own schedules and the MOOCs are often free, do they actually follow through and complete the classes?
While overall completion rates are low, “when people are using a MOOC to upgrade their knowledge on something specific for their industry, the completion rate is better,” says Alan Ruby, Senior Fellow with the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.
So, take a little time and investigate MOOCs. Take a class or just learn something fun or learn something to help yourself professionally. When someone asks what’s new with you, you can tell him or her, “I’m taking a MOOC.” It is a great conversation starter.
Links to articles
The New York Times, January 17, 2014 “The Corner Office”
Human Resource Executive Online
Quotes from Curtis Bonk, Alan Ruby, and Jeanne Meister
- Coursera https://www.coursera.org
- EdX www.edx.org
- Kahn Academy https://www.khanacademy.org/ Free videos on a specific topic in math, science, economics, and the humanities
- Udemy https://www.udemy.com/ Cost ranges from minimal to several hundred dollars
- I Tunes U https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/itunes-u/id490217893?mt=8 For your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch
- Code Academy http://www.codecademy.com/ Learn how to code for free
- Udacity www.udacity.com Data science, web development, programming, and some design