MOOCs are large-scale, easily accessible online courses. These courses are often associated with top-tier universities such as MIT and Harvard, and anyone interested can sign up for little or no cost.
The ease of access and world-class instruction make MOOCs a very attractive option for people seeking to further their learning and expand their skill sets. Some even hope to leverage this experience to secure their next job.
Could MOOCs, a still untested form of education, really strengthen your resume and help you find a job? Let’s look at the pros and the cons.
Disadvantages of MOOCs
They don’t replicate an in-person learning environment. The solitary nature of online learning means that MOOCs are not equivalent to courses taken at a college or university. Attending lectures and completing assignments and examinations without supervision simply can't offer the same benefits of in-person instruction. Although some MOOC services provide discussion forums and encourage student meet-ups, personal interactions and hands-on learning are very difficult, if not impossible, to replicate outside of the class environment.
Accreditation is not guaranteed. MOOCs are not necessarily accredited supplements to higher education. Although they may have ties to some of the best schools in the world, most of the courses do not offer academic credit. While some schools such as Antioch University and Colorado State University offer credit for select courses, it remains difficult to gain official recognition for your course work.
If MOOCs have all these drawbacks, should anyone be considering them to strengthen their education and skill sets? How much could a certificate of completion from a MOOC service be worth? The truth is they may provide intangible benefits that can help land your next job. MOOCs may not add to college transcript, but taking a MOOC can be an asset to your job search.
Advantages of MOOCs
It gives you something positive to talk about. HR can be very conservative, but no interviewer would count your efforts to improve yourself against you, particularly if you have been unemployed for a long time. Not only that, it also shows that you are an early adopter of a useful technolog
It demonstrates drive and motivation. Finishing an entire class on your own demonstrates self-motivation and ability to work independently without supervision. Anyone can claim that they are driven in an interview. You, on the other hand, will be able to clearly demonstrate it.
MOOCs can help you build expertise. If you’ve been out of school for a while, MOOCs are easily accessible resources that could help refresh your skills or learn about new subjects. With your new base of knowledge, you can publicly demonstrate your expertise by using it to help real people. An easy place to start testing your knowledge would be the MOOC service’s own discussion forums (if they provide one). However, your real target should be Q&A forums on sites like Quora, where you can help real industry professionals resolve issues relevant to their work. Participating in topic-specific Quora forums in a productive manner can help you gain the attention of niche influencers and possibly lead to a job. While your participation isn’t guaranteed to fill your inbox with inquiries from headhunters, it could at the least help you network with industry professionals.
So what can we conclude regarding MOOCs? There are distinct pros and cons to investing time and they are still quite new and untested. Nevertheless they provide free and easy access to information and and help you build new skills. It might be worth a shot even if the rewards are less tangible than traditional college classes. After all, any education is better than none at all.
Jenna Kossoff is a digital marketing professional supporting IT Accel, a NYC and Columbus, OH-based recruiting firm committed to the development of contract and permanent IT placement for technology professionals.