by Brad MacDonald
Mooc. No, it’s not an old-timey insult. MOOCs are the latest thing to happen to higher education and may help you land your dream job. Standing for Massive Online Open Courses, MOOCs offer university courses free of charge to anyone wanting to take part and are normally linked with well-known universities and even offer certificates of participation upon completion. Still in its infancy, this learning tool has the potential to change the way we access education. Although surely not about to render the traditional university campus experience irrelevant, this new form of education can perhaps alter how we look at the quest for knowledge and how we develop a competitive advantage in the labour market.
MOOCs may be offered directly through universities’ websites or through a number of facilitators such as Coursera or Udacity. Dozens of universities offer courses and you may even be able to score a certificate from a prestigious institution like Princeton or Stanford. They are free of charge and the choice of topics is large, with courses offered in everything from Architecture to Political Science. As MOOCs are still getting off the ground this choice is growing all the time. Courses can last anywhere from five to twelve weeks and can require a commitment of two to eight hours per week depending on the topic. Once you have found a course that you are interested in, all you have to do is create an account, enroll for the course and you will receive a notification before it is set to begin. The layout is similar to other online courses and when the course has been successfully completed some institutions offer a certificate of completion.
The Changing Face of Higher Education
While MOOCs could be disruptive to the status quo of higher education, it is doubtful that they well replace university as we know it. They are, after all, offered by established universities. The disruptiveness of MOOCs lies in the fact that they extend an education to those who would never have had the means to attend a university. Anyone in the world with internet access, knowledge of the language of instruction and enough time to dedicate to a course is now able to educate themselves and develop skills that may give them a competitive advantage without the costs normally associated with a traditional university experience.
The advantages of MOOCs can only go so far, and online courses can only teach so much. While providing the information for the topic covered, the physical campus experience also teaches a host of other skills such as public speaking, networking, social aptitude, group work and time management that are lacking or poorly conveyed in the virtual world. For this reason, university roommates and 9am lectures aren’t going to disappear any time soon but a new tool is emerging that may allow university graduates to continue learning without having to return to school.
MOOCs and You
Sometimes a job may be posted for which you have the education necessary but lack that something extra to stand out as an applicant. Signing up for a free MOOC allows you to learn about the topic and have a tangible achievement that you can add to your CV and potentially a certificate with your name on it that can be provided to a prospective employer. Following MOOCs that interest you or that allow you to specialize your skills can create a distinct advantage when hunting for your dream job and competing with everyone else in the job market. MOOCs are a free way to set yourself apart and prove to employers that you have a genuine interest in the field, hopefully giving you a competitive edge.
The Bottom Line
While MOOCs will likely help to bring up the general level of education because of their very limited barriers to entry, much of their potential lies in how they complement traditional university education. As the choice of courses and institutions grows, so too will the use of these online courses and gone will be the days of paying for expensive correspondence courses but perhaps we will be ushered into a new period where a university degree alone is no longer enough.