What is a MOOC, and Can it Help You Get a Job?

Posted October 16, 2012 by
People working on computers in a blue background

People working on computers in a blue background. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. “Massive” implies that any number of students may participate, and “open” means that registration is not required and a tuition fee is not charged. MOOCs are essentially college-level courses that anyone can complete on the internet for free. Although students who complete MOOCs are not eligible for college credit, the allure is in the fact that course content is provided by some of the top universities in the world, such as MIT and Princeton. So while students who take an MIT MOOC can’t say they attended MIT, they most certainly can say that they successfully completed an MIT course.

Currently, the most popular MOOC platform is Coursera.org. Thirty-three universities have partnered with the site to teach a variety of subjects via video lecture. Examples of institutions offering courses on Coursera include Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Stanford University and the University of Virginia. Another MOOC platform is edX.org. The site was launched in May 2012 and is governed by MIT and Harvard University. The platform operates essentially the same way as Coursera, but with some slight differences. There is also a third MOOC platform called Udacity. All three sites offer optional certificates of completion for a small fee.

Although the MOOC concept wasn’t created with recent graduates in mind, the weak job market does make it more relevant to this group for two reasons. First, many college graduates often apply for jobs that aren’t related to their degrees. While they qualify for the job in terms of required education, they do not qualify in terms of experience. Because MOOCs cover a range of topics that can be applied to a variety of industries, recent graduates can use the free service to educate themselves on the particular industry they are interested in working in. For example, a graduate with a history degree who is interested in applying for an administrative position at a software company may increase their chances of getting the job by taking an Intro to Computer Science MOOC and an Intro to Business Management MOOC.

Second, even for graduates who are applying for jobs related to their degrees, adding that you completed an MOOC on your resume showcases your commitment to the field and your interest in making it your life career. This will impress employers and help add substance to a resume lacking professional experience.

There are already examples of students who have received jobs because they completed an MOOC. Just this August, HuffingtonPost.com reported a story about MOOCs. In this article, Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng says that he has received success stories from students who were able to get new jobs after showing their Coursera certificates to employers.

Although there isn’t any hard data on job seeker success with MOOCs, it still can’t hurt to try. If you are a recent graduate who keeps getting turned down for interviews due to lack of experience or training, there may be an MOOC out there that can give you the additional education you need to qualify for the job. Even if it doesn’t help you land a job, you’ll still be getting free education from some of the best professors in the world, and education can always be put to good use somehow.

Kate Willson is a researcher/writer for CollegeCrunch.org, a great online resource for all things related to higher education and campus life. Her articles cover several topics related to learning, including trends in online schooling, advice for new college students and recent grads and college preparation for high school students. Please leave any questions or comments for Kate below.

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