A Guide to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s)

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What is a MOOC?

The internet has transformed the world in many ways, but one of the most powerful is its impact on life-long learning.  In times gone by, large educational institutions were the only access point to higher education. We would invest time and money, build skills, and then leverage that for the rest of our careers.  Much of our education was front-loaded since going back to school was such a large commitment.

That puts workers and businesses alike in a challenging position as the need for new skills increases rapidly. As technology grows at a faster pace every year, so do the needs of organizations. So how do people and organizations upgrade their skills in a cost and time-effective manner?

Enter MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. These platforms are great opportunities for people to add valuable skills to their resumes. They have also increased access to education across the board.

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What is a MOOC?

According to MOOC.org, “Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale.”

It is built for the internet – delivering material online to a class size that scales easily.  With MOOC technology, you can have millions of people taking the same course simultaneously. You can also deliver a fantastic user-paced experience to every person regardless of their skill level.

What’s the Benefit of a MOOC?

There are several reasons why MOOCs have had such a large impact in such a short space of time. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Cost-Effective – These courses deliver high-quality educational material, analogous to what you would receive at a top university. They can do this at a fraction of the cost because educators don’t need to cover huge fixed costs.  And since the material can be scaled infinitely, the cost per student comes down to a more reasonable rate.  This access has democratized the skills being taught and make it possible for anyone with an internet connection and the requisite work ethic to learn whatever skill they need.
  • Self-paced – Unlike traditional education, which tends to cater to an average student and deliver one learning stream at their pace, the technology in MOOCs allows you to adapt the speed of the course to your liking. If you are struggling to keep up, you can slow things down and listen to explanations until you get it.  You can run through various practical examples until you are comfortable without inconveniencing other students.  This flexibility gives you a fully personalized learning experience that you can’t recreate when in-person.
  • Relevant Material – Curriculums taught in traditional education tend to be relatively slow to change because of the infrastructure changes needed to shift things. As a result, the skills being taught tend to lag what is relevant and valuable out in the real world.  MOOCs are much more agile and can update the curriculum to reflect what is appropriate as the world shifts.  This means that you can reskill yourself effectively with something that is not out of date. That’s a crucial competitive advantage in a fast-paced world.

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How To Choose the Right Courses?

Some courses can add real value to your resume, while others are better suited for hobbies and personal endeavors.

What you want to look for are courses attached to reputable institutions. That might be a nationally recognized college or a company with a strong reputation in the area you are looking for training.

We recommend starting with something from one of the more established MOOC providers such as Coursera, Udacity, or edX.  Not only do they have great partner organizations, but they also offer certificates or actual degrees that bring real value.

Each of these companies has a broad catalog covering a large number of MOOC courses. If you spend some time digging, you’ll be sure to find something for you.

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How Can a MOOC Increase My Value?

You will find that many MOOCs focus heavily on high-tech and other skills especially valuable to organizations today. Think about things like software development, data science, cloud computing, and the like. Almost every company in the world today has some need for these types of skills. The MOOCs we’ve discussed above give you a couple of options to officially tack these skills onto your resume.

  • Verifiable Certificates – When you finish most MOOC courses, you’ll receive a certificate that verifies you went through the material and have completed the required assignments. Keep in mind that many MOOCs’ business models are to offer a course at a very affordable price and then upcharge for a certificate. The cost, in most cases, is very manageable and not required. So if that’s what you need, don’t forget to check that cost before entering the course.
  • Full Degrees – As MOOCs’ popularity has grown, we have seen them start to offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Check out Coursera or edX, and you will quickly see they provide multiple options across many areas of study. And they are partnered with major universities, so you get an education with as much value as attending in person. As you’d expect, these degrees are more costly. It is often into the tens of thousands of dollars, but it’s still a far cry from many traditional university options.

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The Bottom Line

MOOCs represent an incredible opportunity to gain additional skills that might be relevant for your current career path or to start a new one entirely.  With easy access and affordable costs, they also offer a lower-risk way to get an education than many traditional methods.

As they become a larger part of the educational landscape, the certificates and degrees they offer will only increase in value. And as more and more companies start to employ people trained in this way compared to 4-year colleges, the opportunities will continue to grow.

Regardless of your current situation, it’s never too late to start. Whether you’re a new high school graduate, looking to add some additional skills, or someone in mid-life making a change, MOOCs are a great starting point.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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