Due to the numerous unaccredited, for-profit internet schools offering expensive and dubious degrees, online classes have gotten a pretty bad rap. But Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are changing the virtual classroom arena. MOOCs are online classes largely offered for free and aimed at providing more universal access to education. MOOCs are an invaluable resource that can be used to both delve deeper into a subject you’re interested in or learn a new marketable skill. Top universities such as Harvard, Berkeley and MIT all offer MOOCs in a multitude of subjects ranging from “Hinduism Through its Scriptures” to “Writing Professional Code.” Databases like Coursera and edX make MOOCs accessible by organizing them by institution and subject matter.
If you are prone to taking a utilitarian approach then you might be asking yourself how can I use MOOCs to boost my career? And with more than 900 MOOCs offered by US universities and colleges, how do I know which classes are worthy of my time? Well my efficient friend, here are some tips to help make the most of your MOOCs experience:
BE REALISTIC WITH YOUR CHOICES
While “Mandarin Chinese Essentials” may sound like an important class to take odds are you don’t need that for your current job or even future job prospects. In an ideal world you may sit down to learn some Mandarin in your free time but in reality you are much more likely to choose Netflix.
As a result, take classes that will teach you a helpful skill to better your chances of being promoted or one that will give you another skill for your resume, like a Photoshop class. If you’ve been looking to make a major life change like starting your own business, then look for MOOCs that cover entrepreneurship. Fir example U of Maryland offers a class called Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship, which teaches you how to create a business plan and raise capital.
LEARN MARKETABLE SKILLS
These days Word, Powerpoint and Excel skills just don’t cut it as adequate tech skills. Thankfully there is a large swath of MOOC offerings centered around technology-related subjects to help boost your resume. Coding is a highly marketable skills, so that would be a good one to learn. There is no shortage of offerings, whether you want to learn the fundamentals, a specific programming language, or dive into more hard-core coding, MOOCs are available in all coding categories.
Don’t think your field is particularly tech-driven? Think again: just because you’re not working as a software engineer, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a tech course. MOOCs in online reputation management and digital marketing strategies can teach skills any burgeoning businessgal would do well to master.
ADVERTISE YOUR EFFORTS WITH DIRECT-TO-PROFILE CERTIFICATIONS
Not only have Google, AT&T, and Nvidia gotten in on the MOOC action, LinkedIn has partnered with various MOOCs to offer an easy way to let the world know about your newly-acquired expertise. (Don’t have a LinkedIn profile? we can help you with that.)
In 2013, LinkedIn introduced Direct-to-Profile Certifications as a way to allow users to not just update their profile with their educational accomplishments, but to prove that the certificate holder has actually completed the course and with which university.
STICK WITH IT
Sadly MOOCs are known to have a very low retention rate. This is often attributed to the fact that people don’t feel obligated to finish the courses because they didn’t pay for them and no one is watching them to make sure they do the work. The only one holding them accountable to the course is themselves.
To help evaluate whether you have the time to complete a MOOC, look for two vital pieces of information before enrolling: the length of the course and how many hours of work estimated each week. Classes vary from five to six hours of work each week for six weeks, to 20 hours of work each week for 11 weeks. Be realistic about how much time you have to dedicate to studying and how enthusiastic you are about the class itself.
Whether branching out to create your own business or trying to stand out among a sea of candidates, one thing is for sure; enrolling in a MOOC is sure to give you a professional leg up. Like most things in life, you only get out of it what you put in. Doing your research, being realistic, and choosing classes geared toward your desired skill set make the difference between getting a valuable learning experience and finding just another way to waste time on the Internet.