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When Taking a MOOC Focus on Skills, Not Credits

When Taking a MOOC Focus on Skills, Not Credits image
When Taking a MOOC Focus on Skills, Not Credits

Should people who successfully complete a massive, open online course (MOOC) offered by Harvard or Stanford receive university credit for having done so?

Given that MOOC content often mirrors the content delivered in the traditional classroom, you might assume that the answer would be, "Yes." If you enquire you will find that the answer is a resounding, "No."

Indeed, in a recent survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 72% of professors who actually taught MOOCs said they did not believe that students who succeeded in their courses should receive credit.

Of course, many MOOCs offer students who have completed a course a "Certificate of Completion." Nevertheless, as The Chronicle pointed out, it is unclear whether employers give such certificates any credence. Now as before, when it comes to credit for coursework, they added, "College degrees are still the coin of the realm."

Take the Skills and Let the Credits Go

Long story short, it's going to be a while before anyone is going to receive a 100% online degree from a prominent university. For people looking to MOOCs to acquire skills that will make them more employable, though, the question of credits really shouldn't matter. 

Far more important are the actual skills taught by the MOOC and whether or not by the end of the course you will be able to do something you could not have done before. 

In order to ensure that a particular MOOC will help you achieve your career goals (or at least get you up the next rung of the ladder), here are some things to consider:

  1. Do you know what skills you need to move your career forward? If you don't, do your research before doing the MOOC!
  2. Does the instructor understand the real-world application of what they are teaching? Especially in an academic setting, it's easy for teachers to focus more on theory than on practice. If you are hoping to develop yourself professionally by taking a MOOC, though, you need to be practical.
  3. Will the MOOC give you an opportunity to practice what it teaches? Most MOOCs provide students with assignments or problem sets that they need to complete. Make sure that the assignments you are given emphasize applying the skills learned, rather simply regurgitating information about them.

If the answer to any of those questions is "no," then you may want to reconsider whether this MOOC is worth an investment of your time. If the answers, on the other hand, are all "yes," then jump right in!

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