How MOOCs Can Help Jobseekers

No one’s really sure about how to pronounce MOOC, but here's how Massive Open Online Courses can contribute to jobseekers’ employability.
The gradsingapore Team
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One of the latest innovations in the field of distance education, MOOCs are designed for participation by anyone with access to the web. Courses are typically free, although you may have to pay to acquire a verified certificate of accomplishment. 

While most universities do produce and host courses on their dedicated online learning websites, many are also going to MOOC providers to promote their education services.

What are MOOCs?

  • MOOCs are open sources

Offered under the Creative Commons Licence, MOOCs are free for public use. While you may have to pay for the certification of completion or college credit, the course itself is free.

  • MOOCs are college-level courses

As MOOCs are offered by universities and established organisations, they typically offer college-level courses. Most courses are actively moderated by PhD holders, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs).

  • MOOCs are structured like a regular course – it involves discussions, assignments, and exams

Participants can go through the materials (e.g. recorded lectures, problem sets, and readings) at their own pace, but will need to contribute to discussions, do assignments, and sit for exams in order to pass the course. Some even encourage you to bring your discussions onto social media with hashtags (#) and tags (@).

MOOC for employability

Students who take up MOOCs typically do it for two reasons: to further educate themselves, or to keep themselves relevant in their careers.

A 2014 survey by prominent MOOC researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington found that 72 percent of participants reported career benefits, such as finding a new job, receiving pay increase and job promotions.

Another 61 percent of participants reported educational benefits, such as gaining essential knowledge for a field of study, or learning new key concepts.

MOOC providers

  • Coursera
  • FutureLearn
  • edX
  • iversity
  • Open2Study
  • OpenLearning
  • Udacity (mainly for computer science)

Benefits for grads

MOOC promotes lifelong learning and has a positive impact on employees, but what about graduate jobseekers? Here are several reasons why investing in a MOOC can benefit grads.

Showcasing initiative

  • Continuing your education through MOOCs is proof that you’re willing to take the initiative to expand your knowledge. Employers are always appreciative of applicants with initiative as it means that they will be equally enthusiastic about learning on the job.

Being part of a broader dialogue

  • Enrolling in a MOOC lets you take part in a global discussion about an industry. Your coursemates will have diverse backgrounds – nationality, age, employment, and culture – ensuring that discussions have a broader scope.
  • This could possibly contribute to heightened commercial awareness, and allow for more value-added methods of application on the job – points that could impress your prospective employer during job interviews.

Networking opportunities

  • Many participants take the opportunity to expand their professional network during these courses. Your coursemates might be able to provide new opportunities based on your shared interest, or link you to connections who may offer job leads and valuable career advice.

Diversifying skills

  • MOOCs give graduates the opportunity to pick up skill sets that were not acquired during his/her degree days. Your rate of employability increases as you broaden your competency level with respect to skills. Also, employers prefer candidates who have a diverse set of applicable skills, rather than mere paper qualifications.

Shopping for classes

Before you start signing up for any courses, be sure to consider these points to have a positive MOOC experience:

  • Certificate of achievement

You are allowed to upgrade your status to ‘verified participation’ at any point during your course, and you’ll be issued a certificate of achievement upon completing the course. Consider getting the official certificate for documentation purposes and future reference at job interviews.

In fact, some participants even purchase the certificate as a way to motivate them to complete the course.

Alternatively, you might opt to enrol for a course where the assignments/projects lets you build a portfolio that demonstrates the skills that you pick up. For instance, writing courses helps you produce writing samples that may be used for your portfolio.

  • Language

Not all courses are held in English.

While most of the MOOCs are in English, there are also many providers that offer MOOCs in other languages (French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, etc.). Do your research before enrolling in one.

  • Course schedule

Some MOOC platforms organise their enrolments according to cycles (spring, summer, and fall), where the course runs for an average of six to 12 weeks; while others are conducted on an annual basis, allowing participants to join and work at their own pace throughout the year.

For instance, FutureLearn offers classes that last between six to eight weeks, and participants can enrol anytime within that period. edX, in contrast, works on an annual basis.

  • Access to professors

While most professors are usually available to moderate discussion threads, some are less involved and are quite happy to let participants steer the discussion. Some are even warned not to email the moderating professor or TA.

On the other extreme, there are also professors who make it a point to respond to each comment.

If you value being able to engage in a dialogue with the professor, then you will need to do your homework and check the educator’s history before enrolling in the class.

Most MOOC platforms also let you follow the professor’s and TAs’ accounts so that you’ll be notified each time they engage in a discussion with fellow MOOC-mates. You can make use of this to help you keep track of the availability of the professor.