MOOC: What are they and why are they so popular?

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When recent graduates start looking for a job, they often find that university has not prepared them well for the job market. Lacking the skills required to land a job in their industry, some are turning to massive open online courses (MOOCs) to fill in the gaps.

MOOCs are the most popular with younger generations. Almost two thirds of MOOC students are under 35 years old. However, people of all ages join the classes.

What are MOOCs?

So, what is a MOOC? It is an online course that anyone can take. MOOCs often welcome a large number of students from all over the world.

Since MOOC courses are online, students can take courses offered by universities and countries in other parts of the world. People who might not otherwise be able to attend prestigious universities can learn from Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.

Enrollers use MOOCs to learn skills that will help them advance their careers, change careers, or enjoy life more. For example, a computer programmer can use a MOOC to learn a new programming language. If you can demonstrate a skill, your employer may not care whether you learned it through a MOOC or a more traditional educational path.

The biggest advantage of taking a MOOC is that most are completely free. Many MOOCs are also self-paced, making them flexible options for busy professionals. MOOC courses are best for motivated people who will progress without anyone holding them back.

Most MOOCs provide an estimate of course length based on a suggested weekly commitment. MOOCs generally take between one and 16 weeks.

One downside of MOOC courses: In most cases, you don’t receive any proof of completion. You don’t get a certificate to show your employer or a diploma to add to your wall. Some MOOC providers offer certificates of completion for a fee.

Why are MOOCs so popular?

Free MOOCs attract students who cannot afford a college education or who are not interested in training. Other participants are people who want to learn more about a hobby or topic of interest.

MOOCs are also popular with IT professionals, even those with a college degree, as they are a convenient way to learn new languages ​​and skills. These professionals can then add these skills to their resumes.

The popularity of MOOCs increased during the pandemic. Maybe the new students couldn’t attend schools in person and looked for an alternative. Or maybe people who lost their jobs turned to MOOCs to learn new skills and increase their employability.

What are the most popular MOOC courses?

The most popular MOOC courses are often created by universities. Free courses from prestigious universities such as Harvard and Princeton attract large numbers of students.

Here are five of the most popular MOOC courses.

Machine learning

Stanford University

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Over four million people have enrolled in Stanford University’s machine learning course, offered through Coursera. Machine learning powers web search, voice recognition, and self-driving cars. Students are introduced to machine learning techniques, data mining, and statistical pattern recognition.

Introduction to CS50 Computing

Harvard University

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Over three million people have signed up for the CS50 Computing Intro, offered through edX. This 12-week course at Harvard University teaches the art of programming and does not require any prior programming experience. Students learn to effectively solve problems with algorithms.

Programming for all (initiation to Python)

University of Michigan

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Image: rootstocks / Getty

The University of Michigan offers programming for everyone (initiation to Python) through Coursera. The course teaches the basics of Python programming. This class targets students with moderate programming experience.

Analyze and visualize data with Excel

Microsoft

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Analyzing and visualizing the data with Excel takes approximately six weeks. Brought to you by Microsoft through edX, this self-paced data science course introduces you to tools for analyzing data in Excel. Students should understand how to use pivot tables and slicers before taking this course.

Algorithms, part I

Princeton University

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Princeton University offers algorithms, part one via Coursera. This free course covers algorithms and data structures, including analysis of the scientific performance of Java implementations. Students learn basic search and sort algorithms and data structures.

Do I have to register for a MOOC?

If you want to advance your career without going back to college, a MOOC can help. Taking MOOCs demonstrates a commitment to self-improvement. You can provide your employer with a list of MOOCs that you have taken during your next promotion. Your additional training could give you an advantage.

The skills you learn through MOOCs can help you improve your performance at work. For example, a course in negotiation skills can come in handy if you work in sales, which will result in higher commissions. Additionally, taking MOOCs can increase your job prospects by giving you more skills for your resume.

You may even be able to completely change careers by taking MOOCs. This is especially true if you want to embark on a career in technology, where skills are often more important than a degree.

Are all MOOC courses free?

Although MOOCs are by definition “open”, some MOOC providers now charge for some of their courses. On Udemy, the list price typically ranges from $ 69.99 to $ 139.99 per course. The site often hosts sales, cutting prices down to around $ 14.99 to $ 25.99.

Many free online courses are still available through MOOC providers such as Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, and Udacity. For example, Coursera offers free Yale University courses in the science of welfare and financial markets, as well as a course in Successful Trading Strategies and Skills from the University of Michigan.

Are MOOC courses worth it?

Since most MOOC courses are free, the only question is whether they are worth your time. Is it worth spending 21 hours on Peking University’s Chinese Beginner’s Course for you? If you are planning a trip to China, this might be the case. Likewise, a course in content marketing strategy might be useful if you work in marketing.

For MOOC courses that are not free, you should also consider the cost. Only you can decide the value of a particular skill to you. Consider how learning this skill will affect your job and strengthen your resume. If a skill helps you land a better job, the course might be worth the cost.

Do employers care about MOOCs?

A recent study asked employers how MOOC degrees compare to traditional post-secondary degrees. They also asked if the MOOC credentials on a freelance writer’s profile influence their decision to hire the freelance writer.

Researchers have found that employers prefer a Bachelor of Arts, Associate of Arts, or even a community college certificate to a MOOC degree. However, for applicants with no other educational experience, respondents preferred applicants with MOOC degrees over those without MOOC degrees.


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