Online Courses and Certificates : Are they worth spending time and money?

Now a days,we have access to almost any information at any place and due to the overflowing access to almost all of these,we take these for granted. Just take a moment and acknowledge how lucky we are to be the generation to get this opportunity which our forefathers had never got access to. In any case investing in yourself to learn useful skills and shaping your future should always be the priority.

For over a century,the traditional university driven education system and studying in brick and mortar has reigned over the concept of regulated and credentialed education. Yet online education or Massive Online Open Courses(MOOC) has taken over the world by storm in the form of a disruptive innovation in the traditional education system. Although the idea emerged around the year 2006,it was only 2012 when it became a worldwide phenomenon. Platforms like Coursera and Udacity,led by Stanford Professors and edX pioneered by MIT and Harvard opened the access to genuine courses created by masters in respective fields.

There are a number of open course platform which are for-profit and some even grant huge discounts on providing valid reason for application of consideration. Few are free or are whole or in an audit format. Platforms like edX provide 2000 courses and have 14 million users. Coursera has 2000 courses and 180 specializations and even Masters Degrees. It has over 25 million users. They have become independent resources of knowledge for many.

Challenges faced by online courses:

There have been a lot of research over this topic, irrespective of its availability and monetary relaxation,learning online has a lot of challenges.

  1. There is a huge pool of courses and tutorials available online. Therefore it is really challenging for the students to investigate genuineness and accreditation of courses. There are numerous fake courses which illicit money without providing proper guidance.
  2. The dropout rate from these courses are concerning. Among thousands of enrollments,completion rate is only 10%. Most of the candidates get lost in the sea of information and hover over different courses not completing any.
  3. Due to the massiveness of the courses,there is low involvement thus a communication gap between the teachers and students. Therefore it lacks the environment and facilities of face to face classes.
  4. The assessments can easily be automated. There is hardly any tool to detect and obstruct such activity.
  5. Students also open multiple accounts to obtain right responses for assessments. Therefore when they apply for a job based on what they’ve learnt online,there is a huge gap between the knowledge and the skill acquired.

Perception of Recruiters:

In this era of budding online learning platforms, student’s concern about the legitimacy of the online certificates to the recruiters is a valid anxiety. The acceptance of the certificates differ from one recruiter to another.

According to researches,some hiring managers prefer candidates to hold traditional degrees to measure their level of higher education and success in career. While MOOC certificates don’t give a clear insight to the person’s skills,degrees tend to provide a clear metric. They believe MOOC provides important skills that might be developed after recruitment and therefore is not necessary to be shown in CV. It is believed that someone with high qualifications from traditional schools has already proved himself/herself in the rigorous university credential system.

The decisions are also highly dependent on the industry which is hiring the candidate. Technology sectors stress more on skills irrespective of the degree. They prefer productivity and practical knowledge while liberal arts or Science research or medical research oriented industry will prefer credentials from reputed institutions.

Some recruiters believe students learn to adjust in work environments only when they go to traditional schools and interact with peers. Since there is little interactions between peers in online courses,recruiters might consider candidates less compatible for their organization.

It’s most likely that the recruiters who might have had MOOC experience,will be more open to accept candidates with those certificates. Although such recruiters are still low in percentage.

On the other hand,since the students preferring to get their online degrees has increased, employers perception is changing. Graduates with online degrees feel that recruiters care more for the reputation of their school,their major and their GPA than whether they have earned their degrees online or from traditional universities. Job seekers with such degrees are preferred for job positions. Since online students also possess a strong desire and commitment to improving their knowledge and skills while working 24×7 and balancing work and family responsibilities, recruiters believe they can have a higher achievement level. However some recruiters believe that the earning of degree matters only for the candidates who have graduated or earned degree recently. Recruiters are now more open to the employability of online learners.

Although sometimes some information are available in YouTube and blogs also. In such cases,too,all that matters is the skill of the students and proving those practically.

There is also another aspect where recruiters’ preference differ from student to student. That is MOOC from renowed university especially those who have physical as well as online presence get preferability and credibility. Online courses in India require the approval of University Grants Commission’s (UGC’s) Distance Education Bureau. UGC doesn’t recognize courses that are online and don’t have any physical presence. US Department of Education looks after accrediting valid courses. Therefore students should focus on getting degrees from a Government accredited online learning platform.

Online Degree Holders CV :

Online degree holders must come up with a valid reason of choosing distance learning when confronted in interviews. When asked about your lack of public communication skills in the online course,you should be able to prove through your presence of mind that it didn’t matter since you’re still a good communicator. A great CV and interview and good communication can change anyone’s mind regardless of where you possessed the degree from.

Benefits of Online Courses:

  • The obvious benefit is accessibility of various courses by elite university and their faculty members from any part of the world.
  • Opportunity to sharpen skills for uplifting career graph.
  • The classes are self paced and facilitates you to schedule your classes accordingly.
  • The course fees are very less in comparison to the traditional schools.
  • A lot of MOOC provides university credits and even Masters degree towards your degree in school.

How to learn via online effectively?

There are different stages through which you can get the most out of your online course,be it in learning platforms or YouTube. These stages closely follow the Hierarchy of Competence pyramid of Psychology,where the four stages are: 1. Unconscious incompetence. 2. Conscious incompetence. 3. Conscious competence. 4. Unconscious competence. When you start something new you don’t know what you don’t know,this stage is called unconscious incompetence and the other three stages follow over time. While you’re in the fourth stage you find a new skill to acquire and again the process starts all over again.

Image Source: Creative Commons

Stage I :

In this stage,discover every possible source where you can be helped. Understand which suits you,go through the overview of curriculum. So amongst multiple interests choose one and then find the best source to learn about that particular interest.

Stage II :

Find out the experts in your field and become a disciple. Commit time to find genuine people who are suitable for you. There are a lot of popular creators yet they might become a very good mentor to you. They are not necessarily good at what they’re doing but have good marketing skills. Mostly the people who advertise a lot are not suitable for mentorship. In cases of online courses find the best course through rating and preview videos.

Stage III :

While absorbing information apply that as much as possible to make it a part of long term memory. Engage in creative projects,have a goal to work towards. This will also help in building portfolio. In this way you’ll gradually identify what’s useful for you and what’s not.

So, ultimately all that matters how much self-driven you are and how committed you are in achieving your goals. Education, irrespective of its source,is always a doorway to new opportunities and self discovery.


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