Over the last couple of years, the number of MOOCs (massive open online courses) offered through the various sites, such as Coursera, edX and Udacity has grown significantly as more universities and professors get on board with offering courses through these platforms.
With a quick search on Coursera (my favorite site to take MOOCs—and yes, I have taken quite a few), I see 79 courses listed under business and management listed as a past, current or future course. Out of that number, 43 have verified certificates. Coursera’s business MOOCs have names like: Competitive Strategy, Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence, Designing and Executing Information Security, and An Introduction to Financial Accounting, just to name a few. Do MOOCs provide even more real world content than some MBA programs offer?
For lifelong students (like me) who like to explore and learn new things, MOOCs are a great way to seek out that experience without the cost or commitment of a traditional degree program. And maybe you don’t want to become an accountant, but you want to learn a little bit about accounting that will help you with your own finances—or to start your own business.
But, what about the verified certificates that are offered in some courses? Is a certificate through a MOOC as good as a certificate offered through a traditional university in an executive education or online program?
Would your employer accept a certificate from a MOOC as proof of achievement?
Would you as an employer give a promotion or a raise to an employee who earns these certificates?
Even better- Specialization Certificates?
How about a specialization certificate in a designated area of study such as Data Science? These certificates are offered at a great value through a specified university, include many required courses, and a Capstone project. The track in data science from Johns Hopkins University includes 9 courses at a cost of $49 each, plus the Capstone, for a total of only $490. Could you use this type of specialization to show mastery in an area of study that is relevant to your job? Of course, you could still just take all of these courses for free without the certificate. But, is there value in the specialization certificate? Or even just taking a collection of course? Some people think so.
The Alternative MBA
If you haven’t heard about Laurie Pickard, you should check out her site, The No Pay MBA, about getting an alternative MBA (or rather coursework equivalent to an MBA) by splicing together courses from the various online offerings. I love the idea from the value perspective- both financial value, as well as the value of learning. But, I am not sure an ‘alternative MBA’ will be valued by employers—and it certainly is not by educators. Even the courses with verified certificates are not eligible for course credit through the very universities who offer them. What does that say about their intrinsic value?
I think MOOCs are an outstanding supplement to traditional academic pursuits and I hope to see them continue to grow in the global market. But, will they ever be an alternative to students seeking a traditional degree from an accredited university? What do you think?