MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses

  • thelzdking 17 Jan 2019 01:38:31 9,466 posts
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    I'm looking to go back to study at some point in the next year or two, and I was thinking of doing a few of the free online courses in the interim to get me lurnin brane going again, and just for fun too.

    But I noiticed the paid courses too and wondered if they're worth it. On FutureLearn and Coursera you can pay a couple of hundred quid to do an assessed course, and at the end you get a 'certification', and the course might count as credit towards an online degree. I'm not really bothered about getting a full degree, but are the certifications worth it? They're 'taught' and administered by proper academics at proper institutions. The assessing itself seems to vary between online quizzes, to written work. The assessment of written work is variable: "peer-assessed" doesn't sound great TBH as your course peers could be any old mug who's forked over the money.

    I know that they're not 'proper' qualifications, but do they count for anything on my CV in the real world, especially if they're backing up my degree or previous on-the-job learning/experience. Will relevant courses help me when applying to post-graduate courses? Anyone on here done them? Anyone on here who works in HR, or who recruits people give a fuck about them?

    Has anyone got experience of using these services? Any recommendations as to which are the best/worst. Free or paid.
  • GuybrushFreepwood 17 Jan 2019 10:17:56 1,191 posts
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    I've done a lot of courses on Future Learn (50+) and not had the certification for any of them. Nothing to stop me putting the courses on my CV and I don't need to pay someone 50 to be able to.

    From my perspective, the free versions are great. Some people want to have a piece of paper they can print out, but I've not got the money to do that and even if I had, I've better things to spend my money on. I've on the whole had good experiences with Future Learn, but obviously the providers are all different. The course I'm doing at the moment (Agile) is from an American University and is a bit dire so far.

    Paying for certification will help with certain degrees, but you have to be very careful to ensure that the course you are doing will count towards the course you're interested in. The Open University provided courses seem to be best for this.

    End of the day though, in my experience, the experience of the course is identical if you pay for it or don't. My current course includes peer assessment (which I doubt I'll bother with) which I can get despite not paying for. I've been on one course that didn't let me take the final "test", but it didn't bother me as I was there to learn and not see how many points out of 100 I could get, nor get another certificate.

    As an employer, I've taken note of people who have done online courses and have never asked them if they paid to take the end test and would think they were a bit of a mug if they had and thought it was "better".
  • Vortex808 17 Jan 2019 10:39:40 13,268 posts
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    The university I work at and universities in general are pretty much all doing these now. I tend to view them as a bit of a money spinner tbh- money in for not much teaching time once they have been set up, but I have not had overly much involvement in them thus far. I would imagine price is a factor as more established institutions could charge a premium for the kudos of it being awarded by a respected institution. You would hope they would also run them to a higher standard.

    MOOC's *may* be useful if you want to change discipline in a career, or to try a new subject to see how much interest you have in it. I'm not sure how much faith I would in employers valuing them, but possibly I am just being overly cynical about them.

    I think the exam at the end is usually multiple-choice type stuff, but that would be dependent on the course. I also think some, maybe all, do require other essays etc to be submitted. I would imagine that these would have to be verified by someone at the educational institute at some point.

    Peer-review generally means that other people deemed 'expert' in that field would read it and check it. Any research paper undergoes peer-review, which would require other researchers to read through it and assess if it's of a high-enough quality to be published for example. I'm not sure peer-review would be other course-mates, but then given the way things are going these days, who knows!
  • Tomo 17 Jan 2019 10:51:43 16,673 posts
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    Work at a university. I think there are some really excellent online courses. I imagine there are some dogshit ones too, as the amount on offer and popularity for these increases.

    Personally, if I saw on a CV that someone had done one/some, I'd be pleased to see it. I think I'd ask them more about it at interview, to double-check they're not bullshitting, or simply that they actually understood what the course was about.

    At their best, these courses are just as good as university courses. If you're seeking them out that shows initiative and willing to learn something new, which is very important in a job candidate. You just don't get a badge, which is fine, but means there is more room for dishonesty. It's basically the same as saying on you're CV that you're competent in C++/Excel/how to make a souffle. "Competent" is a very broad term.
  • thelzdking 17 Jan 2019 21:04:38 9,466 posts
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    Thanks for the replies guys.

    I'm not really thinking about using them to work towards a new academic qualification - I'm probably going to head back to university to do an MA when I have various issues sorted out in the next year or two.

    It was more to 'leverage' my way back into unversity after over ten years out of study: "hey, I know it's been a while, but look at all of these relevant courses I've been doing in my own time, don't you want to let me on to your MA?"

    Also, because I've recently moved abroad, I need to 're-tool' my degree with some expertise more relevant to where I am now. i have the methodology and UK experience, but not necessarily the local knowledge and background. Obviously, I've read heaps, but putting that on my CV might not be as attractive as saying "I've completed so-and-so course", even without the certification.

    Like you say, I guess it shows I'm eager and willing, it's just whether paying for the assessment shows an employer that I'm smart, or that I'm gullible.


    I assumed that "peer-assessed" was not the same as "peer-reviewed". As you say the courses are clearly a money-spinner, and I assumed that they wouldn't bother academics with reading work produced by any old numpty who stumps up a couple of hundred quid to have themselves assessed. Perhaps they get post-graduate students to do it?
  • Vortex808 17 Jan 2019 21:20:31 13,268 posts
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    I'll try to remember to ask the folk I occasionally see around who were involved in setting a few up how marking works when i see them next.

    N. B. I may totally forget to do that. Age does not help that kind of stuff!
  • thelzdking 17 Jan 2019 21:59:40 9,466 posts
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    Thanks man!
  • senso-ji 17 Jan 2019 22:16:51 9,680 posts
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    What kind of courses are you wanting to learn and/or get certified in? I've done a bunch of online courses and would be wary of paying for some that promised a certification at the end, unless it's absolutely necessary.

    If you're looking to get into a UK Uni, I'd say that traditional qualifications such as A-levels or NVQs are more desirable; if you need qualifications for jobs, then only recognised professional certifications will really do.

    If you just want to level up or learn new skills, then some online courses are excellent. I've taken a few Udemy 10 courses that helped me learn a lot of coding skills, that helped me build up a portfolio of work and eventually landed me a job. But non of the courses I took were 'certified', they were just like a trade that was taught online. Pluralsight also offers something similar for a monthly subscription.
  • senso-ji 17 Jan 2019 22:16:51 9,680 posts
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    Post deleted
  • thelzdking 28 Jan 2019 21:46:37 9,466 posts
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    It's for history, so it differs somewhat from 'harder' sectors like IT. I'm not trying to get onto a degree course, I already have a BA in History and have a few years of experience in heritage project work and historical research under my belt.

    It's because I've moved to NZ and my UK knowledge doesn't really go very far here. I need to learn some stuff about Maori history and language, and NZ history in general. I'm wondering, as I already have the BA and work experience, if MOOCs and self-directed study can at least get me through the door. THe medium-term plan is to do an MA, but that won't be until I get residency and can pay domestic fees, which will take a year or two. Until then I need to try and find something better than crappy agency temp roles. I have an interview for a pretty good job tomorrow, so I guess that my experience has some traction

    I am considering an MA in something broader though, as history and heritage is not a sector that is exactly swimming with jobs, especially over here. As there are heaps of government jobs I was thinking public policy or PPE or something along those lines. Entry requirements for those kind of MAs over here generally just as for any BA, but I'm thinking that a few MOOCs in related areas might count for something during the application process?
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