Is participation in a MOOC considered truly significant (or of any value) in a student's profile? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
One of the things I really enjoy about teaching online (as opposed to residential) is that I don't spend my time worrying about grading rigor, plagiarism, lucky guesses, etc. My courses are an on-ramp to hopefully more complex subjects. I would like to think that participating in a MOOC adds value to a student's general knowledge about the world.
But that is my side. Many students want to know how to utilize MOOCs to improve their profile and this brings us to the question of how value is being defined. Are you looking for a breadth of knowledge, a deeper understanding of a particular subject, or perhaps your focus is career advancement?
Online learning is still new, and many of the programs are not yet accredited by an outside institution. The types of classes will also have an effect. As I mentioned, my course is meant to be a somewhat gentle introduction. But there are other courses available with more rigorous requirements and more checks and balances in place to ensure student mastery. Since the course offerings are constantly changing, it is hard to recommend one over another, especially since some of them may be more costly than others. To be honest, I do not think a certificate is going to be enough to get you a job, or even an interview. But there are many who disagree with me on that.
However, if you have barriers in your way to traditional courses (through accessibility, financial hurdles, lack of public schools in your country, or the need to recreate yourself) I think people will look at your certificates in a different light. One of my fellow MOOC instructors has shared with me stories of students who have left their countries behind and used online courses as a way to quickly provide proof of competency, as well as create a new network of potential colleagues.