Have you ever wished you had gone to Harvard? Well now you can – by taking a MOOC! MOOC stands for “Massive Open Online Course” and Harvard has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create an online learning environment called edX. These two prestigious universities have joined forces to offer free non-credit courses to anyone from anywhere in the world. Since it formed, edX has expanded adding Berkeley and Wellesley with the University of Texas joining mid next year. Another consortium, Coursera brings together universities from around the world including Stanford, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Duke, Columbia, Brown, and many others to offer courses in the same spirit as edX.
When I heard about the concept of a MOOC on NPR about a year ago during my commute to work, I was instantly intrigued. I can take classes at the some of the world’s most prestigious universities for free and from the comfort of my own home? For those who constantly like to learn – this is like being a “kid in a candy store”.
These courses can be nearly as intensive as for-credit college courses, but they are setup in a way that allows you to get out of it what you put in. If you frequently participate in the discussion boards, take the quizzes, and do the written assignments, you’ll walk away feeling like you just finished a college class. But most of these things are optional.
So how can a MOOC help you enhance your personal brand?
They can help you keep your skills sharp – I’ve taken “organizational behavior” in both my undergrad and MBA programs – yet it was the first course I signed up for with Coursera (at Stanford). As an HR professional, this is a topic I constantly deal with in my professional life and taking the course helped me update and refresh my knowledge while getting different perspectives from fellow students from around the world.
They can help you develop new skills – MOOCs are a great opportunity to learn something new that may help you prepare for a new job or promotion. For example,with the rapid pace of change in high tech, you can learn about new technologies with the many current courses offered by edX.
They brand you as a continuous learner – Companies like hiring people who keep up-to-date and are open to learning new things. Listing Coursera or edX on your resume is a good way of branding yourself not only as a continuous learner, but as modern in your approach. Don’t embellish though! If you list MOOCs on your resume, list Coursera or edX, not the university. And don’t list irrelevant classes.
They can help you build your network – in my current course, there are over 80,000 students in the course. While that can make for some overwhelming networking, both edX and Coursera foster networking with smaller discussion groups based on interests, geography, or other commonalities.
Since my initial introduction, I have signed up for both edX and Coursera, but have so far only taken two courses through Coursera – one at Stanford and the other at Duke. Coursera currently offers more and a wider variety of courses, while edX’s course offerings are more limited and lean towards technology and healthcare.
I’m truly enjoying the opportunity to learn from highly qualified faculty at some of the world’s most prestigious and forward thinking universities, all the while having it cost me nothing more than my time. This is continuous learner nirvana!