Putting a MOOC on the Resume
The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement has taken a course toward legitimacy in the business world. Employers are looking for life-long learners, and MOOCs are providing employees the chance to prove they are just that.
MOOCs have provided the end user a way to attain higher education from some of the world’s finest institutions. The opportunity is unprecedented; however, only about 10% of MOOC participants complete the course. Not only is this a waste of time, but it is a waste of opportunity.
According to Alison Farmer, vice president of learning and development at Aquent, the importance of finishing a MOOC depends on the objective of the user.
“If you’re trying to use it as a competitive advantage in your job hunt, then you need to complete the course for it to mean something,” she told us. “Not only will you need to speak knowledgeably about what you learned, but you’ll also want to demonstrate to a potential employer that you follow through on commitments.”
She added that the MOOC terminology is still being defined, unlike traditional education, which has general requirements that are universally understood. With MOOCs still in the early stages, it makes it difficult for many employers to know exactly what the certificate represents, however, it does inform them of a candidate’s desire to continue learning.
“At this point, a MOOC listed on a resume shows that someone is curious, interested in self-improvement and engaged with their professional development “” all of which are great attributes to share with a prospective employer,” she said.
Since the establishment of numerous MOOC providers over the past few years, like edX, Udacity, and Coursera, thousands of online college courses have become available with millions of individuals becoming students. Although these courses don’t count for credit toward a degree (though exceptions are continuing to be made), it is the educational experience, skill building, and the proof of self-motivation that is drawing more users.
“Best case scenario, the person is employed or recently unemployed. A MOOC can show that the candidate takes the initiative to keep up to date on their industry,” said Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.”Worst case scenario, the person has been unemployed for a significant period. The course can help to fill the ‘gap’ in the resume and it tells the prospective employer that the candidate is not the type of person who can remain idle but must find something constructive to do.”
Finishing a MOOC course takes skill and determination, so displaying the certificate on the resume could pay high dividends with a current or future employer. Along with proving to have earned a certificate of completion, be prepared to provide information about the MOOC.
Be Sure to Get Credit
The integrity and prestige behind MOOC programs and providers will help justify the reasons for providing employers the proof of a certificate of completion. If you add these classes to your resume, employers may ask to see proof of completion. Pay attention to the details of how each provider awards certificates, badges or documents completion. Also, knowing the background of each provider may help you choose the right MOOC for you.
- UdacityUdacity offers 22 courses with a primary focus in computer science. Each participant earns a certificate they can download. There are three stages — beginner, intermediate, and advanced.Udacity was co-founded by Sebastian Thrun, the computer science professor at Stanford University and Google Fellow, who is also the CEO of the MOOC provider. Along the list of co-founders are Mike Sokolsky, a robotics researcher at Stanford University and the University of Alberta, and David Stavens, who was part of NASA’s Mars Rover team and helped build the self-guiding car, Stanley.
- EdXUsers earn a “certificate of mastery” from whichever school their MOOC originates, but will soon be paying for the certificate. Free certificates were to have ended fall 2012, but some of the courses will still be free through spring 2013. There are currently 24 courses offered through edX.EdX’s reputation, originally established by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as MITx, was never in question, but adding Harvard University and the University of California-Berkeley to the mix didn’t hurt — mentioning any of these schools in conjunction with the certificate is a huge plus.
- CourseraCoursera offers more than 200 courses from over 30 universities, but is just now offering certificates of completion. These certificates are only for a limited amount of courses, but Coursera promises to offer more as time goes by through its Signature Track system.The MOOC provider, which was founded by two Stanford University professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, only offers courses from very prestigious schools. The certificates will provide employers information about the course including the course subject, the professor’s name and the originating institution.
Hurwitz added that it’s not so much about the MOOC provider — edX, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity — as it is about the subject and the credentials of the presenter.
“If a well-known authority is giving a MOOC off of their own website, what does it matter if it’s not edX?” he said. “It’s the presenter that counts.”
Placing the course subject along with the name of a high-profile instructor from a high-profile institution will only add value to a resume. An example of a high-profile course would be edX’s 6.002x: Circuits and Electronics developed by MIT. The course staff includes Anant Agarwal, president of edX and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT; Gerald Sussman, professor of electrical engineering at MIT; Piotr Mitros, chief scientist at edX and research scientist at MIT; Chris Terman, senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT; and Khurram Afridi, visiting associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.
Employers, regardless of their knowledge of the open courseware movement, will find these credentials impressive.
The MOOC-Career Connection
Farmer, whose company has begun to provide MOOCs, said Aquent has helped connect more than 150 people advance in their careers through its first MOOC, which focused on HTML5.
“We even received feedback from clients that they were impressed that the candidates had taken the initiative to educate themselves on emerging technologies,” she said.
According to Coursera, completing a MOOC is not solely about earning credit, but about “building skills and knowledge that can empower people to improve their careers.”
Where to Place the MOOC
“My advice is to include it either under ‘Employment Related Activities,’ which fills the gap if the candidate has been unemployed for an extended period,” said Hurwitz. “Or under ‘Continuing Professional Education’ if there is no employment gap of any significance.”
Farmer agreed, also suggesting to add it to the “Professional Development” section, where any organizational memberships or other courses or seminars can be listed.
MOOC Provider Career Services
As more students find their way to MOOCs, the providers of the free courses have begun to help those students find jobs. And just as with any other education outlet, the better the student, the better the chance of landing a job.
- Udacity: In a short period of time, Udacity has established a large amount of employer connections. The company was working with 12 employers in 2011, but has added more than 400 more to that list, which includes Google, Bank of America, and Facebook. Udacity is taking its network of employers and enabling their brightest students to be discovered.Through its Career Placement Program, students can send in their resumes and possibly be introduced to employers for jobs or internships.
- Coursera: After piloting their Coursera Career Services for a few months, the MOOC provider has opened its doors for all of its students. Coursera is enabling their students to opt-in to their program with the chance to be introduced to employers like Facebook, Twitter, and AppDirect. Currently, the Coursera Career Services only has opportunities in software engineering, but they promise to branch out into other career fields.
- EdX: edX is taking a more focused approach with its career services program. It announced its pilot project called BostonX to offer job training through Boston community centers. Local residents will be able to use the community centers for computer training, support for internships, career counseling, and job transitioning.
As MOOCs continue to become more prevalent and reputable, it will be in the best interest of job seekers to increase their knowledge and skills through these free courses.
“Like so many things, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it,” Farmer said.
There is a reason why the average completion rate is 10%. The courses are created by some of the education industry’s top minds and require time and effort to not just make a good grade, but to complete the course. MOOCs are continually proving themselves to be an impactful trend in education and finishing any class is definitely worth mentioning on the resume.