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.

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.

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.

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