Once I graduated with my undergraduate degree, i wrestled with what my next educational steps would be. Should I jump straight into a Master’s program, or should I try and gain work experience first and work on my Master’s degree later? Of course, I also thought about the fact that, after I gained work experience, I might not need to get a Master’s degree at all — depending on the career I chose. I sought out many sources of information and returned with many different answers.
In today’s world, we are blessed with great resources. Sometimes, however, all of the information clouds our heads and makes decisions even more difficult. As the cost of graduate school increases, potential students wrestle with knowing if going into debt will be worth it. One option I did not consider is foregoing a Master’s program and instead taking MOOC (Massive Open On-line Courses). Over the past few years MOOC have become an option for students who are looking for a lower cost option than pursuing an MBA. Currently MOOC focus primarily on business courses, but in the future I would expect these types of courses to expand into other fields as well. Before we go any farther, let me define exactly what MOOC are.
MOOC are open educational resources that are available through top colleges such as Stanford, Harvard, MIT, CalTech, and others. MOOC are also available through education companies such as Udacity, Coursera, and eDX. The courses are often able to be taken at your own pace, and often include a certificate of completion. Most courses are free or offered at a low cost. One person at the forefront of this change in education is Laurie Pickard. Laurie is the owner of the website NoPayMBA.com, and has been featured in numerous publications (including Entrepreneur and Fortune magazines). Laurie was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about MOOC and how they have impacted the current education climate.
1. Why do you think MOOC has become more of an option for students the last few years vs. traditional MBA'a?
“I think people are recognizing that it is possible to learn valuable skills outside of universities. I do think universities have a real role to play — they're the ones creating these courses, after all — but especially for people who already have university degrees and are already working, it makes sense to learn in a just-in-time fashion, taking courses as they are relevant and putting the skills into practice immediately on the job.”
2. I think one of the fears of going the MOOC route is that an employer will not take you seriously if you do not have a "real" degree. How would you help calm those fears, and how does an employee prove to a hiring manager their MOOC work is valid?
“I think it's all about marketing yourself, telling a compelling story, and giving the hiring manager the ability to see for themselves what you are able to do. I created the portfolio feature on my site for precisely this purpose. If you just list a bunch of course titles at the bottom of your resume, that's not a great strategy for having employers take your MOOC education seriously. But if you have strong, relevant work experience and can demonstrate how you used MOOCs to build on your previous education, and importantly how you used the new skills (even if it wasn't for a paid assignment), then you make a very good case that you should be hired partly on the strength of your MOOC education.”
3. Where do you see the future of education going in the next 5-10 years?
“I think we'll see an explosion of certification options, which may make things confusing at first - things like microdegrees, open badges, and other non-degree credentials, which are already becoming more common. I think we'll start to see some of these credentials emerge as leaders in terms of employer perception and preference. I also think we'll start to see more employers using MOOCs for in-house training of their employees. And I think more hybrid programs like ASU's partnership with edX will emerge, programs where you can do at least some of your university education via MOOC.”
While the practicality — and even validity — of taking MOOC instead of going the traditional route is still up for debate, it is definitely another option to look at when you are deciding whether or not an MBA is right for you. Especially as Laurie pointed out — it can be a great option for employees already working but wanting to develop more expertise and set themselves apart from their coworkers.
When deciding on your next step regarding education, the most important thing to remember is that becoming truly educated is up to you as an individual. Whether you go to a prestigious college, take MOOC, or don’t pursue a formal degree at all, you can still become educated. It all depends on your level of commitment to learning.
Please take a look at Laurie’s website if you are interested in finding out more about the No-pay MBA, and tell her thanks for contributing to our article on her Facebook page!
Matthew King, Co-Founder