MOOC Students Look To Job Market For Value Of Credentials

As massive open online courses (MOOC) continue to expand, a debate has started as to whether the graduates from these online schools are able to secure jobs in the ever-changing job market. Reportedly, employers tend to overlook MOOC students as they tend to favor graduates from more traditional education pedigrees, but employers do tend to hire MOOC graduates in technology and computer science positions.

Providing courses that will improve skills in specific topics, frequently on technology, science and mathematics, has been the focus of the MOOC sector since its introduction a few years ago. Despite many employers remaining skeptical of the non-traditional education, students are flocking to MOOCs with Udacity alone boasting 1.6 million students in over 200 countries.

Specifically focusing on technology-related courses, Udacity, a popular online-course platform, is working hard to encourage the acceptance of its students in the workforce. The Open Education Alliance (OEA), a group of employers and educators that provides access to post-secondary education and encourages students to pursue careers in technology, was recently announced by the company and includes Google, AT&T, Intuit and Cloudera are the members of Udacity's OEA.

"We've heard from our students that many of them are motivated to advance their career opportunities," said Clarissa Shen, vice president of strategic business and marketing at Udacity. "Employers and industry partners we work with are hiring our students."

Also actively working for students is Udacity's job placement program, which helps to attain employment from its network of over 300 companies ranging from leading Fortune 500 companies to startups.

"Out of our user base, ten to 15 percent of our students at any given time have opted in to post their resumes," Clarissa said. Students are also encouraged to promote their coursework on resumes and LinkedIn accounts, as well as set up profiles on GitHub.

Another online teaching start up that wants to offer people a way to obtain a lifelong education, regardless of whether they get a degree at the end or not, is Coursera. To secure an official Coursera completion certificate that they can then advertise to employers, students can pay anywhere from $30 to $70 in a "signature track" program offered by the company.

"We ask students at the end of the course to share how they're using a verified course certificate," said Chris Heather, a product manager at Coursera. "It ends up that students are professionals that have a college degree or higher, and the main reason they actually take the courses is to advance their career."

According to Selena Larson of readwrite, about half of all U.S. jobs that require science, technology, engineering and math training are available to workers without a four-year college degree, which amounts to about 5% of all U.S. positions. Laszlo Block, Google's senior vice president of people operations, in an interview with the New York Times said that the proportion of employees at the company who don't have college degrees has increased over time. In fact, there are some teams at Google on which 14 percent of employees never went to college.

"After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school," Laszlo told the New York Times. "Because the skills you required in college are very different."

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