MOOC Certifications: How Should HR Weight?

MOOCs, or massive open online courses, have become extremely popular as an alternative to traditional college education. In 2017 alone, 23 million people enrolled in their first MOOC, bringing the total number of learners using these courses to 81 million. One of the biggest questions this trend has raised is whether hiring managers and HR professionals should take certifications from MOOCs into consideration when evaluating candidates’ educational background. Here’s what HR professionals need to know about MOOCs and the certificates that can be received upon completing them.


Why Are MOOCs Becoming More Popular?

Among the reasons that the popularity of MOOCs has increased so much is the fact that they are extremely inexpensive. Learners can consume course content free of charge, and certificates typically cost less than $100. With many colleges charging tuition rates of $50,000 or more, it’s hardly surprising that courses taught in MOOC form are as popular as they are.

Although MOOCs are gaining popularity as an alternative to college education, they are also used to supplement existing degree programs. Active college students can use MOOCs to broaden their learning with courses that aren’t offered at their schools. Those who have already graduated can also make use of MOOCs to update their skills and gain competency in new areas without incurring the expense of returning to school.

What Value Do MOOCs Offer From an HR Perspective?

Despite not carrying the full weight of a college education, HR professionals shouldn’t write off MOOC certifications as worthless. Certificates demonstrate both a certain level of knowledge in a subject area and the individual discipline to complete a course curriculum. The latter can be especially beneficial in showing that a candidate is diligent and self-motivated, since only about 15 percent of MOOC learners actually complete their courses.

MOOC certificates offer more value in some fields than in others. In areas such as finance and IT that can largely be learned remotely, these courses alone can equip learners with a rudimentary set of career skills suitable for entry level jobs. In more specialized areas, such as healthcare, MOOC certificates should be viewed as expanding upon and complementing a candidate’s existing education.

Ultimately, HR professionals should look at MOOC certifications as a way to verify the skills and knowledge candidates claim to possess. Candidates who can demonstrate valuable skill sets and back up their knowledge with certifications from MOOC courses may be good hires. Though relevant MOOCs shouldn’t be an exclusive determining factor or be given the same weight as a college degree, they should be taken into consideration when evaluating applicants.