MOOC Certifications: How Should HR Weight?

hr mooc

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.

School Online: is it Better?

School Online
There have never been more opportunities for students to complete school online. As MOOCs (massive open online courses) began to gain recognition and grow in popularity over the last decade, colleges and universities of all kinds — from local community colleges to Ivy League universities like Harvard — now offer a number of online courses for both personal enjoyment and course credits. Like the school experience itself, the school online environment has a number of benefits and disadvantages that vary from school to school and student to student.

Advantages and Drawbacks of School Online

According to statistics, enrollment in online classes has been growing every year for over a decade, mostly at the undergraduate level. As of 2016, more than six million students were taking at least one online course, mostly at public colleges and universities. Despite the fact that online learning makes certain programs available to students around the world, studies have found that more than half of students enrolled in online coursework do so at institutions located in their state of residence, or within 50 miles of their chosen institution.

Benefits of Online Learning

The ability to combine on-campus and online learning has a number of benefits, especially for adult students balancing career and family obligations with education. Younger students can also benefit from the flexibility offered by online classes in a number of ways.

Learn at Your Own Pace

Despite the one-size-fits-all of most schools, every student learns differently. A more introverted student may find that it is easier to do well in an environment with less direct competition and the public speaking element that comes with sitting in a classroom face to face with other students. For working adults and parents, the option to complete coursework in the quiet early morning or late evening hours (or even during a lunch break) may determine whether or not to take and complete a course.

Less Pressure

Every class and institution has a different courses and set of requirements that often include exams, papers and deadlines, just like their in-person counterparts. But online classes are generally structured to allow students to work their way through the course at their own pace. If you find that you do not perform well under pressure, or prefer to take your time with the material in more small intervals than what is possible in a regular, in-person class, online classes may be a good option.


If it seems like every Starbucks and coffee shop is filled with people very focuses on their laptops or tablets.It is likely that many of them are either working or studying remotely. Whether you prefer to work in the comfort of your own bedroom or living room, or like the buzz and activity found in a coffee shop, there are no rules on your location when it comes to school online.

Save Time, and Money

In addition to the convenience factor, studying online can be a budget-friendly option in terms of time and money saved commuting, eating on campus and paying for additional facility fees and services.
Other potential benefits of taking classes online include:
  • Complete required classes/transfer credits for degree program
  • Save on tuition
  • Study at different schools
  • Variety of topics and courses

Improve Job Opportunities or Change Careers

Maybe you’ve already completed your undergraduate or master’s degree, but need to refresh your technical skills or complete a set of certifications to stay competitive or advance further in your current career. Or perhaps you’re looking to switch careers to take advantage of better job prospects and opportunities in a different field. Online learning is not limited to degree seekers. Many colleges and universities also offer continuing education, professional and certificate courses designed to teach new skills without necessarily committing to a new degree.

Factors to Consider for School Online

In order to be successful and get the most out of online learning platforms, there are a few factors to keep in mind.

Time Management Skills

The casual nature of online classes can be difficult for students who struggle to self-motivate or are lacking in time management skills. Without a professor and other students to enforce a timeline and deadlines, you will have to make an additional effort to focus and stay motivated.

Social Isolation

Working from home and on your own time has many benefits, but it can also be lonely and isolating. Not being on campus also lowers opportunities to create both personal and professional connections that can enhance the academic experience.

Limited Access to Faculty and Staff

Many online schools include virtual office hours and community forums for students to discuss class material and exchange feedback. But if you have questions or need support, it is usually more limited than in an on-campus class.

How Colleges and Universities Are Making It Easier for Students to Go to School Online

The rise of personal technology and communications has made online education and learning easier. Although many programs offer the opportunity to complete all course work online, most universities and colleges offer some form of hybrid programs that allow students to benefit from the online and on-campus experience. Video conferencing and online productivity tools like Skype, FaceTime, Google Chat and Slack are making it easier for schools to create more comprehensive and accessible learning environments for online students.
Creating a Link Between Campus and Computer
Universities and employers are working to design programs that offer the best of both worlds for online students, combining the ease of flexible online coursework with physical meeting spaces closer to home, as well as on campus. Some examples include:
  • Partnering with co-working spaces to offer online school students in-person meeting space and amenities.
  • Reworking course requirements for some programs to offer more flexibility to the traditional four year timeline for example, and allowing students to complete or switch coursework in a longer and more flexible window to help with work schedules, or career changes for older students.
  • “Micro Masters” programs that allow students to complete graduate courses online in a more condensed format, which can then be transferred to complete a traditional graduate degree program on campus.

Choosing the Right School Online Program

Doing research and speaking to admissions staff is as important for online learning as on-campus learning in order to find the best fit for your needs. For more information, visit

Why Learning to Write in College Is Important

Writing in college
With so much of the current focus and emphasis on STEM college programs and careers, so-called “soft skills” and liberal arts areas such as writing tend to get pushed to the back burner or ignored altogether. But even if you are studying data science or believe that technology and artificial intelligence will eventually make words written by humans obsolete, the truth might actually surprise you. From helping you think more clearly to providing the tools that are necessary to communicate your ideas so people can easily understand them, a good writing foundation has benefits for every field of study and career path. Here are several reasons why learning to write in college is important.

Why Everyone Needs to Learn to Write in College

You don’t have to be an aspiring journalist or novelist to benefit from clear, concise and persuasive writing skills. For starters, many of your college courses, even in more analytical and numbers-oriented areas such as science and math, require a certain level of reading comprehension and writing skills (which are interlinked). Everyone from physicists and engineers to video game designers and marketing executives must be a good storyteller on some level in order to connect with co-workers, customers and a larger audience.
Here’s another fact about writing skills — for every major and career path — that might surprise you. According to an industry study, good writing skills are often the gateway to getting an interview (and ultimately getting hired) across a number of professional sectors ranging from finance to real estate. Think about it. Your resume and cover letter are the first impression that you will make on recruiters and prospective employers. In a competitive job market, having solid writing skills is the edge that can put you at the top of the pile and help you distinguish yourself.

What If Writing Doesn’t Come Naturally?

If you struggle with writing, college is the perfect place to build on your skills. You don’t have to be an English major or aspire to be the next Ernest Hemingway to benefit from writing instruction. In fact, you don’t necessarily have to take a creative writing or literature class (unless your school or program requires it). There are many different forms of writing, including business, technical, academic and journalistic, and depending on your academic and career goals, an expository or essay writing class may help you brush up on your basic writing skills while giving you the opportunity to explore your creativity and ideas.

Develop Your Critical Thinking Skills in College

Although it is typically referred to as a “soft skill,” the ability to think critically and solve complex problems is a vital life and career skill. Think of critical thinking and effective problem-solving as the bridge that links the liberal arts world to the STEM people. Whether you are reporting on political unrest around the globe for The New York Times or designing computer software for a technology company, figuring out how to solve a problem and communicate the solution so that people from all walks of life can clearly understand it is the primary objective of any project. According to the Grammarly blog:
“Great writing requires observation, reflection, analysis, and an artful presentation of information, in addition to selecting information in the editing process. Critical thinking is the discipline of ‘actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing . . . information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.’ By improving your writing, you can improve your thinking.”
Speak to an adviser and research your college’s writing classes to find a good fit, and ask for recommendations to help you get started. It can be overwhelming at first, but reading good writing is also a great place to start.

3 Tips to Picking Your College Major

Choosing a major has always been something of a rite of passage for college students, and perhaps one of the biggest decisions a student can make after deciding where they want to go to college. But it can also be an incredibly stressful and daunting decision, fraught with considerations that often pin what you might want to do against what you and your family feel you should do. Although there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to making what is ultimately a complicated and multilayered personal decision, there are a number of considerations and guidelines that you can follow to help you make the best decision for your current situation, as well as your future career and academic ambitions.

How to Decide on a College Major

Not sure what you want to do after college? The good news is that you are not alone. Statistics show that many people change jobs every two to three years and will likely have as many as two to three career changes over the course of their working lives.
As technology and automation become more and more prevalent and affect the job prospects across entire industries, and in the age of the “side hustle,” modern college students often have more at stake than previous generations.
Here are a few tips to help you get organized and weigh your options when deciding on a college major:

Make a List

Depending on your situation, practical considerations like prospective salary, personal debt and student loans, location, industry, and your personal interests will all factor into your decision. Start with the obvious questions like where you would like to live after graduation, how much you will need to earn to meet your financial obligations and afford the cost of living, what the job prospects are in your chosen field, and whether you will need to get more education after you graduate. If you are not sure, make a list of your interests and subjects that you are curious about. You don’t have to figure it all out at once.

Do Your Research

If you want to major in history or English but don’t want to be a teacher, researching potential career options for liberal arts majors can give you ideas about potential jobs and careers that you may not be aware of.

Ask for Help

Take advantage of your school’s advisors and career counseling services to get the information you need to help you pick a major that is in line with your interests, passions and career goals after graduation.

College Admissions Marketing Needs to Focus on the Degree, Not the Reputation

According to the results of a recent study conducted by EAB on thousands of incoming college freshman, majors and academic programs topped the list of their concerns, ahead of tuition costs and concerns about financing their education. The result may be surprising, given the current student loan debt crisis facing millions of young Americans, but they have prompted some experts in the field to consider how campus post-graduate career advancement programs and resources remain a top motivator for college attendance and enrollment.

Why Academic Quality Trumps Reputation for College Students

According to the survey results, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they looked to college websites for information on the school’s academic programs, a 3.6 percent increase over the past two years. Meanwhile, less than a quarter of prospective students (19 percent) were most concerned with the reputation of the institution. Perhaps most surprisingly, the percentage of students seeking information about financial programs and opportunities was a relatively modest 24 percent.

The ROE (Return on Education) Factor

According to EAB, “research shows that Generation Z students are increasingly selecting majors and minors that will have a greater ‘ROE’–return on education. For example, Michigan State University, like so many other colleges and universities, has reported a sharp rise in engineering and business majors, and a steady decline in arts and letters majors since the recession.”

Data from the EAB study found that when presented with potential salary information and hiring prospects for their major, 12 percent of students switched to a different major. Concerns about job prospects and salary may be a key factor behind the growing uptick and resurgence of enrollment in engineering and computer science programs over liberal arts degrees.

Helping Prospective Students Calculate ROE

Although all young college-bound students may not place how to pay for college at the top of their list of concerns, the majority are viewing the colleges they are interested in through a lens of “what can your school do for me?” Placing your institution’s ROE at the forefront of recruitment efforts should be the main focus and selling point when recruiting Generation Z students, and to an extent their parents as well.

Student loan financing company SoFi helps to breakdown “return on education” for college students trying to decide where to go to college and just as (if not more) importantly, what to major in:

  • Is the degree/program worth the cost?
  • Is the program worth going into debt and taking out student loans for?
  • What is the projected salary and change in income relative to the costs and debt?

The answers to these questions can help students determine their personal return on education. For college recruiters and marketers, shifting the focus to helping students and their families make the right connections between the institution’s programs and their future career and financial trajectory will be necessary to meet enrollment quotas.

According to EAB’s assessment of the findings from their study,

One ‘so what’ of this New College Freshmen Survey finding, and from the return on education phenomenon overall, for that matter, is that colleges and universities should be thinking more deeply about the enrollment impact of their program portfolio choices. We find that as many schools review their academic programs and make changes, they too seldom and too narrowly factor in market information from enrollment managers.

Factors to Consider When Recruiting Generation Z Students

Not surprisingly, the students who participated in the EAB study admitted to getting much of their information through social media, so focusing efforts on advertising to and reaching students where they are most actively engaged should not be ignored. This ranges from Facebook ads to relevant sponsored content across social media platforms popular with college-aged students.

Merging College Recruitment With Career Counseling

More so than previous generations, incoming college students are less likely to wait until their senior year to decide what to major in, let alone to begin the job search and career-building. Consider incorporating the traditional campus career services with your institution’s recruitment efforts to highlight how getting a degree at your institution also offers a leg up on the job market, well before graduation:

  • Emphasize employment rates and industry accomplishments and success from past alumni.
  • Highlight internship and job training programs.
  • Focus on prominent faculty and mentorship programs.
  • Build on career fairs, career counseling services and opportunities for networking that can lead to job prospects.

Despite the fact that college financing and student debt are a major concern for a large portion of American college students and their families, Generation Z students are placing a higher premium on the quality and feasibility of their chosen majors and academic programs.

While an academic institution’s general reputation and extracurricular offerings may factor into the decision, the current generation’s main concern seems to be firmly placed on how their chosen field of study and college will help them to find the right career and meet their desired earning potential.

Meeting the needs of the new generation will require doing things differently. According to the Guardian, “The best way to manage the change? Work with Gen Zs and involve them in designing your services.”

Consider Career Services When Finding a College

Consider career services when college hunting

In the era of LinkedIn, social media networking and digital connections, everything from finding a job to a career mentor happens online. And, as online college courses and degrees become more and more popular and accessible, fewer students are taking advantage of traditional campus career services and resources than in previous generations. According to recent studies and Gallup Poll data, less than 20 percent of college students use campus career services for help with finding a job or applying to graduate programs.

Just like academic, athletic and other collegiate programs, the benefits and opportunities available through a school’s career services office will vary from campus to campus, according to factors like the makeup of the student body and the school’s resources. Researching a prospective school’s career services offerings and track record can be especially helpful for students who graduate with student loan debt and do not have existing networks or relationships to leverage with professionals and mentors in their chosen field.

What a College Career Services Program Has to Offer

From helping you craft a professional and optimized resume to leads on internships and help applying for graduate school, a good college career services program can offer comprehensive support and networking opportunities well beyond what you can do yourself on Facebook or online career sites.

Some of the most common services offered through campus career centers include:

  • Cover letter and resume writing tips and workshops
  • Interview prep
  • Career assessments and counseling
  • Career fairs
  • Internship opportunities
  • Networking through alumni relations and professional partnership programs
  • Career/jobs databases
  • Graduate school application/advisement
  • Skills assessment and advisement for undecided students

How to Make College Career Services Work for You

If you already know what you want to major in and what career field you’d like to pursue after graduation, or are a returning or older student with real life and work experience under your belt, you may already have a leg up and some ideas as to how to pursue your career goals. However, in an increasingly competitive and rapidly evolving job market where many jobs are facing the prospect of automation by the start of the next decade, it is more important than ever to utilize every resource available to guide you through the hiring process before and after graduation.

If you are not sure what you want to do after graduation, or change your mind mid-course like many students do, campus career counseling and advising can help you to navigate your options and provide actionable resources and contacts to help you find the right path for your skills and interests.

Tips to Get Started

Here are some ways to make the most of your college career services.

Don’t wait until senior year. In fact, a school’s career services offerings, reputation and success rates should be part of your initial research when applying for college. Ask questions about their alumni network, internship opportunities, relationships with businesses and corporations in your field of interest, placement rates and support services.

Fake it ’til you make it. You don’t have to have it all figured out to take advantage of skill- and career-building programs. Whatever your current or future goals might be, it is never too early to work on your resume and cover letter writing skills, and to practice successful interviewing by attending career fairs and workshops. In fact, starting the process in your freshman year and staying persistent can help to build your confidence for the real thing come graduation.

Stay ahead of trends. The career services department exists to help students prepare for employment and ongoing education after graduation. As such, it is an invaluable (and free) source of industry data and trends that can help you stay competitive and build your skills and coursework as necessary.

Think of career services as another tool to help you reach your professional, educational and personal goals.