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Massive Open Online Courses vs. Real Degree Programs

It’s an employer’s job market, and it’s up to the individual to get competitive. Students are rising to the challenge. According to the United States Census Bureau, 5 million people obtained a master’s degree between 2002 and 2012. However, all online course programs are not created equally – especially when it comes to online degrees. The distinction is in massive open online courses versus real degree programs. Both options offer learning, but only one looks better on your resume. Read on to learn more about the difference.

Massively Open Online Course (MOOC)

Bersin by Deloitte, an analysis and consulting company for HR professionals, links MOOC to educational or learning platforms. MOOC are often not associated with accredited degree programs. Their goal is to provide convenient, wide-scale education through technology. The courses are often free or low cost and accessible to students all over the world. Popular MOOC course providers include:

  • iTunesU – offered by Apple via the iTunesU app where students can stream video and audio lectures.
  • Carnegie Mellon Free Courses – a free, open learning initiative offered through the Carnegie Mellon website.
  • Udemy – a platform where real experts teach via the web.

Real Degree Programs

Real degree programs feature academically recognized coursework that leads to a college-level degree. Course offerings are available online through nationally accredited institutions only. The completion of the program results in a certified master’s or doctorate degree. Popular real degree programs include:

  • University of Florida – a private university with online degree programs ranging from pharmacy to urban planning.
  • Boston University – a private university and research institution with online degree programs in everything from the sciences to the arts.
  • George Washington University – a private university with online degree programs ranging from administration in healthcare to strategic public relations.

The Difference

When it comes to MOOC, this platform is great for personal growth, but not so professional development. There’s nothing about an MOOC course that certifies your understanding of the material to employers. Real degree programs are required to adhere to certain academic standards, such as testing. Students can’t precisely prove that they’ve completed MOOC programs; Whereas real degree programs offer diplomas.

Furthermore, there’s no evidence students are actually learning with MOOC. According to the New York Times, “A study of a million users of massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, released this month by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education found that, on average, only about half of those who registered for a course ever viewed a lecture, and only about 4 percent completed the courses.” Employers know this dirty secret, and many of them don’t take resumes with listed MOOC seriously.

While it is important to continue your life’s education, if you’re looking to advance professionally, MOOC is not the way to go. Real degree programs offer the employer-preferred, verifiable skills that are necessary in today’s job market. The way you choose to learn is up to you, but there are flexible accredited online degree programs available. Which path will you choose?