Employability is a key word that you will hear frequently in relation to getting started in your career and finding your first graduate role. Enhancing your understanding of a career sector and learning new commercial skills that will aid you in your first job will all help you to stand out. One way of acquiring these skills is by taking part in a relevant Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
What is a MOOC?
A MOOC is a short course that is delivered entirely online through videos, text and online discussion. They are normally between 4 and 12 weeks in length and require around 2 hours of study time per week. What is exciting about MOOCS is the immense scope of topics they cover, partnered with the fact that they are delivered by well renowned Universities with no fee and no admissions procedure for the user. You just find a course you are interested in, sign up and start learning at your own pace!
Why take a MOOC?
Research a career
A MOOC can help you to explore aspects of a career sector and develop further knowledge that could help you to stand out. If you are thinking about journalism for example, then you might consider the European Journalism Centre’s MOOC, ‘Doing Journalism with Data’ or Michigan State University’s ‘Thinking like a Writer’. Similarly if you are applying for teaching, topics covered include supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing, the future of education and five habits of highly successful teachers to name but a few.
Find out what you’re good at
There are advantages to taking a MOOC even if you are unsure of what type of career path you want to follow. A MOOC is great way of finding out more about a particular career sector and using it to get a snapshot of whether it might suit you. There are many introductory courses on types of careers including Journalism, Marketing, Corporate Finance, Statistics and Law. It is a perfect opportunity to try something new and perhaps a way of finding out what else you might be good at. There are usually tests and quizzes throughout the course so you can monitor your own progress.
Boost skills essential to business that employers will value. Many MOOCs tackle skills that we need in the workplace including public speaking, how to give a presentation, enhancing business communication and project management. Not only will you learn and improve such skills by taking a MOOC but you will also show that you have the initiative to address gaps in your knowledge and a willingness to keep learning. There is even a new career planning MOOC to enable you to Enhance your Career and Employability Skills.
Taking a MOOC also has the advantage that you will be learning and interacting with like-minded people from across the globe. MOOCs allow discussion of the topic via a forum and most MOOCs also have their own hashtag on Twitter for further discussion. Potentially this is a way of finding useful contacts or networking with people already working in the field you are interested in.
Indulge your love of learning
Your MOOC doesn’t have to be related to your future career. You might have always loved a particular period of history, or enjoyed a hobby that you want to learn more about – a MOOC is a perfect way to do this!
How do I find out more?
Universities partner with external providers who provide the platform to run the courses. The main providers are:
You can’t go wrong with a MOOC as long as you view it as an additional tool to help you research potential careers or simply boost your knowledge in a topic that interests you. Taking a relevant MOOC can help you find out more about the different facets of work involved in a particular career and the type of skills you will need. Remember though that it is only a snapshot and although it would undoubtedly complement real life experience, it is not a substitute for it.
All MOOCS whether they are of direct relevance to your career path or not, will show to an employer that you have an enquiring mind, a willingness to learn new skills and the self-reliance and discipline to complete a course of learning and do so in your own time. So why not try one over the summer?
Update November 2014: MOOCS have been evolving and over time research has shown some interesting trends in terms of take up, completion rates and how MOOCS are being used professionally by organisations to boost employees professional development. Read more about how MOOCS are being viewed in 2014.