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MOOCs, massive open online courses, have gained tremendous popularity in the last year and it looks like they are on track to continue along that path for the foreseeable future. These types of courses can be a great way for job seekers to enhance your skills or learn new skills during the job search process. They can also provide a worthwhile diversion from searching and applying for positions, which can become a monotonous task after several hours.

What's A MOOC?

MOOCs are online classes that are readily available to anyone who has an electronic device with an Internet connection and some available time. In most cases, these classes are free or available for a nominal charge. Because the courses often have hundreds of participants, there’s not a need to charge tuition rates like those at local colleges and universities. The curriculum is almost always solely online, so there aren’t additional fees for textbooks and other course materials. MOOCs generally aren’t eligible for college credit, but they are an excellent low cost and low risk way to learn new skills or freshen up existing skills to make yourself more marketable as a job candidate.

What Can I Learn?

Course topics cover a wide range of subjects. The online format lends itself well to technical skills, but there are also a number of soft skills classes available as well. Business and management courses also seem to be popular offerings on some of the more popular MOOC platforms. Class lengths differ, but most include at least a few sessions on a particular topic. Students are usually asked to complete a project or some type of coursework independently. Because of the size of the classes, there may not be a grade given to your course work. However, students usually earn a certificate of completion at the end of the course if they complete all of the assignments during a defined period of time. The instructors range from professionals in a subject-matter area to college professors at well-known colleges and universities. You can usually read the instructor’s bio and a course summary before you sign up.

Why Should I Bother?

The job market isn’t getting any less competitive, so having a broad skill base can set you apart from the next candidate. Further, an employer may look favorably upon a candidate who has shown initiative in learning new skills during a period of unemployment or in preparation for a career transition. Additionally, many MOOCs offer networking opportunities with other students through a forum on the classroom platform. MOOCs are a very low-risk opportunity to learn additional skills that could come in handy in your next workplace. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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