The choice in whether to take free online courses or not depends on how you look at learning and what your goals happen to be. If your ultimate goal is to earn a degree and the “status” is important to you or the career you are pursuing, taking free online learning courses, whether they are produced by a credible school (like Coursera or edX) or not, is probably not the best route to take. However, if you are looking to gain the proper knowledge for the field you would like to enter, no status symbol required, then free e-learning may just be for you.
Something to consider when choosing whether to put the time in for free courses is the reality that, in today’s job market, people are looking for experienced workers who know what they are doing and people who have the ability to provide the service they are looking for, verses those who have spent the last four to eight years with their head in a thousand books. The reality is that, in today’s fast moving world, employers are looking for people with the knowledge of their industry, but are basing more of the hiring process on experience. Taking free online courses can definitely give you the knowledge portion (just because it’s free, doesn’t make it irrelevant -especially when reputable courses are offered now by the worlds leading institutions through sites like Coursera and edX), then it’s up to you to build your portfolio of experience.
However, there is a difference between taking online e-learning courses to learn to write better in order to become a well-versed author/writer or building your knowledge of the career you already have and taking e-learning courses to become a nurse or a doctor. Obviously, no professional, self-concerned doctor’s office is going to hire a nurse who claims “experience” with no education. But a publisher may be completely ok with hiring somebody who writes well and has some courses (free or not) under their belt, and many companies may see a credible online course as enough of a reason to slip an employee a raise in pay.
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As for a resume, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot include e-courses (again, free or not) in your education or “other skills” section. As long as these courses are taken by a credible source -like Coursera or edX- you should have no doubts about whether or not to place them proudly, as a skill achieved, on your resume.
A controversy, which has continued to plague conversation about the online world of learning for a long time, is whether online environments are able to properly instruct students in comparison to face-to-face situations. In 2010, the Department of Education released a meta-analysis report of 45 published studies that compare online and face-to-face learning. This report showed that online courses, at the very least, are just as productive in teaching students as the face-to-face environments are.
Coursera partners with the uppermost universities in the world to create an education source for anybody, anywhere, at anytime. Their courses are taught by world-class professors and they span many different topics; from Humanities to Mathematics to Medicine and much more. Coursera’s goal is to see the very best professors teaching millions of students around the world. As of August, 2012, more than 1,080,000 students from all over the world have enrolled in one or more courses.The way Coursera technology works, it is possible for one instructor to teach thousands of students through virtual learning. When joining Coursera, you join a group of thousands of students who learn right alongside you.
edX is founded Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It also offers courses spanning many different topics. edX features courses designed specifically for interactive study on the web. Their goal it to deliver valuable e-learning for people anywhere with instructors that reflect the diversity of the audience they teach. Harvard plans to use edX to research how students learn and how modern technology can transform learning. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is governed by MIT and Harvard. Anant Agarwal, who was the former director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is now the first president of edX.