Jan 072014
 January 7, 2014  Posted by at 2:57 pm Not So Stupid Questions, Uncategorized  Add comments

I’ve tweeted and mentioned a few times before that I watch/do MOOC classes next to work. Between work projects at Evry we are encouraged to sharpen our skills or expand our knowledge area with for example MOOC. Let’s take a deeper look at MOOC classes, and some questions concerning them.


What are MOOC classes?

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course – and as the name indicates are online courses anybody can join. There are video lectures, slides, material, labs, and discussion forums and so on and it’s an builds further on the trend on distance learning.

What are some MOOC providers?

Wikipedia offers a good list

And personally I’ve used Coursera (my main provider), Khan Academy and Udacity.

Is it the same as online training, for example Pluralsight?

No- there are quite a few differences. Many of the MOOC have assignments and deadlines and they are all structured differently. The scope is often broader on a class, and it can vary anything from 6 weeks to 3 months on courser (I’m sure this differs between providers). There is sometimes a letter of accomplishment if you pass the exams as well as score well on the assignments.

From a course I’m doing on Coursera on cryptography

Statement of accomplishment will be given to students who obtain more than 70% of the maximum score on the problem sets and final exam. Students who also complete the programming assignments will receive a statement of accomplishment saying that they also completed the programming part of the course.

Online training such as Pluralsight does not issue any accreditations as it is not an accredited educational institution, although many large companies do place value on certifications that come from them. The focus is training, often focused on a particular technology, language, concept, best practices and so on. Course rarely last longer than 5h, and although you can choose to do assessments there are no exams.

Do I get institutional credit and how does that differ from letter of accomplishment?

Some providers have that on some of the classes, courser refers to them as signature tracks. These are not free (as far as I know), but you can do the course without the signature track and not pay (and not get a certificate). A letter of accomplishment is general piece of paper that shows that you finished the course, while the verified certificate is from both courser and the university, your identity is verified and the instructor signes the certificate.

Do the classes give college credit?

Neither options give college credit.

What is the level of the classes (MOOC)?

This of course varies, but those I’ve taken at Stanford University (Coursera) have been really high and I’ve struggled to follow more than one class I can tell you. Set aside plenty of time, some of them require 10h+ a week, some easily more.

Should I put these on resume?

I know it is tempting to show everything you know on a resume, but I did a poll on Twitter regarding this and while some said yes, most said no. This is however not black and white, and here are some recommendations from my friends:

Some things to consider when making the decision:

What type of job are you applying for? Many modern companies don’t prioritize lengthy resumes and multiple degrees and courses, it can have a negative impact. If you are in doubt read the job announcement (or older ones if there isn’t a current one) and see which words they use. Call around and ask discreetly.

Can you showcase what you learned in a different way than just a line on a resume?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Use the knowledge in a project
  • Create an examples library
  • Make a Koan
    • – These fit nicely in a portfolio
    • – Write about the experience to share and for more insight
  • Blog about it or write an article
    • – Explain concepts
    • – Digg deeper
    • – Discuss a problem
    • – Combine with other topic
    • *make sure you add value, not just repeat information
  • Do a presentation
    • – At work
    • – User Group
    • – Video
    • ++

Adding more substance:

  • Use in project
  • Get code reviews
  • Follow tag in forum- lookup words
  • Try to answer questions in forums
  • Ask questions in forums
  • Teach to others
  • Related courses/next level once you feel confident you know the topic

How should I add this to my resume/profile:

If you choose to have in on your resume:

  • Have it under a separate section and not under the same headline as a degree
  • Don’t list all of them- focus on relevant ones for the job

If you do not want it on your resume you can still:

  • Mention continued professional development with…
  • Mention (not list) in cover letter or interview, casually 😉

Should I add them to a consultant profile?

  • Ask your boss or a sales manager, they should know what the client will look for/accept
  • If confident about knowledge list as technology you know if there is such a section

What are you currently watching?

Aside from a bunch of Pluralsight courses to prepare for a new project at work, I’ve signed up for Cryptography 1 & 2 through Stanford and Coursera, here is the link.

  One Response to “10 questions on MOOC and tech classes answered (Stupid question 264-274)”

  1. Great blog and great post, thanks. I’m intrigued by your use of the term Koan. What do you mean?

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