How will MOOC-based learning aid learners in entering and performing in the workplace? We may imagine MOOC-based learning to serve as a qualification in two ways: let’s call them the (1) certificate, (2) credit routes.

On the first, MOOC aggregations of certificates themselves are offered as significant job qualifications on a par with, or as an accepted substitute for, college and university degrees. I discussed this option in my last post.

course-credit-moocsOn the second, the certificates will be accepted for college and university credit, and thus become (like conventional courses) components of degree pathways where degrees serve as qualifications.

Certificates as qualifications

The first route – the use of MOOC certificates as qualifications – has been explored with mixed results..

In December 2012 Coursera announced the opening of its Career Services program, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Participating firms, which have included Yahoo and Twitter, contract with the MOOC provider for an undisclosed fee to get data on students’ performance on Coursera’s MOOCs.

Both students and Coursera’s participating University partners can opt out of the program. Udacity had already announced a similar program.

In 2013 the MOOC provider edX experimented with its own job service, attempting to place its top MOOC students in jobs with similar companies – the leading high-tech firms. Of the more than 800 top performers that edX placed before these firms, only three received interviews and not a single one was offered a job.

Following this failed experiment, edX withdrew from the career services arena.

As I recently argued in this blog, this step may have been premature and ill-founded:

The top-tier firms get thousands of applicants from the best university programs in computer science and information systems for every opening. Why would they be interested in experimenting with MOOC learners when they can take their pick of numerous Stanford, MIT and Purdue grads, who have shown the persistence to earn four year degrees, rubbed shoulders with top professors, and networked with other top students who will soon enter the workforce and connect up with hundreds of other hot prospects?

Meanwhile, new business start-ups in Silicon Valley, on Massachusetts Route 128, in New York’s Silicon Alley and throughout the country hunger for talent. Most organizations will not be able to compete for the top grads of the top-tier university programs. Is it not possible that edX, which is hardly an expert in the employment agency business, simply directed their efforts at the wrong job market.

New online job placement services appear – almost daily – to link individuals with skills and firms hungry for demonstrated capabilities. How effective MOOC certificates will prove to be as demonstrations of skill remains to be seen.