We’re living through an incredible moment in the history of learning. Suddenly, anyone with an Internet connection can take courses, for free, from some of the world’s top universities, The Boston Globe reports.

On sites like Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy, you can learn how to run a clinical trial that will satisfy the Food and Drug Administration, study aircraft design, or dive into the basics of environmental law.

The offerings are commonly called MOOCs, for “massive open online courses,” and they tend to offer participants certificates of achievement if they finish, as opposed to course credits or grades.

But will taking these online courses at schools like Harvard and Stanford improve your prospects in the job market?

As with many revolutions, Boston has been at the center of the action. In 2002, MIT launched a pilot website for its OpenCourseWare initiative, offering 32 courses. By 2003, Wired Magazine was writing about students in Nashville and Ho Chi Minh city taking MIT classes for free. Last year, MIT and Harvard University decided to work together, creating a new nonprofit called edX.

The Cambridge-based organization now offers courses from McGill University, Georgetown University, Cornell University, CalTech, and Wellesley College, among others. Many include not just recommended readings, but videos, quizzes, and interactive tools like electronic circuit simulators or protein builders.

… Recruiter Adriana Ganos of Rue La La, the Boston-based e-commerce site, says she wouldn’t necessarily write off the MOOCs a candidate has taken, but “I value in-person content and communication. I’d rather see someone go and physically attend something and participate in a class at a place like Bocoup Loft or General Assembly or Intelligently.”

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eCampus News staff and wire reports


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