With the fourth industrial revolution engulfing every facet of our lives, the world around us is changing. This digital revolution has also made a significant contribution to the future of jobs. With such a dramatic advancement, individuals entering the workforce must also be equipped enough to sustain themselves in the long run.
In this changing world and job market, it is important for students and professionals to constantly upgrade their knowledge and skills to stay up-to-date. The only way to do so is to equip oneself with specialized information – both practical and theoretical.
A lot of times, it is not possible for us to enrol in traditional classroom degree programs. To overcome this, universities have started offering online courses called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Such an idea came into existence around 2006 but gained widespread recognition in 2012 with pioneers like Coursera and Udacity (developed by Stanford professors), and edX (led by MIT and Harvard).
Yet, an oft-repeated question associated with MOOCs is, “Are these courses widely accepted”, or even “Can they take place of a classroom degree?”
To take a stance on their credibility and worthiness, let’s look at the advantages they offer, and why they still have some ground to cover before they are widely accepted as replacements for full-time, classroom degrees.
Recommended Read: Social Media Can Help Boost Your Career: Here are 5 Ways (And Examples)!
Why online certifications are gaining widespread popularity
- Accessibility- Due to heavy dependence on technology, these courses are accessible to a wider audience. The only requirement to undertake these courses is the availability of an Internet connection and a computer/tablet/phone via which these courses can be done. Traditional classroom teaching restricts the scope of a wider audience because it expects students to be present in the university and attend classes.
- Cost Effectiveness- The investment needed to create these courses is much more economical than traditional classrooms. Investment in infrastructure and maintenance are not required for online courses, thus making them cost-effective. At the learner’s end too, the cost of online courses is much lesser than classroom courses.
- Self-Pacing- The biggest advantage of online certifications is that they can be done at an individual’s convenience. Working professionals or students have the liberty to move and complete these courses at their own speed thereby increasing the flexibility of learning a new skill.
- Industry Focus- The aim of these certification programs is to fill the industry gap, hence are dependent on the demands and requirements of the industry. As opposed to traditional classroom degrees, whose curriculum may be outdated or not in touch with current demands, certifications are specifically designed (and upgraded) so as to inculcate skills needed to progress in the job market and climb the career ladder. They emphasize job-oriented skills.
- Adaptability- With a heavy emphasis on job-oriented skills and dependence on technology, these online courses are adaptable in nature. Content and applicability of these certifications can be designed and updated to match the required need. Due to the ease of adaptability, such courses rarely become obsolete.
- University Associations- Online certification platforms are increasingly collaborating with different universities across the globe. Such partnerships increase the academic integrity of the certification. The authenticity of the course content is also maintained because it is developed by faculties of these universities.
Why online certifications still need time to beat the traditional classroom degree
- Passive Learning- All these certifications are completely online in nature and have no direct involvement with the teacher. The structure involves lectures, videos, and assessments which are created beforehand and can be taken up learners at their own pace. The focus is more on passive learning than active learning. The lack of interaction between students and teachers is one of the major limitations of MOOCs.
- High Dropout- Because these courses are completely online and self-paced, therefore, the chances of students leaving the course mid-way increases. There is no authority to supervise the learning of the student. Lack of teachers’ involvement and supervision increases dropout rates.
- Restricted by Technology- All course contents have to be designed in such a way that they can be done using automated tools. This makes the course heavily dependent on technology and availability of the Internet.
- Building Soft Skills- Although social connections are a major plus in MOOC courses, it usually depends on peer interactions through social media, forums, and discussion boards. Classroom degrees offer a major advantage for networking due to the face-to-face interaction and networking opportunities offered by institutes. Such networking helps build communication, teamwork, and other collaborative soft skills.
- Acceptance- In the race between traditional classroom programs and online certifications, hiring managers usually still prefer candidates with traditional degrees because of their authenticity and widespread credibility. Online certifications do play a significant role in professional growth, promotions and learning new skills, yet the selection process still adheres to classrooms degrees.
Recommended Read: How To Pay For Your Own College Education (Without Parents’ Help!)
Despite the apprehensions towards online degrees vis-à-vis classroom degrees, employers have begun to realize the vast potential of MOOCs due to the specialised and up-to-date skills they develop. Recruitment perceptions are also dependent on the industry. For instance, the technology sector seems to be much more open about technical skills gained via different certifications, rather than other humanities fields that rely more on credentials.
In conclusion, whether you enrol in a traditional classroom program or pursue online certifications from top universities, what employers are really interested in is what you bring to the table in terms of skills, knowledge and productivity, not just pieces of paper.
Recommended Read: MIM Vs. MBA: 10 Crucial Differences to Help You Choose Between the Two
Have anything to say about this post? Share with us in the comments section below!