MOOC online studies

Image: Adobe Stock

Studying with little or no money? Here’s how to find the perfect ‘MOOC’

Today there are open online courses everywhere but which really do offer legit certificates that will help you in your career?

MOOC online studies

Image: Adobe Stock

We’ve all seen online ads for Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs – offering certificates or diplomas in a certain field at next-to-nothing prices. The flashing videos and discount codes often tempt us to click on them

“But that’s exactly what the advertiser wants,” you murmur as you scroll past once again.

After all, a R399 certified short course seems too good to be true – or is it?

My ‘MOOC’ experience

A few years ago, when I applied for a job as a graphic designer the company asked for some sort of certification.

But I was completely self-taught at that time, learning on the job with a senior designer breathing down my neck at all times.

I was in a panic, and quickly jumped on the internet to find some kind if course I could do to prove I had the knowledge I claimed to have.

Advice when choosing a MOOC

Here is my advice for online learning: Read extensively about the academy or institution, including student reviews. In addition, check out social media and research internet fraud.

So, using my own experience as a guide, here are a few I have been happy with: Shaw Academy; the Academy of Film, Fashion and Design; Alison Academy, Coursera and EDX.

With some short courses starting at R13 000 each, I nearly gave up my search until a designer recommended the Shaw Academy.

While only the first few weeks are free, and you pay after this, the courses may not turn out that expensive.

My particular course cost R199,  and included an extensive textbook and online lectures every week. There also were assignments and class tests.

After I passed the course and payment of R199 had gone from the bank account, I had a diploma to wave in front of my new boss!

However, Shaw is not the only place for underfunded students and corporate climbers looking to extend their knowledge on a certain subject.

Other online study options

Here are a few others I have tried: 

Out of boredom one day at work, I decided to go online and see where I could hone my animation skills. That’s when I came across an entire Adobe Suite course for R450.

What did I learn? Well, I now have studied all the Adobe products to date, from web design to video editing. This academy gave me a receipt of purchase and a password to the website that was valid for a year.

It is a self-paced course, but you have up to a year to complete it. In the end, I received seven certificates of completion, and gained valuable skills. 

Alison offers a wide range of courses and I studied web design and psychology short courses at the same time. It offers courses on audit, which means that you are fully enrolled and it is free, but you will not receive a certificate.

You can, however, draw an academic history report which can serve as proof that you took the course.

These courses are also self-paced with no “end date”.

I completed three courses and they were all free. It also enabled me to dive into my outside interests at a deeper level.

The benefits? Alison Academy was no-strings-attached learning with no joining or course fees. 

University partnerships

Here is where things get interesting. The top universities in the world have partnered to create “super MOOCs” and Coursera and EDX are two of the biggest and best known.

Their partners include institutions like South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand, the UK’s Oxford University and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in the United States (US). These are just a few of many and this depth means Coursera and EDX are able to offer the best of the short courses.

From neuroscience to comic book culture (a course compiled by Stan Lee and his entourage) there is a lot to study.

They also offer audit courses, which means that the course is completely free, but you will not get a certificate of completion. However, you can enrol to receive certification and it generally costs less than R500.

Coursera and EDX have begun offering degree and masters online courses as well, which are a bit pricy and the admission standard is very high.

However, having certification from Harvard, the University Of Barcelona and MoMA will not hurt anyone’s career!

The future of MOOCs

Coursera boasts 37 million students and EDX 18 million students worldwide, and they offer 6 440 courses between them. They have been in the game for several years and are likely only to get bigger as the times change. 

Online learning is also an increasing authoritative source of education as the pandemic has led to more and more universities offering online courses.

Why do employers care about short course certificates? Well, a MOOC or two shows who you are and what you care about.

If you enrol for an online course, it shows drive, passion, a work ethic and self-motivation. Some of the courses may not be worth as much as a university degree or even a diploma, but it is certainly worth your time to check them out.

And that is especially true if you are strapped for cash or want to apply for a promotion at work!

  • Read more about other online study opportunities here.