Why MOOCs Make More Sense than Two Years of Community College

I attended two community colleges within one year, and if you’ve been to community college you probably feel my pain. When talking with employers, or even out at networking events, as soon as people learn you’ve gotten your education from a community college, something in the air changes.

There is no denying that if two candidates were side by side for a job, the one with a degree from a more recognized university has a better chance at landing that job, even if they are equally qualified. Fifteen years ago when we didn’t have the Internet, this made sense because not everyone could gain access to these exclusive classes at Harvard and MIT; there was a scarcity problem. Now, because of MOOCs and the widespread understanding of the importance of education, professors around the world are teaming up and opening their doors to worldwide collaborative learning.

Think about being at a job interview, for something as simple as a customer service job at a 7/11.  If they ask you about your education and you tell them you’ve been taking classes from Harvard, it not only sounds better than community college, it feels better. This can be huge on a personal confidence level, which is important for success.

If we take a close hard look at this and clearly lay the options side by side, they look something like this.

1. Business Ethics 101 from Small Town Community College (Free, Accredited)

2. Business Ethics 101 MOOC from Harvard (Free, Not Accredited)

Okay, maybe it makes sense to choose option A. I mean, you are getting a free class from a community college, and of course, it’s accredited. However, if you stop and think about it, for over 100 years we’ve allowed universities like Harvard to gain a sort of credentialing monopoly where they are held to a different standard than less-renowned establishments. More than rightly so, they are the ones with the most well-versed professors, with the greatest alumni, and all the nicest facilities. So even though a MOOC is not technically accredited, it is the same lecture people are paying big bucks for, available for free.

The second point to look at here is environment.

If you haven’t yet taken a MOOC and gotten to experience some of the passionate exchange between people from all across the planet, then I highly suggest you check it out. And it doesn’t matter your experience or knowledge level about the information being exchanged, because it is a friendly and open learning environment where people are there to help one another gain an understanding of the content at hand.

MOOCs really don’t make sense to take unless the topic is something that you are actually interested in or think you may be interested in. They are free, and you take them on your own time, and you only get anything from it if you really put the time in.

Again let’s lay these options out side by side:

1. Community college class with uninvolved classmates who are tired from work, stressed out from home life, and possibly have a crying child (Free, Accredited)

2. MOOC from the University of Michigan with engaged, professional, diverse, global classmates who are probably smarter than you, you know they care because they are there on their free time, and you can take the class in the location of your choosing – could be the beach! (Free, Not Accredited)

The free community college proposal is nice, and it sure is exciting to see the federal government trying to get involved and care about the education dilemma. But more awareness needs to be raised around how MOOCs can also help address the education problem we are facing.

Tony Rhodes is a self-directed learner living in Hawaii. He is passionate about learning, farming, food, and meeting people.

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