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Earn Skill Certifications in Computer Science Online for Less than $500: The Pluses and Minuses of MOOCs

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The technology skills gap has employers looking high and low for qualified candidates. According to CIO Magazine there are 3.9 million open positions out there that hiring managers say they have a hard time finding qualified candidates to fill. If you happen to be on the job market but are lacking those in-demand skills employers are looking for, that can be a tough statistic to read.

Specialization Certifications from Coursera

Your options to improve your skill set run the gamut. If you are short on time and money, you may want to look into Coursera’s new skills Specialization Certifications. Coursera offers 10 programs, with four of them related to computer science or information technology:

Course Name College Duration Cost
Data Science John Hopkins University 4 weeks $490
Mobile Cloud Computing w/Android University of Maryland & Vanderbilt University 8 weeks $196
Cybersecurity University of Maryland 8 weeks $245
Fundamentals of Computing Rice University 9 weeks $196

So how does this work? Coursera is a platform that offers academic courses online in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) format designed and taught by the faculty from top-ranked, accredited universities. Similar to a degree program, you enroll and pay for the courses that you need in order to complete the requirements for the specialization certificate. For each course, you will need to opt for the “Signature Track” option, where you pay $49 to earn a verified certificate. If you aren’t sure about spending the money up front, you have at least a week to try the course out. After you complete all courses for the specialization certificate, you complete a capstone exam or project to earn the credential. Certificates are provided to you as .pdf files and you can add them to your LinkedIn profile with the click of a button.

In addition to paying the program fees, you’ll be required to verify your identity by providing Coursera a copy of your photo ID. You’ll also have to build a biometric profile based off of your typing pattern, which will be used to verify your assignments. If something happens, and you can’t finish the course, you can apply for a one-year voucher so that you can take the course again without repaying.

The Downside of MOOCs

What’s the downside? Well, these are MOOC courses, which have taken some heat from critics due to astonishingly low completion rates and a lack of interaction between students and instructors. The Silicon Valley Business Journal alluded to these issues, quoting Coursera founder Andrew Ng admitting that, “We don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished.” Many of these criticisms, however, encompass the overall outcomes of MOOCs, where the majority of participants are not paying for the course and may not have the requisite skills and resources to successfully finish the course. In the case where the student is paying for the credential, EDUCAUSE Review found that the completion rate goes from 9% to 74%.

Time will tell if MOOCs will contribute to closing the skills gap between open job positions and people that can fill them. But even if it doesn’t, a lot of people can ramp up their programming and computer technology skills without going broke in the process.

Learn more about Coursera’s specialization programs here.

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