A number of free online course offerings, some from big-name
universities, are giving traditional schools a run for the money.
You may even get a certificate that proves mastery of the material.
But don't expect such a certificate to carry much weight in the job
market, where actual credits are still the only currency that
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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently expanded a
decade-long practice of opening its coursework to the public by
announcing a new online learning initiative dubbed MITx. The first
free class, Circuits and Electronics (it
MIT), debuted in March, taught by an MIT professor. Virtual
learners are able to interact with the teacher and with each other.
Students are graded and earn a certificate from MITx if they
demonstrate mastery of the content (but will not earn MIT
Other free online programs offer courses and degrees aimed at
providing a university-level education without the price tag of a
compiles open coursework from top-notch universities into more than
200 classes and awards certificates upon completion.
University of the People
offers degrees in business administration and computer science.
But without accreditation from one of the nationally recognized
agencies, free online education -- even classes with the allure of
the MIT brand -- means little in the job market. "In a nutshell,
hiring professionals don't care about them," says Kim Lamoureux, a
senior director at human resources research firm Bersin &
Associates. Employers worry about verifying the content and
learning experience of unaccredited courses.
As online learning becomes more popular -- especially as
employers partner with online educators to save on costs for
tuition reimbursement -- hiring managers may become more accepting
of the merits of free education. For now, though, consider the
education its own reward.