Friday, June 15, 2012

Can Free, High-Quality Education Get You A Job?

Katrina Schwartzv/ June 12, 2012 | 11:46 AM

The sudden growth of free, top-shelf online education sites has the potential to democratize high-caliber education that’s long been reserved for only those who could afford it.

But as these new sites begin to blaze a new path to the possibility of a level playing field, it’s still unclear whether taking courses in subjects like artificial intelligence or game theory will eventually lead to employment.

Are certificates of online course completion from venerable institutions viable substitutes for diplomas and degrees from the same brick-and-mortar four-year universities? Though professors who teach these Massive Open Online Courses are well respected in their fields, is their stamp of approval enough to land a job?


[snip]. When contacted about these online education sites — courses taught by professors at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley — many companies directly refused to talk about how their human resources departments would view a non-traditional candidate. Many had never even heard of Coursera, edX, or Udacity.

But recruiters who did agree to go on the record said that, for the most part, companies big and small looking for computer engineers want employees with college degrees from schools known for their computer science programs. [snip].


Still, Wilson said there are anomalies in the Valley — not all great programmers went to the top 25 computer science schools. And although he doesn’t think that getting in the door will be easy without an official degree of some kind, he said the idea that down the road when educational models are less fixed, a hard worker with a free online education that comes with practical skills could make the cut.


It’s possible that these nascent education sites, many of which offer more than computer science and engineering classes, are too new to have gained traction. Instead, they are being confused with for-profit certificate programs that don’t always have a good reputation.

In this anecdotal and limited survey, the current conclusion seems to be that employers don’t trust these new educational sites yet. Regardless of the names behind them — whether the school or the professor — the four-year degree and the on-campus experience are still highly critical.

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