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onlineedCan Taking a MOOC Help Your Application?

“It can’t hurt.”

That’s probably how many people would answer this question. But that’s not really what you were asking, was it? Behind the question, you want to know if a MOOC will impress admissions people and increase your chances of being accepted. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is, “That depends.”

Sure, MOOCs are being taught out of the top business schools by star professors. There are MOOCs for nearly every foundation course, with one student even figuring out how to complete these courses for under $1000. Still, many gatekeepers aren’t impressed by MOOCs. And the reasons fall into two buckets: quality and reliability.

For starters, MOOCs aren’t the only available option for continuing education. Grades matter to gatekeepers, according to Shari Hubert, associate dean of MBA admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. With most MOOCs only conferring a certificate of completion, Hubert believes taking a course from an accredited institution is a better route.  “We encourage (students) to take a course in which they would receive a transcript,” she tells Bloomberg Businessweek. “It could be at a community college–some place where they are getting a grade and a transcript so we can then determine and measure how well they did. That is much more valuable to us in admissions.”

The hit-or-miss quality of MOOCs also concerns Chris Reed, director of recruitment and admissions at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School. He scoffs at the notion that MOOCs can prepare candidates for an MBA program due to the lack of “control on content, delivery, or class profile.” In other words, just because you took a MOOC from Wharton doesn’t make you a Wharton-caliber student.

And standardization isn’t the only issue. Sharon Borowicz, chair of graduate business administration at Benedictine University, even wonders if a certificate of completion can be trusted. “There is no way to guarantee that this is the person who took the class,” she tells Bloomberg Businessweek. “The individual may have gotten a certificate but we have no idea how they were assessed or how their learning went.”

Of course, MOOCs have their advocates too among business school decision-makers. Rebekah Lewin, assistant dean of admissions and student engagement at the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, considers MOOCs to be similar to professional accreditations like Six Sigma. “It’s a signal of a student’s seriousness,” Lewin notes. “It shows an interest in pursuing higher learning.”

And Benedictine’s Borowicz disagrees with Texas A&M’s Reed, to an extent, on whether MOOCs prep applicants for an MBA program. “It shows self-motivation, which in an MBA program is really key,” she says. “It can definitely add to an application.”

So should you mention taking a MOOC on your transcript? Well, it can’t hurt. It is better than nothing–and it might even impress certain admissions people. If anything, finishing a MOOC answers more questions than it invites.

Source: U.S. News and World Report

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