I am paying large amount of money to get my MBA degree. I have quit my job and I am studying full time, as a result I don’t have regular income nor the regular career progression I would have had, had I continued in my job. After I am done with my MBA, I am not sure if the job market would be good for me to land in a good job.
These were the thoughts that went through my mind, as I was doing a course on Coursera. The courses being offered on Coursera are world class, they are from some of the top universities. With such good courses available online why should anyone spend so much on higher education taking so many risks. Lets look at the advantages and disadvantages, I hope to be unbiased
Some aspects where a college degree and coursera degree defers
1. Structured education
Enrolling in a college degree, you will be put through many courses completing which you will get a complete understanding of the area/ specialization. For example in my MBA, we get to learn about Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Economics, Strategy, Organizational Culture and many more. So anybody who has completed an MBA degree is expected to have studied all the above subjects and is expected to have a basic understanding of them.
Right now Coursera is still young and only offers a small subset of courses which would be required to complete higher education. If Coursera does offer all the courses, then it still needs to address the issue of certifying the students with a degree. Coursera is more structured towards individual courses but not a degree. So going ahead, when it offers more courses it has to create a virtual degree to certify students. But then there would be a issue of credibility of the certificate.
There is a difference between getting a degree from Harvard and getting a degree from some relatively new or unknown college. The issue of credibility. Any day a degree from Harvard is rated much higher and has more credibility.
With Coursera degree being open to all and for free, there can be many people with the degree and it would be hard to differentiate between them.
3. Individual Courses and Flexibility
With college degree, you are bound to the courses which are being offered in the college. There would be times when you would like to expand your knowledge but might be limited. Also, courses offered in college lag behind by couple of years to the developments in the industry. If those courses are not offered in your college but are being offered elsewhere, there is no way you can switch a college for a course. There is also a issue of Flexibility, if you are having a free time due to holiday season or less work, then you cannot take the course because you have to wait till the course is offered in the college again.
With Coursera, you can expand your knowledge on any subject at any time from any available offering. I feel this is the space, where Coursera has advantage over the traditional college degree.
Beyond the subject knowledge a student gets from a college, there is a lot a student learns from being enrolled in a college. Bigger part of learning process is learning from your classmates, learning from their experiences, perspectives, interactions and many more. There is also the aspect of building social skills. Which cannot be taught by just a lecture.
Again, Coursera completely fails in this aspect as there is no interaction with other students or industries. But in the long run Coursera can improve in this is aspect, if students can form study groups based on the common location they are from and are diligent in giving importance to the social aspect of learning. But I feel this is not possible and would always be a negative zone for Coursera.
In the long run, Coursera would establish itself as a goto place. Where anybody who is interested in expanding their knowledge in a specific area would turn to Coursera for expert material which would be available for free at any time.
Somethings which is puzzling me is, why are these top colleges offerring the courses for free. What is the incentive for them?