Do MOOCs and Other Online Courses Impact College Admission?

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), have been available since 2012, with edX and Coursera being the most widely known. They’re an excellent way to learn about any possible topic from history, science, language, and many STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and CS (computer science) courses.

Do MOOCs and Other Online Courses Impact College Admission? | Image

Here are some of the benefits of attending a MOOC:

  • They’re usually free, with some programs offering a verification pathway that requires a reasonable fee
  • Some platforms are developing full degrees and certificates
  • Companies like IBM and Google are developing their own courses to meet workplace demands
  • Courses are usually self-paced, allowing users to learn at their own pace
  • Users can often start a course at any time, without traditional start and stop dates, making it easy to complete a course while having a busy schedule
  • Users are allowed to try new courses to develop new interests and gain knowledge outside of their traditional education setting
  • Similarly, users can try a few courses before selecting on a college major, often allowing students to get a sense of the academic work and rigor before selecting a college major
  • Users can take popular courses from universities across the world in nearly every academic discipline, often taught by top university faculty

Ok, but will MOOCs get me into college?

Like most things in college admission, it rarely comes down to one activity or one grade that gets you admitted into college. Instead, it’s a holistic review of grades, test scores, activities, essays, and recommendations that colleges use to make admission decisions.

Put simply, taking one online course will most likely not be the decisive factor leading to an admission decision.

However, if by taking a MOOC, you learn a new skill that appears in other activities, you write about the MOOC’s topic in your essays, and you write how the MOOCs subject matter connects to possible college majors – then in this case, yes the MOOC can play a role in your admission outcomes.

Ways to use a MOOC to your advantage

  • MOOC’s are one of many ways to show curiosity for a potential college major
  • If there are a few majors that you’re considering, complete an online course to ensure you are interested. Often colleges will ask why you selected a certain major and you can write about all that you learned and enjoyed to make for a strong response.
  • MOOCs can be a way to learn beyond the courses offered at your high school
  • Similar to learning about potential majors, if your high school doesn’t offer a course or sequence of courses, you can probably find them online. These usually won’t replace high school courses, but they will be a way to develop specific skills
  • Extra Credit – You can demonstrate a long-term commitment to your education by taking a sequence of courses in topics like global health, computer science, or languages not offered at your school
  • Combining a MOOC with your other activities
  • Some students seek to combine a MOOC with their extracurricular activities. For instance, if you’re really interested in political science and volunteer with a local campaign, take one or more MOOCs about political theory or a related topic. You’ll hopefully be able to apply what you learned from the MOOC in your campaign work. This also demonstrates that you have the curiosity to learn more about your activities.

Interested? Here’s how to start:

  • Class Central – this is a search engine allowing users to search for courses across multiple platforms
  • edX & Coursera – the two big players in MOOCs, with thousands of available courses

And if you’d like to learn more about MOOC’s or college admissions, contact Solomon Admissions today!

All of our blog posts are written by Former College Admission Officers who serve as members of our admission consultant team.

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