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Are Online Courses Equivalent to In Class Courses?


Recently, when looking at the forums in Coursera‘s Introduction to Marketing class, I came across a complaint by someone who recently took and passed a course, but was disappointed in the wording on the Statement of Accomplishment.

From No MBA in MBA Certificate:

I just received my certificate for Wharton’s MBA “Introduction to Financial Accounting” and there was NO mention of it being a core MBA course.  It looks like an ordinary undergraduate, freshman certificate.  I have to say that although the course itself was outstanding, the certificate disappointed me.  Will employers believe we took an MBA foundatuonal course?

(Emphasis mine.)

This is a real challenge to the more formalized (paid) online training space – customers are looking for their “Introduction to …” class to be equivalent to taking a first-year college course. They are looking for the school name or the program name to lend them credibility in employment or elsewhere. They want to be able to say they have taken and passed a Wharton School MBA class. “Dear Employer, I almost have my MBA!”

The reality is more harsh. No, taking Introduction to Marketing or Introduction to Accounting online is NOT equivalent to an MBA class. Just like taking an online biology class is not the first step to becoming a Medical Doctor.

No, that is not a criticism of online learning. It’s a matter of expectations. I take online classes to learn, and I am fulfilled by the accomplishment of passing. Online learning is a major force in education and will change how educators teach. Others seem to think it’s about just being able to say you took a Harvard Class or an MIT class or whatever. That isn’t the point.


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