[Update, 12/17/13, 2:15 p.m.: Despite the Chronicle’s post, edX’s Director of Communications Nancy Moss told BostInno via email that the platform is experimenting with other job-placement initiatives through partnerships with “experts,” including Aspiring Minds, LinkedIn and Launch Code. As Moss noted, “Our conclusion after last year’s pilot was that doing direct job placement was outside of our area of expertise, and best left to the experts.”]
Online learners taking classes through edX will never receive help finding employment — at least not from the local massive open online course provider. The joint venture, launched by Harvard and MIT, is giving up on job-placement services after one failed experiment.
edX allegedly recruited 868 high-performing students from two online computer science courses offered through the University of California at Berkeley, and tried to match them with a variety of different technology companies based on their strengths, including Google and Amazon. Of the 868, however, only three landed job interviews and none were hired, according to the Chronicle.
Part of the reasoning is that “existing HR departments want to go for traditional degree programs and filter out non-traditional candidates,” or so reportedly read a slide from the meeting. edX President Anant Agarwal acknowledged how competitive the field already is to the Chronicle, saying:
We would have to become a job company. You can’t just take the top people from the class and connect them with employers. There’s a lot more to it.
Of course there’s “a lot more to it,” but does that mean edX should stop trying?
Competing MOOC provider Coursera recently announced that its Signature Track program, which gives students the ability to earn a verified certificate for completing one of its online courses, garnered 25,000 signups, earning Coursera $1 million in revenue. Beyond Signature Track, Coursera also boasts a recruiting service to help committed students connect with employers.
And Treehouse offers a similar program. The online web development training platform has an agreement with big name brands, including Facebook and Twitter, guaranteeing that Treehouse developers get looked at during any application process.
When previously asked, “Will employers ever take online learning seriously?” Treehouse Co-founder Ryan Carson told BostInno, “The reason people think university degrees are worthwhile is because they mean something to employers.” Hence, why Treehouse has developed a built-in solution to the problem.
A college degree is still heavily valued. Meaning, if MOOCs want to compete, they need to start offering students added value beyond the education component. Although still immensely valuable, as Knewton Founder Jose Ferreira recently argued, massive open online courses are “classes or lectures only.” Ferreira went on to add:
This isn’t to say that MOOCs aren’t a great social good. People seem generally to conflate the social value represented by MOOCs with their commercial value. The former, at least, will be tremendous. They are a game-changer where the alternative is no classes at all.
As Agarwal told the Chronicle, “We’re taking a phased approach to head in the direction of completely democratizing education.” That said, edX’s “commercial value” likely isn’t of utmost importance. Students shouldn’t be shafted out of employment opportunities, however, just because of one failed experiment.
If a Harvard- and MIT-spun platform can’t help online learners find job success, what hope should students have for all else?