Short online courses - worth it at PhD level?

11-Mar-15, 15:25
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 5 years ago
Hi everyone,

I've come across some short online courses on websites like Coursera and EDX. There are a few I'm interested in - one in particular concerns university teaching from Johns Hopkins. The time commitment is a few hours a week for 5-6 weeks but for a 'verified certificate', there is a fee. My uni offers teacher training but only once a year and I'm living away from campus this year so I've missed it.

If anyone has experience/knowledge of these courses, (a) are they worth my time and (b) would they look alright on my CV, or a bit 'meh'?

Thanks for your help!
11-Mar-15, 15:56
Avatar for brmgdude
posted about 5 years ago
One of my friends who is doing a PGCE did one of these, thinking it would boost their CV and give them an edge.

They subsequently got asked at interview "Why did you pay to improve your CV?".

I'm guessing the employer didn't look too much into the course and just saw the fee-paying aspect of it. They've been asked that twice in 7 interviews (No job yet).

Is there any way you can get "on-the-job" experience at university by helping out in a practical session, or maybe even mentoring undergraduate students on a one-to-one basis? You could even get paid for it (£17 an hour at my uni for practical sessions apparently!)
11-Mar-15, 16:16
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for kikothedog
posted about 5 years ago
Are they not free? I think employers in the US may taken them more seriously than in the UK. If it's a subject you can't learn any other way then I say go for it.
11-Mar-15, 16:21
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for HazyJane
posted about 5 years ago
I'm not sure of the value of doing a MOOC on university teaching specifically, as it is probably something where institution-specific and face to face training is more appropriate.

But in general if there's something you fancy learning a bit more about and have the time, they can be a good way of doing that without too much hassle or commitment. As to whether they will enhance your CV will depend on who is reading it. But I don't think that should be the primary motivator for doing one.
11-Mar-15, 16:25
edited about 9 seconds later
by Mark_B
« Moderator »
Avatar for Mark_B
posted about 5 years ago
Hi Nesrine

If the course provider is a reputable institution like Johns Hopkins it may be a worthwhile course. It's also not entirely uncommon for online training courses (or MOOCs) to charge for the award of a certificated qualification - the cost might be purely administrative.

I'd consider asking your current university (or your supervisor) if they think the content of the course in question looks worthwhile; how would *they* view an applicant who included it on their CV?

I'd also second Brmgdude's suggestions - there are other ways to boost your teaching CV in addition to formal 'adjunct' teaching. You could perhaps try seeing if there's a mentoring scheme for UG or PGT students at your university? My institution encourages PGR students to help mentor PGT dissertations, for example.

Hope that helps a bit!

18-Mar-15, 15:53
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 5 years ago
Hi everyone,

Thanks a lot for your replies. I don't need to commit to paying for the course yet so I might see how the first two weeks go. But having read your replies, I'm inclined to just do it for my own interest and not pay for the official certificate. As I mentioned, we do have formal teacher training in my uni but I'll have to wait until January to start.

Mentoring sounds like a good idea...I'll look into that. My university is known for not providing much opportunity for teaching at PhD level because one of their selling points is UGs/PGs being taught by lecturers/professors. My dept is also really small and we have a really low staff:student ratio (5 staff for 11 PGT/PGR students). My husband suggested tutoring secondary school students, which he does part-time while doing PhD research but I'm worried about the time commitment (and dealing with teenagers!).

Much to ponder...thanks again for your help!


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