At the University of Memphis, there is not a good course offering on writing skills for graduate students. In my anecdotal and formal evaluation experiences, poor written and verbal communication skills are a serious deficit for our college graduates. There are a half-dozen or so MOOC offerings that address written communication on various levels. I came across one called High Impact Business Writing reviewed the overall content and thought the offering was appropriate for one of my students in particular. I then noted that the course was part of a Career Readiness specialization of offerings that seemed to address aspects of training the student would find useful based on their career interest in museum administration.
When I reviewed the suite of nine courses in the specialization, I realized that much of the content expands on what I now cover with all of my advisees in our biweekly workshop meetings. I began meeting with my student advisees biweekly because:
- I found that I was having to repeat discussions with each of the graduate students whose committee I now chair, so we started meeting as a group to better use my time and for the students to learn from each other.
- I see my job as their advisor to not just guide them through the graduate program to get a degree but also prepare them for jobs when they graduate. Most students are poorly prepared for this part of their career. They know how to get an A in class but are less skilled at writing a cover letter for a job application. (Anecdotally, our workshop cover letter discussions have resulted in students getting paid internships at the Met in New York, solid full-time employment, scholarships, etc.)
I recommended to one student that they consider completing the Career Readiness specialization offering this past summer. At $350.00, that is about the cost of one graduate course credit at the U of M. We discussed what the specialization means on a resume. I noted that if one were applying for a job in higher education, perhaps not much. But if one were applying for a position, where the importance is less the degree and more what you can do the first day on the job, I am convinced that such micro-credentials are becoming increasingly meaningful.
In this way, I continue to consider MOOCs as a supplement but not replacement for current higher education models. In fact, perhaps MOOCs allow traditional higher education institutions to stop trying to do things they are not doing well, have MOOCs take on that role, and allow higher education to focus on what they are currently good at.
I asked the student to give me a candid blurb about their experience with the Career Readiness specialization. They responded:
The Coursera MOOC’s on the career specialization track have been very useful and enriching. Learning professional business strategies will assist me in my future career and these courses have offered a wonderful outline of the skills needed. I found the financial and leadership courses to be the most helpful.
The Career Readiness specialization seems an excellent example of how micro-credentials can work.