Are online courses helpful while applying to foreign universities?
During this pandemic, lots of students are seen doing online courses form different online learning platforms like Coursera, Edx, Udemy, Datacamp, Alison etc. These courses are offered in collaboration with the top ranked universities around the world. Within the near future, e-learning is going to grow faster and become more and more popular.
Now, a common question appears, and that is whether these courses are worth that much while applying to foreign universities for Masters or PhD level.
Most of the online courses are designed for university students so that they can learn something outside of their course curriculum. Let me make it clear to you. Suppose, you are a student of Physics or Mathematics and you want to learn Python programming which is not covered in your academic courses. Then these online platforms are amazing scopes where you can do this and gain knowledge on your favorite topic. Moreover, you get flexibility here a lot and you can watch the lecture videos according to your convenient schedule as many times as you want.
Today’s writing is about whether these courses are helpful when we apply to foreign universities or to any job. The easy answer is if your completed course is relevant to your intended program, then of course it is helpful. As I mentioned earlier, say your undergraduate major was physics or mathematics and you want to study computer science for masters or PhD. If you complete some courses on programming or related fields, then these will add value to your profile, and doing courses on programming exposes that you have interest in computer science. You can mention it in your motivation letter and your intended university authority will understand that you have passion for computer science.
Similarly, suppose you are an engineering background student and now you are thinking of doing MBA or masters in business or finance. Then certainly you can complete some courses on economics, finance, accounting or leadership from these platforms.
It is not that online courses are helpful only for those who want to switch their fields. When we apply for masters or PhD at any foreign university, generally we choose a stream or concentration. For example, you have completed honors in Physics and now, you want to pursue masters in Astronomy. There is a course “Astronomy: Time and Space” offered by University of Arizona at Coursera and you can complete this course. Doing this will help you a lot to convince the professor and admission committee. Most important thing is, if you have lower grades, you can take online courses that are relevant to your intended program and that will enrich your profile to a great extent.
Apart from that, anyone irrespective of his or her undergraduate major can do some skill based courses like Excel, SPSS or graphics design and these are really helpful while applying for TA or RA positions.
You need to remember that when you apply to foreign universities, the professor might have video conversation with you and here, he will ask about these courses. He will try to understand whether you have adequate knowledge as mentioned in the online certificates which you provided and if you cannot satisfy, then it will create a negative impact on you.
So if I concise, I would say that if your completed online courses are relevant to your field of study, then you can add those in your CV as additional skills and it will enrich your profile. Online learning platforms are most suitable in case of learning programming languages like python, C, R, MATLAB etc. But the thing is not like that a student of literature somehow completed courses on programming and then employers will hire him, because programming languages, in no way, are related to his subject. Most importantly, these online courses are never alternative to the courses that you take at your university.
A G M Alamgir Tipu, Intern/YSSE