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by Rachel Marx Boufford | January 14, 2013


You know LOL, BRB and even YOLO, but have you heard of MOOCs?

A MOOC, or massive open online course, is an online class characterized by its open enrollment policies and large scale. Unlike most traditional online courses, MOOCs are free of charge and do not limit enrollment in any way—generally, no registration or application to the school is necessary.

So far, schools like Harvard, MIT, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania have signed up to offer these free courses, which include game theory, calculus, computer programming, Greek literature and copyright law. Students across the globe and of any income level have access to these courses, which are taught by the same professors that teach full-time enrolled students at these top schools. At the end of the course, students will have the opportunity to earn a certificate of completion (currently free of charge; there are plans to charge a “modest fee” for certificates in the future).

So exactly what kind of courses are out there—and how can you use them to get a head start on your job search?

Foundations of Computer Graphics (offered by UC Berkeley Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi via Edx)

Ever thought of making a career out of all those hours spent playing Call of Duty? A career in video game development might sound like a fantasy, but it’s actually a growing—and lucrative—field. And if you have a background in Java and/or C++, this course will teach you how to create images of 3D scenes in real-time. With a “BerkeleyX” certificate in hand, you’ll have a leg up on competitors for 3D programming gigs.

Become a Startup Founder (offered through Udemy)

Have a unique idea for a new company but not sure how to get it off the ground? The curriculum for this course is based on a similar program run by the Founder Institute, which bills itself as the “World’s Largest Startup Accelerator.” The course covers everything from initial research and legal issues to hiring, firing and fundraising. Most exciting, however, is the lineup of course instructors, which includes the founders of, Evernote and Razorfish. (Note: unlike other MOOCs, this course does have a fee).

Microeconomics for Managers (offered by UC Irvine Professor Richard McKenzie via Coursera)

Already working in business development, sales or customer service? This course, which provides an overview of economic principles that can be applied to everyday business problems, might give you the background you need to make a case for a promotion at work. The course also provides a glimpse into what MBA-level coursework is like, making it a good choice for students considering a graduate program.

Have you ever tried a MOOC? What was your experience like?