Fingers crossed

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Fingers crossed

In 2013, a 17-year-old Indian boy surprised the world. He was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after taking massive open online courses (MOOC) jointly offered by MIT and Harvard. He got 97 points on Circuits and Electronics. A professor who was impressed by his activities in the forum gave him a recommendation. This is the power of distance learning.

The origin of distance learning lies in the correspondence courses that began in the 1890s in the United States. Exams and packets were exchanged via post. It was a groundbreaking idea, but it came with time and spatial limits.

Now, distance learning has come very far. There are countless elementary, secondary and higher education online courses, and universities around the world competing with lectures without borders. In 2011, Stanford University and others opened their courses online, and MOOCs were launched in earnest in 2012.

The field is now dominated by Udacity, a venture company; Coursera, which got investments from a Silicon Valley company, and edX, which was created by Harvard and MIT. These three providers offer more than 3,500 courses.

MOOCs are expanding into many fourth industrial revolution fields such as AI, IoT, augmented reality and clouds. Udacity offers short-term skill-oriented “nanodegree” programs and industry-recognized credentials. Udacity also offers 18 courses in partnership with 30 companies, including Google and IBM. They strictly focus on skills required at workplaces and cost about $200.

The Ministry of Education is benchmarking these successes and wants to introduce a Korean version of nanodegrees. University students and job seekers who complete six-month-long courses and get credentials will get credit when applying for jobs. From next year, the ministry will allocate funds to help educational institutes and companies offer professional courses like those on Udacity.

The ministry says that companies will be able to find applicants with skills required for specific positions and job seekers will be able to acquire relevant skills in actual workplaces.

The idea is great, but some job seekers are anxious. Despite the blind screening process, they may have to worry about one more thing when nanodegrees are available. As they are not free, some who cannot afford the tuition may be disadvantaged. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education is certain that the opportunity to acquire relevant knowledge and skills for jobs at a low cost will save applicants from having to fill their résumés with unnecessary skills. I truly hope that the new program is a success.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 13, Page 35

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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