It is a welcome development that more Singaporeans are signing up for short online courses that benefit their careers. This trend is seen, for example, in enrolment to such professional modules at online learning provider Coursera, which grew by 42 per cent in 2022, compared with 2021. Courses that are popular with Singapore learners include those leading to certificates in data analytics and project management from tech giants such as Google and IBM. These programmes are generally known as micro-credentials because they are of shorter duration – typically taking only three to 12 months to complete – and are recognised by industries. That more self-motivated Singaporeans are signing up for these courses fits in with the Government’s attempts to get citizens to upgrade their skills constantly.
MOOCs, or massive open online courses, seek to democratise education by making knowledge available to all who have access to a computer. Just as how new, often niche, industries created fresh economic and social paradigms by disrupting traditional business models, MOOCs invaded the traditional bastions of higher learning – universities – by throwing classroom doors wide open to global audiences. A major attraction of many of the courses was that they were free. One study, however, found that while 10 per cent or fewer students tended to complete free courses, paid courses that grant certificates or degrees ranged from 40 per cent to 90 per cent in terms of completion rates. Clearly, those who pay for courses have a greater interest in earning certification that they can use to advance their careers.