Opinion: How MOOCs can be game-changers in battling post-graduation depression.

I became a living embodiment of this dreadful, millennial, quarter-life crisis.

I chose to receive my diploma by mail instead of walking at the graduation ceremony (Aren’t they overrated?).

I was hardly motivated to look for a job.

I failed to follow-up with recruiters that I met at career fairs and refused to apply for jobs online.

I was confounded and so were the people around me.

I didn’t have to go on a 3-month, off-the-grid, soul-searching vacation to figure out why I wasn’t happy after graduation.

To me, the answer was pretty glaring — I was extremely dissatisfied with myself and wanted a change in my career’s trajectory.

I vividly remember my interviews with Apple for a Systems Engineer position.

I found myself mentally declining to work with topics such as C-programming and Operating Systems.

I am well aware that a significant portion of people in tech start as Systems / Software Engineers, but I couldn’t convince myself I was capable.

“Grad school to me wasn’t about formulaic steps anymore — choose a field, do tough courses, and bag a job in the Bay Area with a 6-figure salary.

It became a journey of self-discovery and ultimately freedom to learn.

”The final straw was a graduate-level introductory course on Machine Learning that I took during my last semester.

It turned my head towards a new and an exciting world.

Grad school to me wasn’t about formulaic steps anymore — choose a field, do tough courses, and bag a job in the Bay Area with a 6-figure salary.

It became a journey of self-discovery and ultimately freedom to learn.

This lengthy process of self-reflection began late and was remarkably painful.

After graduation, I chose to stay at Carnegie Mellon as a Research Associate specializing in Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing, a field which is so inter-disciplinary, that purists would go insane.

An informal verbal contract with my advisor was that I would primarily work with Mobile App development and on the side maybe he’d let me experiment with Data Science research projects.

Excited, I set my eyes upon expanding my almost absent Data Science skillset and said hello to the OMSCS.

I finished my Statement of Purpose on an overnight Greyhound bus journey from New York City to Pittsburgh.

Getting in was somewhat easy as I had the relevant experience.

In 2018, I completed two courses — Big Data for Health (BD4H) and Machine Learning for Trading(ML4T) — over two consecutive semesters.

And, I would say that the experience has been reasonably positive.

By the end of the summer in 2018, I started feeling a lot more comfortable with Data Science-y jargon and picked up great industry skills.

My advisor was happy seeing me take initiatives and produce results in research projects.

Working one course per semester during the early stages of the program helped me maintain my calm, understand and absorb the material better.

I feel more focused and happy about my career now.

Now, would all this have been possible if I had taken the usual route and went back to grad school full-time?Quite frankly, no!.I wouldn’t have laid my eyes on this program if it weren’t for the affordability factor.

As a simple comparison, OMSCS costs $511 per hour, while other non-online offerings from schools of the same quality could cost 10 to 15 times more.

I accrued a debt of $36,000 at my previous school despite a great scholarship, and going back to study full-time would have been a $50,000 mistake.

“It is not precarious anymore to envision a meritocratic world wherein one doesn’t feel financial stress and learning new skills is merely dependent on interest and time invested.

”What I say next, to my knowledge, can only be backed by anecdotal evidence.

My hunch is that the pervasiveness of Educational Technologies (ex MOOCs, Micro-Masters, online degrees) is revolutionizing how education is perceived, as we speak.

It is not precarious anymore to envision a meritocratic world wherein one doesn’t feel financial stress and learning new skills is merely dependent on interest and time invested.

This phenomenon will bring in plenty of benefits for students, employees and even institutions.

Artificial Intelligence, essentially an interdisciplinary field, will be able to pull in enough domain-experts and speed up the modernization of existing technologies.

Low wage employees with plans to change careers will switch between jobs less frequently, owing to affordable coursework.

Universities will be able to boost their diversity by offering globally accessible programs at all educational levels.

This, for the most part, has been a personal recount of how debt-free online education helped me.

As is often the case with other sufferers of a similar kind of post-graduation depression, they stick to their jobs and secretly dislike them for far too long.

But thanks to the rapid pace at which MOOCs are improving, the three impediments to adoption or the 3 A’s: Availability, Affordability, and Acceptance, are now looking more like low-hanging fruit.

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