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Is it of any value to mention a course one is following on www.coursera.org, in a SOP?

For instance, if I have a Bachelor of Computer Science and want to apply for a Geoinformatics Master program, would it help my application at all to mention that I am currently following a Geoinformatics course on coursera.org to get familiar with the field?

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I don't think it would necessarily hurt your application. However, if you have a limited number of words for your SOP, I think a better use of space would be to explain why exactly you want to obtain a degree in geoinformatics. Your Master's coursework will give you all the background (and probably more) that you need in the field, so it might be better to explain your motivation behind applying for the degree in the first place. Of course, if the Coursera course was a primary driver in your decision, that is highly relevant and should be mentioned.

  • The statement of purpose I have received has a list of questions, and one of them is: "Describe your computer skills", after describing all the programming languages I know, I realized that I still have a lot of space to write, so I was wondering whether that's a good place to mention a course I'm currently following on Coursera to show that I really am very motivated to start my studies in this track that is more or less new for me. – l.. Jan 3 '15 at 17:40
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    If the course fits into that section, you can mention it as another example of what is in your academic toolbox. I would be a little careful with the "I have space so I should fill it" approach though. While it is not ideal to say too little, it is also not ideal to say things that don't meaningfully add to your application. In your case, mentioning the Coursera course is likely relevant to your application, and since you have the space, go ahead and mention it. – Florian D'Souza Jan 3 '15 at 17:45
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I'm familiar with a couple of the geospatial-themed MOOCs offered by coursera. Mentioning in your statement that you're following the class would show initiative and a genuine interest in the subject (good things in grad school). However, I would emphasize on mentioning the topics or areas of GIS or geospatial computing that during the MOOC caught your attention, rather than just stating that you signed up and followed the class. If you completed the MOOC and earned a statement of accomplishment, I'd certainly mention it as well.

P.S. I'm currently in academia and working as a geospatial professional.

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