The Arizona Republic newspaper recently ran a front-page article by Anne Ryman about the explosive growth of MOOCs. MOOCs is an acronym for “Massive Open Online Courses.” These are free online classes that are available to anyone with an Internet connection. Courses are offered by more than a two dozen universities including Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. The article points out those universities are offering MOOCs as a way to expand awareness of what these schools have to offer to potential students.
Many of the available courses relate to business or technology and represent a great opportunity for entrepreneurs who wish to broaden or deepen their experience in, say, organizational management or computer science. With MOOCs, students will not get college credit or be able to earn a degree, but still, “this might be attractive as a way to check out the latest developments in their career fields” wrote Ms Ryman. Many of the courses are self-paced (for example master of education), while others have a specific beginning and ending date.
Private companies that may or may not be affiliated with a university act as consolidators “by offering online platforms where the courses are housed.” Coursera is a perfect example, offering access to hundreds of classes. Here are three examples:
- Networks: Friends, Money and Bytes – Princeton University. “A course driven by 20 practical questions about wireless, web, and the Internet, about how products from companies like apple Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Ericcson, HP, Skype, and AT&T work.”
- Biology Meets Programming: Bioinformatics for Beginners – University of California, San Diego. “This course will cover algorithms for solving various biological problems along with a handful of programming challenges helping you implement these algorithms in Python. It offers a gently-paced introduction to our Bioinformatics Specialization, preparing learners to take the first course in the Specialization, Finding Hidden Messages in DNA”
- Organizational Analysis – Stanford University. “In this introductory course, you will learn multiple theories of organizational behavior and apply them to actual cases of organizational change.”
We visited two other websites. One is EdX, a not-for-profit enterprise founded and owned by Harvard University and MIT. The site says that it “features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. EdX points out that in return for offering the courses for free, they will use the student experience to ‘research how students learn and how technology can transform learning.’”
Another MOOC site we reviewed is called Udacity which seems to offer a terrific number of business and technology classes similar to the ones highlighted above. The Udacity site says that it was “founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online.” It goes on to say that over 160,000 students in over 190 countries enrolled in their first class, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.”
We realize that most entrepreneurs will say that they don’t have enough hours in the day to run their businesses let alone take a course. That may be true, but we thought that we ought to at least expose you to this very cool, very free opportunity.
If one of your resolutions for 2013 was to learn something new, there are a lot of great opportunities for you to choose from!