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Making the Most of MOOCs

eLearning Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

MOOC 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 dozens of universities including Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. These 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:

  • Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) – University of Michigan. “This course aims to teach everyone the basics of programming computers using Python. We cover the basics of how one constructs a program from a series of simple instructions in Python.”
  • 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.”

Also, another interesting example is RareSkills. This is a unique platform that offers various courses designed to help individuals develop their skillset in programming, cybersecurity, web development, blockchain engineering, and more. With courses ranging from beginner to expert levels, RareSkills has something for everyone. They also employ industry experts and specialists to ensure that all their course material is up-to-date and covers the essential topics within each field. Whether you’re looking to level up your programming skills or learn the basics of blockchain engineering, RareSkills is the ideal platform to help you get started.”

One more great example is Codecademy, a site dedicated to teaching web coding skills to beginners. The interactive tutorials walk you through the basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python, and Ruby. Most lessons only take a few minutes and are accompanied by a discussion forum so you can get help from fellow students if you get stuck.

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!

Jimmy's background includes over 40 years in international, commercial, and investment banking, and nearly a decade as the principal shareholder and CEO of a rapidly growing manufacturing and distribution business in California. Today, Jimmy spends his time advising and consulting with entrepreneurs on matters related to business planning, as well as capital markets and funding strategies. Jimmy works with clients throughout the world in industries that include financial services, real estate, manufacturing and hospitality. View details.

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