I thought this post was saved on squarespace, but apparently not. I will hold the tears back with this thought in mind - how similar will this post be to the original?

Having just re-purposed the website a little bit I had planned on jumping right into innovation with my next post, but some interactions in the past few weeks grabbed my attention.

Most people I interact with in person have no idea what a MOOC is. I’ll save you some valuable seconds. MOOC = Massive open online course. Given how many students enroll in these classes, it was a surprise most don’t know what they are, but the geographic distribution is pretty high. 

We are talking over 100,000 students in some cases.

Are they all active? No. Do they all complete the class? A strong negatory to that…pardon the Wreck-It Ralph reference.

The completion rate is pretty low, but I'm not sure what that tells us. Check out this Harvard Gazette post for more insights. After some thinking, I can probably count the number of people I have met that already knew what a MOOC is.

So, why should everyone know what a MOOC is?

MOOC’s provide a potential glimpse of higher education’s future.

I’m not going to go into tremendous detail on what they are as educause does a good job here. I’m going to focus on my experience in taking MOOC’s and what I believe they can do. I’ve completed 8 so far and most were in 2014, the year of the MOOC for me.

If you’re trying to brush up your skills, meet new people, change careers, or find out what interests you, MOOC’s are for you. 

There are thousands and thousands of MOOC’s covering a variety of subjects including art, music, engineering and business.

The real opportunities are for people, particularly high school students, to find out what they’re interested in and providers to start testing personalized learning paths and new learning models.  

While there is certainly a risk that a person's interests will change over the course of his/her life, why spend years, tears, and sweat over a major that holds no interest? 

Higher education is way too expensive to be “figuring things out” and the increasing pace of change only makes MOOC's more appealing.

There’s no pressure to finish...unless you paid for it of course. Prices vary, but you'll generally be paying $49 - $150 if you want something spiffy to show for it. Sometimes you can get a statement of accomplishment for free, but that seems to be getting rarer. Other times you can select "auditing" the course, which is just a poor choice of words for test driving a course. 

Most courses are about 6 to 8 weeks, but I've seen some as little as 4 and as many as 13 weeks. The workload can be anywhere from 1 to 8 hours per week or maybe even more. You get what you put in as the forums can be a place for some good dialogue. However, if the engagement is high, that's a lot of posts to read through. 

Do you get college credit?

In most cases, no. This is a major obstacle and something that higher ed institutions are hesitant to provide. 

What can you get?

Coursera is offering specializations, which are a collection of classes and certificates in a specific area. Udacity has nanodegrees. They’re particularly interesting because most of the courses are driven or developed by companies such as facebook, google, etc. I’m not sure how much they recruit from that pool, but you have to imagine that this helps them vet people out.

Coursera certificates start at $49. The market value on these are up in the air. I reckon that since most people don’t what a MOOC is, they don’t how to value it. It’s not something I would list on a resume at this point, but definitely on LinkedIn. At the very least it shows you’re curious and looking to learn, some very underappreciated qualities given where the world is heading. 

So, if by some miracle you’re ready to sign up for a MOOC after my less than stellar rundown thus far, you may be asking yourself, where do I start?

One of the best places to start is Coursetalk. There may be some other websites that try to consolidate the MOOC world, but Coursetalk has met most of my needs. They try to list all of the MOOC’s from the most popular platforms such as Udacity, Coursera, edX, and udemy just to name very few. More importantly they provide reviews from students that have taken the class. This is like amazon or tripadvisor, so the quality of the review will vary.

It's worth noting that Coursera, edX, and Udacity offer courses from universities or university professors while udemy is more of a free market where anyone can teach a course. Personally, I have only completed courses on Coursera and most exceeded my expectations. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business does a particularly great job with its Intro to Marketing course. LMU's (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) Competitive Strategy course and University of Minnesota's Creative Problem Solving course are well done. 

On a final related note – the tipping point of change is on the horizon. We don't when it's going to happen, but it will. Either customers will demand a change or a provider will surface that offers a better value than the current system for both students and employers. Quite frankly, neither are really getting what they need from the experience resulting in underutilized talent and resources. 

In the meantime I can see universities essentially outsourcing their basic core classes to MOOC’s. This would significantly reduce the cost of higher ed. It could also help students graduate more quickly while learning to work in an online world.

More on this topic in another post. One thing is for certain, higher ed is ripe for disruption. And I don’t necessarily mean the Clayton Christensen kind. Yet another topic for discussion. 

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