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Wharton Doubles Down On MOOCs

Wharton School of Business

Wharton School of Business

Wharton Doubles Down on MOOCs

It’s never easy being a first adopter. You invest the money, create a methodology and delivery platform, and work out the bugs. For that, the critics single you out, all while your competitors build off of your hard-earned lessons (courtesy of the employees that they poached from you). Being first is risky and thankless. In the end, you’re often a footnote.

Alas, the Wharton School of Business hasn’t fallen into this trap. When it comes to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), Wharton is still the innovator and the leader. And everyone else – even Harvard and Stanford – are well-behind their lead.

For Wharton, it is full speed ahead on MOOCs. Some schools like Darden, which recently launched Ed Freeman’s popular “New Models of Business in Society” course, are dipping their toes into the MOOC pool. But most are taking a wait-and-see approach. As Peter Rodriguez, senior associate dean for degree programs at Darden, tells The Wall Street Journal: “We are all closely watching each other in this early phase of MOOCs and digital innovation.”

MOOCs are a long-term investment for Wharton, which delivered its first MOOC course in 2012. To date, the school has produced 15 MOOCs, including foundational course, that have attracted 1.5 million participants. Although it costs the school between $20,000-$50,000 to develop each MOOC course, it does not charge for them, instead receiving a portion of the $49 fee that Coursera, their platform,  charges students who want to receive a certificate.

Instead, Wharton is playing the long game, foregoing quantifiable revenue in hopes of becoming the brand name in MOOCs. In fact, the school’s ambition is to become “the authoritative source of knowledge about business,” according to Karl Ulrich, vice dean of innovation and a professor of operations and information management at Wharton.

Still, there is plenty of work to be done. Ulrich tells The Wall Street Journal that the school is learning through trial and error, noting that “the most successful courses don’t try to replicate the classroom experience.” And Mauro Guillén, whose “Analyzing Global Trends for Business and Society” started earlier this week, adds that MOOCs are graduate school lite, noting that the on-campus version of his class has four times as many readings. What’s more, not all Wharton faculty have embraced MOOCs, according to Guillén. Many are waiting “to see how well the pioneers do,” he says.

But MOOCs are gaining ground regardless. As Wharton looks to eventually move a quarter of its MBA content online, according to Ulrich, MOOCs are serving as a laboratory for what works and what doesn’t in the online space. In the end, that can only benefit Wharton students and the general public at large.

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Source: The Wall Street Journal