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MIT To Launch Free ‘Work Of The Future’ Course

The future of work is one of the hottest topics of our time. From automation to 5G, the way individuals work and the way companies operate are changing — and will only change more in the coming years and decades.

“Many activities that workers carry out today have the potential to be automated,” reads a McKinsey Global Institute report from May 2017. “At the same time, job-matching sites such as LinkedIn and Monster are changing and expanding the way individuals look for work and the way companies identify and recruit talent. Independent workers are increasingly choosing to offer their services on digital platforms including Upwork, Uber, and Etsy and, in the process, challenging conventional ideas about how and where work is undertaken.

“For policy makers, business leaders, and workers themselves, these shifts create considerable uncertainty, alongside the potential benefits.”

Virtually all blue chip consulting firms — including McKinsey, BCG, Bain & Company, Deloitte, and PwC — have recently put together robust reports on the future of work. Organizations and media outlets alike have been frantically throwing together events around the topic, and most recently, a few business schools have introduced their own courses on it, too.


Thomas Kochan. MIT photo

One of these, MIT Sloan School of Management’s eight-week course Shaping Work of the Future, is set to launch on March 19 and is free to anyone in the world with a computer and Internet connection. The course, offered through MITx via the edX, is totally free unless participants would like a certificate, in which case a $49 fee is required.

“The goal of this course is to explore the relationship between new technologies such as AI and robotics, work, and society more broadly, and develop plans of action for improving the job and career opportunities for today and tomorrow’s workforce,” the MIT course’s webpage reads. “If we take the right actions, we can shape the future of work in ways that meet the needs of workers, families, and their economies and societies.

“To do so, we first have to understand how work is changing, how firms can compete and prosper and support good jobs and careers, and how to update the policies, institutions, and practices governing the world of work.”

Harvard Business School, meanwhile, will launch a similar course for executives in October called Managing the Future of Work. That four-day residency course costs $10,000. HBS also launched a similar semester-long course for its full-time MBA program in 2017.


The Sloan School has been among the elite business schools that have pioneered research on the future of work over the past decade or so. Last spring, MIT took its efforts a step forward by establishing a Task Force on the Work of the Future.

“The remarkable progression of innovations that imbue machines with human and superhuman capabilities is generating significant uncertainty and deep anxiety about the future of work,” the Task Force’s website reads. “Whether and how our current period of technological disruption differs from prior industrial epochs is a source of vigorous debate. But there is no question that we face an urgent sense of collective concern about how to harness these technological innovations for social benefit.”

The course will be co-led by Thomas Kochan, a management professor who co-directs the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research, and Elisabeth Reynolds, director of the Task Force on the Work of the Future.

“If we take the right actions, we can shape the future of work in ways that meet the needs of new and seasoned workers, families, and their economies and societies,” Kochan said in a prepared statement from the school. “To do so, we first need to understand how work is changing, how firms can compete and prosper while still supporting good jobs and careers, and how to update the policies, institutions, and practices governing the world of work.”

MIT’s Shaping Work of the Future is expected to take four to five hours of work per week, with one class session each week for eight weeks.