You had to know the time was coming. The proposition always seemed too good to be true. Free courses taught by renowned faculty? How could they afford that?
Indeed, MOOCs democratized higher education. Whether you hailed from Taipei or Toronto, you only needed an internet connection to join. Rich or poor, you weren’t required to shell out big bucks – and you would gain access to the professors and ideas that had once been available only to the select few who could get into a highly selective university. Young or old, you could forego those required courses, learning what you wanted when it was convenient for you.
THE FREE LUNCH IS OVER
Now, MOOCs have matured and reached the proverbial pivot point. Now, an old axiom rings as true as ever: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” This fall, you’ll find a proliferation of “specializations” on Coursera, the largest and most recognizable provider of MOOCs. Here, students can earn a certificate by completing a series of three-to-five paid courses and completing a capstone project (i.e. conducting a presentation or partnering with a company to produce a deliverable for them). Generally, courses are priced at $79-$95, with specializations costing roughly $400-$500 in total (and taking up to six months to complete).
For example, the University of Michigan, home to one of the world’s top business schools, is offering a “Leading People and Teams” specialization. It encompasses four classes (“Inspiring and Motivating Individuals,” “Managing People,” “Influencing People,” and “Leading Teams”) plus a capstone for the cost of $595. And they aren’t alone. You’ll also find leading business schools getting into the act, including Duke (Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business), Northwestern (Social Media Marketing), the University of Virginia (Business Strategy), HEC Paris (Inspirational Leadership: Leading with Sense), Copenhagen Business School (Strategic Management and Innovation), and ESSEC (Strategic Business Analytics). Only last month Wharton debuted its second specialization in Business Analytics to teach the basics of Big Data and how data is used to make business decisions. This new series of four courses follows Wharton’s Business Foundation specialization and features a capstone project with Yahoo!
Perhaps the emergence of specializations is a positive sign. More than a reckoning, it reflects a professionalization of MOOCs. In the free model – just 15% of students finished their courses according to Katy Jordan, an educational researcher who tracks MOOC completion rates. With student skin now in the game, such specializations will likely boost these rates – while providing MOOC providers with more reliable revenue streams. The capstone project – a staple in most business programs – adds an experiential angle for students. Not to mention, students can still take specialization courses ala carte, retaining the flexibility that made MOOCs such a runaway hit among students in recent years.
A VAST ARRAY OF FREE COURSES START THIS MONTH FROM TOP UNIVERSITIES
Of course, the vast majority of MOOCs are still free. And this month’s courses cover a wide range of disciplines. On the soft side, the London Business School is offering “Brand Management: Aligning Business, Brand and Behaviour,” a unique course that tackles branding from an operational, rather than a creative, perspective. The University of California-Berkeley has partnered with Philanthropy University to produce “How to Scale Social Impact,” a course designed to teach strategic thinking skills to enhance the value and scope of student efforts in the social sector. Wharton also returns with its famed “Introduction to Marketing” MOOC, part of its core courses for first-year MBAs. And several old favorites, featuring topics like international leadership, entrepreneurship, and fund-raising, also return for another round.
On the hard side, the University of Illinois introduces “Operations Management,” which will vie with Wharton’s “Introduction to Operations Management” for students. The University of Michigan returns with “Model Thinking,” among the best-reviewed business MOOCs on CourseTalk. The Indian Institute of Management is also releasing “Introduction to Managerial Economics,” which focuses on how economic trend shape corporate decision-making at all levels. Wharton has also recycled its “More Introduction to Financial Accounting,” to provide a deeper dive for students interested in financial accounting. In addition, you’ll also enjoy free courses in private equity, venture capital finance, and Federal Reserve basics.
To learn more about these courses – and register for them – click on the links below. To learn about the specializations, go to the “Additional Courses” link.
Marketing and Management
Finance and Operations