Has your accountant ever scolded you about how much you’re spending on continuing education? If this hasn’t happened to you, don’t laugh: I’ve had several clients who told me versions of this story. If so, congratulations, you are an avid learner with a vigilant accountant!
Many of the clients I work with are curious about all kinds of topics for all kinds of reasons: a university business professor
studied information design in order to write better textbooks, a professional organizer studied coaching skills to help clients get more lasting results, a coach studied positive psychology to develop a better scientific understanding of why lasting change can be so hard and what she could do to make it easier for her clients.
If you’re a curious, life-long learner, you know how valuable education can be, and how expensive.
Enter the MOOC. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. You can read about the history of MOOCs (you bring curiosity to everything, don’t you?), but for now let me introduce just a few basic principles.
Most MOOCs are advanced courses that originated in a bricks-and-mortarboard university. They use video lectures, video demonstrations, reading assignments, peer critique, online discussion boards, and quizzes to create a learning environment based on a university classroom. But, though there may be prerequisites for certain courses, there is no entrance exam.
MOOCs are free. That’s the “open” part of open online course. Some courses may require that you buy textbooks or software, and some companies offer an optional certificate for a fee, but there is no tuition for a MOOC. It is open to anyone who wants to enroll.
The students access the courses asynchronously, that is, you don’t have to show up according to a schedule. People in any time zone in the world can participate in the same course. Last year I completed a MOOC in business ethics, and one enlightening feature of the course was the cultural inflections that students in India, Ireland, the United States, and Mexico each brought to the question of ethical responsibilities in the workplace.
Many courses are self-paced, so you can take as much or as little time as you need to complete a lesson, though some of them do follow a semester schedule, with new information released at set times and deadlines for quizzes and assignments.
Courses are as varied as a university curriculum. In fact, because a course, once built, may be offered repeatedly, many MOOCs are able to offer more varied courses at any given time than a live university could afford to make available.
What courses you register for will depend on the growing edges of your business and the gaps that remain in your own education. Here are a few you may want to consider:
- Introduction to Finance, taught by Dr. Gautam Kaul, University of Michigan
a 15-week course requiring six to eight hours per week, with the next session beginning October, 2015
- Project Management: The Basics for Success, taught by Rob Stone, University of California–Irvine
- Introduction to Public Speaking, taught by Dr. Matt McCarrity, University of Washington
- Entrepreneurship 102: What can you do for your customer?, taught by Bill Aulet, MIT Sloan School of Management
Have you taken an online course? What was your experience? Are there some MOOC offerings that have you lunging for the “Register Now” button? Leave a comment here.