MOOCs: Free, Ivy-League Education

The quote “once you stop learning, you start dying” is attributed to the great inventor Albert Einstein. The sentiment is a good reminder for those who put their educational pursuits on hold last year when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic swept across the world. You may have been thinking about increasing your knowledge in any number of areas: human resources, project management or accounting. It is time to pick up where you left off and decide how to appropriate your 2021 training budget for quality education. One option to consider is a Massive Open Online Course, referred to in shorthand as a MOOC. A MOOC is a cost-effective resource that offers online, university-grade education. You would be surprised what is available at your fingertips!

MOOCs originated with the idealistic view of making education available to all utilizing modern technology. In 2002, MIT was the first institution to make courses available via the internet. MOOCs didn’t gain public recognition until the course “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” was co-taught by a professor at Stanford University and a research director at Google. Within just a few weeks of the class’s 2011 launch 160,000 participants had registered!

The most impressive aspect of MOOCs is that they are often taught by elite institutions and usually free of charge. While participants are not given college credit or certifications (though many MOOCs offer this benefit for an upcharge) attendees do gain top-notch education. This means that you and your colleagues can enroll in courses taught by professors from institutions like Harvard University and Columbia University, free of charge. Classes are offered weekly like a traditional course and include some sort of connectivity like a social forum or peer connection board to relate to your peers. MOOC courses are only offered for a limited time, so it is wise to sign up for an interesting class when it becomes available.

There are a number of platforms that host MOOCs. A few of the most popular sites to investigate include Coursera, edX, and Future Learn. A perusal of highly ranked courses available early this year includes Introduction to Data Science through the University of Michigan, Fundamentals of Graphic Design by the California Institute of the Arts, and Stanford’s Introduction to Food and Health. And courses are not just for those who want to increase their business knowledge – classes also address personal interests like Buddhism and songwriting, for example.

Whether you are assessing options for yourself or your company, there is no time like the present to take advantage of free courses offered by top institutions via MOOCs. Jump on the education bandwagon!

Originally featured in UBA’s March 2021 HR Elements Newsletter.