Bootstrap Business School

boots

 

If you’ve been following this blog and the No-Pay MBA project, you may be curious about how things are going with the No-Pay MBA Network that launched in July.

If you’re just finding us, here’s the 5-second recap: My name is Laurie, and I’m using MOOCs to get an education equivalent to an MBA. I recently launched a networking service for MOOC business students, to replicate what many people see as the most valuable component of a traditional MBA program.

The network has been going for about two months now, and I am greatly enjoying watching it take shape. The first cohort of the network is in many ways a pilot. Many of the members of the first cohort of the network are themselves interested in entrepreneurship; part of the appeal of being part of the network in its early stages is getting to help build it. In the short time that we’ve been working together, this group of 35 people has already greatly improved upon the initial offering, suggesting and implementing more and better ways to collaborate.

Bootstrapping a business education

In many conversations I’ve had with members of the network, the word that seems to best fit what we’re doing is “bootstrapping.” For those less familiar with the American vernacular, “to pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps” is an expression commonly used to talk about a process of self-betterment undertaken without a lot of outside help.

Pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps is not a new concept; according to Wikipedia, Americans have been using the term since at least the mid-1800s. More recently in business, bootstrapping has come to mean starting a business without external help or capital.

I like to think of the No-Pay MBA Network as a bootstrap model of business school. The members are helping to pull each other up without the external help of an institution. Together, we’re undertaking a process of self-betterment and helping each other to reap the benefits of an MBA education without going thousands of dollars into debt in traditional MBA degree programs.

The bootstrap network effect

One important way we’re helping each other is by acting as one another’s classmates in a virtual business school environment. Network members are connecting through various channels of communication, working on course projects together and helping one another to stay motivated.

Just as in a regular MBA program, there is great value in cultivating a peer network, building strong connections with the future founders and chief executives who are studying alongside you. By connecting with one another early in your careers, the hope is that you will pull one another along, building and sharing in one another’s success. Maybe you join forces and found a company as startup entrepreneurs. Perhaps you or your friend winds up working at a company that the other finds interesting and can offer a personal recommendation. Your peer network is a long-term investment whose value grows over time.

As one member of the No-Pay MBA recently put it, “Over time, our network could lead to successful startups - who knows?! We should always dare to keep on dreaming big, and each and every member is striving to make these dreams a reality as much for his/her fellow No-Pay MBA members as for him-/herself!”

The No-Pay MBA learning laboratory

There is a second way the No-Pay MBA Network is bootstrapping a business education, something I didn’t totally foresee when I first designed the network.

I’m a big believer in hands-on learning. In my opinion, hours spent in the classroom (whether brick-and-mortar or virtual) don’t add up to much unless you’ve had the chance to put your skills into practice. For me, first this blog and now the business have served as my laboratory (in addition to several other hands-on experiences, e.g. as described here and here).

Now, in addition to the benefits of having a community, network members are also finding ways to use No-Pay MBA as a place to practice the skills they are learning in online courses and elsewhere.

One small team is working with me on A/B testing, putting into practice an important concept in digital marketing. Another team is applying concepts from a course on user experience to improve the members area of the website.  All of us are honing our skills in project management, coordinating geographically disparate learning and project teams using a variety of tools. As time goes on, network members will continue to work on projects with one another as of honing their new skills.

One of my goals for the network is to have every member walk away from the experience with a strong portfolio of work to complement and add credibility to their studies.

Much more than MOOCs

So, while MOOCs are the backbone of the No-Pay MBA curriculum, the real value No-Pay MBA is providing to its members (even the early adopters in the first cohort) is in networking and connecting members with hands-on learning experiences. So far, it’s going just fine. 

 

No Pay MBA_Accepting Applications

 

Should you pay for a verified statement of accomplishment? Updated for 2015

 

 

A lot has changed since I last wrote a post on whether you should pay for a verified certificate from a MOOC. If you’re just finding me now, my project is to use massive open online courses – MOOCs – to get an education equivalent to an MBA, at a fraction of the cost of a regular MBA degree. I don’t plan to receive any sort of credential for my studies, but I have sought to publicly demonstrate my efforts and my accomplishments, mainly through this website.

Back when I started my No-Pay MBA, all certificates were free. First Coursera and then edX introduced an identity-verified certificate for a fee, but these two major MOOC providers were still giving away honor-code certificates for free to anyone who completed all the requirements of their courses. At that time, I didn’t see much additional value for an identity-verified certificate over a non-identity verified one. So although I’ve taken over 25 MOOCs to date and have racked up a virtual stack of Statements of Accomplishment and Honor Code Certificates, I haven’t yet paid for a single one .

But things have changed in the world of MOOCs. Coursera is no longer offering free certificates in any of its courses. It’s $49 (or more) for an identity-verified certificate, or no certificate at all. EdX is moving in a similar direction, though in some of their courses it is still possible to get a free Honor Code Certificate. I’m a huge fan of MOOCs and MOOC providers; they’re providing an incredibly valuable service to learners all over the world. Charging for proof that you completed a course seems a smart move on their part. But it does pose a challenge for people like me. 

I’ve set my benchmark at $1000 for a complete MBA education. If you’re going to start paying for certificates for every course, the $1000 MBA education becomes untenable pretty quickly. While I’ve called my project the No-Pay MBA, I’m not at all opposed to paying for elements of the world-class education I’m getting. I am, however, very discerning about how to allocate my scarce resources. If you’re taking an entire degree’s worth of courses and you start paying for certs at $50 a pop, (up to $100 for some courses), before long you’re looking at some serious cash. There is a lot I could do with $4,000, and I’m not sure that spending that money on course certificates is the best use of my money. 

 

Last time I posted on this topic, my contention was that employers and most other people you’d want to present with your MOOC-based studies wouldn’t know the difference between the two kinds of certificates. I stand by that assertion, since I imagine it’s unclear even for many MOOC students.

Let me break it down for you. To receive an identify-verified certificate (which is what both Coursera and edX are selling in their courses), in addition to paying for the certificate the student has to prove their identify on each login to the system. This is done using photos taken by webcam and matched to a government-issued ID. Students also log a typing pattern, for subsequent verification.

As I’ve said before, I’m not sure any employers would dig deep enough to know or care about the difference between verified and non-verified certificates. However, if you claim to have taken courses that make you a more valuable employee, they may very well want to see some sort of proof. Regardless of who you’re hoping to impress, I do see some value in having a certificate to hang on your virtual wall, whether that wall is your LinkedIn profile, your resume, or your portfolio here on No-Pay MBA.

 

So what should you do?

 

Here is my updated advice for MOOC students in the brave new world of no free certificates.

 

Get certificates for some, but not all of your courses

If you’re only planning to take a few courses, you may want to get certificates for all of them. But if you’re taking many courses, be selective and choose just a few courses for which you’ll seek certificates. People’s eyes tend to glaze over after looking at about 5 certificates. Once you’ve demonstrated with a small number of certificates that you are capable of succeeding in online courses, you can more easily make the case that you’ve completed other valuable course work for which you didn’t seek certification.

 

Think in terms of skill sets

Rather than acquiring a random set of certificates for courses that bear no relationship to one another, use your certificates to demonstrate mastery of a skill set. Five intro-level certificates on different subjects are far less impressive than certificates for a series of five courses that build towards mastery. You might want to rely on specializations or series put together by the MOOC providers, or design your own course series.

 

Pair certificates with work examples in your portfolio

A powerful way to boost the value of any single certificate is to present the certificate alongside examples of the work you have done as a result of your coursework. Increasingly, portfolios are valued more highly than resumes. When you present evidence of your abilities next to your certificates, you make a compelling case that your education means something. The portfolio feature on No-Pay MBA is set up this way for a reason! Choose certificates that you can back up with a tangible project, whether or not you complete the project as part of the course itself.

 

Evisors 3

 

Use loss aversion to your advantage

People who purchase certificates tend to finish their courses at a much higher rate than those who don’t. There are many reasons why this might be the case; perhaps those people who paid for certificates were more motivated or committed to the course to begin with. But there is also a robust literature in psychology to suggest that people don’t like to pay for something and then not get full value from it, whether or not there is any chance for the money to be refunded. Anecdotally, many MOOC students have commented on this blog that paying for certificates helps keep them motivated. Therefore, if there is a course you really want to take but are worried you might have difficulty finishing, that is precisely the course certificate you should be paying for.

 

Explore alternative payment arrangements

Coursera offers financial aid to students who make a compelling case that they need help to pay for their courses. Another strategy is to approach your current employer to find out if they would be willing to provide training to you in MOOC form. Fifty or $100 is not a lot of cash when compared to other methods of employee training. Your employer may also be impressed by your initiative, especially if you can tie your proposed course of study to tangible outcomes that benefit the company.

 

My last blog post on this topic generated a lot of discussion about the value of certificates. If you’ve been following the conversation, or if you’re new on this site, let’s hear your take. Do you pay for verified MOOC certificates?

Beyond MOOCs: Synthesizing coursework with Cesim’s Global Challenge business simulation

Cesim-Global-Challenge-5

 

Recently, I and a few members of the No-Pay MBA Network got the chance to participate in a business simulation game through Cesim, a Finnish company that provides these simulations as trainings in both university and corporate environments. While this isn’t an experience that is available to most MOOC students (Cesim generally works with classroom-based MBA programs), it was a valuable supplement to my MOOC course work, and it gave me some insight into the potential for online education to be both collaborative and experiential.

Full disclosure: I have received no compensation from Cesim, but in exchange for free use of the simulation with members of the No-Pay MBA Network, I did agree to reflect on the experience in a blog post – an excellent value in my opinion! 😉

Cesim’s business simulations are used by many business schools as a capstone experience, tying together the many threads of a business education. Eight of us from the No-Pay MBA Network played the simulation game, in four teams of two. We grouped ourselves by time zone so that teammates would be able to find times to talk to one another – a constant challenge for our globe-spanning group.

 

In the Cesim Global Challenge simulation, each team makes decisions for a fictitious company in a series of rounds; in this case, we played the role of cell phone manufacturers competing with one another for market share. In each round of the simulation we were given information on market conditions, expected demand, and competitors’ sales from the previous period. Using this data and Cesim’s decision-making interface, each team had to choose how many new plants to build, whether to invest in R&D, how to prioritize distribution, how many phones of each model to produce, and whether to contract out production, among other decisions. The simulation drew on concepts from a wide variety of my courses, including finance, marketing, supply chain logistics, and even HR, as some of the decisions involved determining salaries and choosing whether to lay people off.

As noted previously, Cesim’s simulations are not currently available to individual students. But the ease with which No-Pay MBA Network members used the simulation – even though we weren’t part of a “for credit” university course – made me think that there is a significant opportunity in providing these kinds of experiences to MOOC students.

Whether or not you get the opportunity to participate in a similar simulation, I do think it is important to find experiences to supplement MOOC course work, especially if you are trying to get an MBA-equivalent education. Below are some of the hallmarks of the kind of experiences MOOC students should seek out, my key takeaways from the Cesim business simulation, and some tips how you can apply them to your studies.

 

Balancing massive with small

Just as in a regular university education students balance large lecture courses with small seminars, MOOC business students would do well to seek out learning experiences in small groups. For one thing, in a class of thousands it is difficult to make and sustain real connections. For another, while information can be delivered massively, experiences cannot. Those who have been following the MOOC movement may be familiar with the lesser-known SPOCs – small private online courses.   SPOCs seek to overcome some of the limitations inherent to massiveness, but you wouldn’t necessarily need to enroll in a SPOC in order to get the benefits of small group interaction.

This is where the No-Pay MBA Network comes in. In collaboration with the first cohort of the Network, I’m exploring ways to offer more valuable, small-group experiences to MOOC business students. Cesim’s business simulation was one such opportunity.

 

A better way to build your network

Universities provide abundant opportunities to meet people – both socially and in the classroom. In the MOOC environment, however, no one will force you to interact. Therefore, building your network must be intentional. But how do you do it?

The problem is that adding valuable contacts to your network isn’t as straightforward as inviting the people who come up on your LinkedIn feed to be your connections, or posting a comment in a discussion forum. In my opinion, the best way for students to build real connections is through projects. Project-based connections are much more natural than networking for networking’s sake. I’ve also found that the connections I’ve built by collaborating and working towards a common goal are the most likely to persist.

Cesim’s business simulation was highly useful in this regard. The simulation required me to work with my partner, a soft-spoken university student from India, who proved a thoughtful and insightful teammate. He and I didn’t know much about each other prior to the simulation, but we learned quite a bit about each other’s work styles through the game, and since then we have continued to collaborate. Other members of the larger group of eight that participated in the simulation made similar connections through the experience.

Whether through a business simulation, a class project, a digital internship, or a discussion group that you organize, it is well worth your time to find ways to collaborate on projects throughout your MOOC-based MBA.

 

Bringing it all together

My goal with my No-Pay MBA is to replicate the MBA education using free and low-cost resources. While coursework is a big component of that experience, in order for my No-Pay MBA to be rigorous and complete, I’ve had to seek out ways to synthesize and apply what I’ve learned. Some MOOCs are also good at providing opportunities to apply the content – Foundations of Business Strategy is one; Negotiation is another - but not all MOOCs involve an applied component.

Similarly, even in-person university programs have been criticized for failing to provide a unified curriculum. This critique could easily be levied against an MBA equivalent program, especially if all you do is take a series of largely unrelated courses. Hence the importance of projects that require the student to draw on multiple tools from the MBA tool kit.

My favorite thing about the business simulation was that it required me to draw on information and skills from multiple courses. While it was not graded or assessed, it did give me a good sense of how far I’ve come since starting my No-Pay MBA. I felt equipped to understand the data provided and prepared to make management-level decisions.

In addition to the business simulation, I’ve had other project-based and experiential learning opportunities that served the purpose of bringing multiple courses together – a Coursolve internship, volunteering to help a community-run business, starting my own business. Regardless of how you choose to do it, if you’re pursuing a business education via MOOC, I strongly suggest that you find opportunities to synthesize and apply what you’ve learned.

 

 

 

Why you need an educational portfolio

 

For the past nearly two years I have been taking free online courses in an attempt to replicate an MBA education. Throughout this journey, I’ve discovered the importance of having a place where people can see for themselves what I’ve learned in my courses. For me, this place is the No-Pay MBA website, which functions as a portfolio where anyone can have a look at how I’ve put together my education and what I’ve gotten out of it.

Portfolios have long been used by people in arts careers – obviously, if you want to know if someone is a good photographer, it’s better to look at examples of her work than to read a resume. The same goes for web design, app development, and other technology-based arts. But people in other careers are increasingly building online, shareable portfolios to showcase their professional abilities.

If you’re not in an arts or technology field, you may still need a portfolio, especially if there is anything non-traditional about your career path or your education, or if you are seeking to switch fields. Particularly if you are studying business via MOOC or are planning to start a No-Pay MBA, you should give some serious thought to how and where you will present evidence of what you’ve learned. 

 

Why MOOC students need portfolios

There are a few reasons why you need a portfolio, and not just a resume, if you’re getting your education via MOOC.

First, a good portfolio tells a story. Where a resume has a dry, factual feel, a portfolio can give a lot more of YOU. Your educational portfolio tells the story of how you learned what you learned. I’ve seen a lot of transcripts masquerading as portfolios – don’t make the mistake of thinking that your certificates alone tell the whole story. You want more than a wall of certificates; you want to show how your courses fit together, how you put your learning into practice, and what you are capable of doing as a result.

Second, a portfolio gives details. On your resume, you give an overview of what you studied. An educational portfolio zooms in on your education, showing much more than course titles. It can include examples of your work, your reflections on what you’ve learned, and your take on the value of the education.

Third, a portfolio allows people to “see for themselves.” Without a degree from a well-known institution, it’s important to give people a way to understand and assess what you’ve learned. By having both your certificates and examples of your best work in one place, you give people an opportunity to do that. Remember that many people still don’t know what MOOCs are. Rather than send them to Coursera’s website, you want to give people who are curious about your studies a way to see your education in action.

 

Where to create your portfolio

Up to now, MOOC business students haven’t had a lot of great options when it comes to showing their work in an educational portfolio.

A website called Accredible used to offer a nice platform for uploading MOOC certificates, course projects, and any other documents pertaining to one’s education. But Accredible has pivoted away from providing these services to individual students.

LinkedIn will allow you to post your certificates from a growing number of MOOC platforms, including Coursera and edX. However, you can’t organize your certificates on LinkedIn, so they end up being just a mass of icons at the bottom of your profile. That’s okay for a transcript, but it doesn’t do the storytelling work of a good portfolio.

In my opinion, until now the only good option available for creating a MOOC educational portfolio was to make your own website, which is time-consuming and expensive, and involves a steep learning curve if you aren’t already website savvy.

But that’s changing today.

I’ve spent the past several months creating an area on this site where anyone in the world can catalogue and display the skills they are building through online coursework. Starting today, you can create your educational portfolio on No-Pay MBA.

When I created the portfolio feature on No-Pay MBA, I set out to create the best place on the web for MOOC students to showcase their studies. You can be the judge of whether I’ve achieved that goal.

 

Here’s what should go in your educational portfolio

I’ve alluded to some of the things that should go into an education portfolio. Here is a complete list.

  1. A good, professional quality photo of you.
  2. An overarching description of your learning objectives and how you’ve sought to meet them.
  3. Defined skill sets with examples of projects you’ve done to put those skills into practice
  4. Certificates from your courses
  5. Links to your other work that can be found elsewhere on the web
  6. Links to relevant social profiles, especially LinkedIn

No-Pay MBA portfolios are organized by skill set, so if you’ve already taken some courses you can start by grouping your certificates and projects into skill sets and uploading them onto the platform. For more tips on how to set up your portfolio, have a look at the video below:

 

 

I hope you have as much fun building your portfolio as I did creating this feature. Let me know how it goes!

 

Ready to get started? Click here to register for your free portfolio on No-Pay MBA!

Coursolve Digital Internships: Good for MOOC Students, Good for Businesses

Coursolve

 

The basic hypothesis of the No-Pay MBA is simple: thanks to the advent of massive open online courses,  a person who would be capable of completing a master’s in business administration at a university can get an equivalent education without paying business school tuition, using freely available resources.

Most people I talk to seem to accept this premise. The general consensus is that it is indeed possible to learn online and that at least in terms of course content, the education I am getting is equivalent to a regular MBA.

Where things get complicated is at the end of the education. How will my studies be recognized? Who will care that I did enough courses to match a traditional MBA? The job market is degree-driven. Without that piece of paper will I have anything of value when I “graduate” in May 2016?

I’m not bothered by the fact that I won’t be getting a degree because I can see a different path to legitimacy – importantly, one that does not revolve around blogging and does not rely on any special advantage that I might have as the first person to publicly replicate the MBA using MOOCs.

 

Turn a MOOC education into career advancement

The key to converting a MOOC education from personal development to career advancement is to put that education into practice in a job.  We all know that in many industries a bachelor’s degree is a gatekeeper – if you don’t have one, you simply won’t be hired. But if you already have a degree and have been working for a few years, direct experience almost always trumps classroom education. Your degree may help get you in the door, but your experience and your performance on the job ultimately overshadow your degree in their importance.

When you use your MOOC business education in a work setting, you turn it from a series of facts you’ve learned on your laptop into a set of skills you can leverage for a promotion or in your next job search.

Okay, I can hear you saying, that’s all fine and good if you’re already working and can convince your employer to let you take on new responsibilities. But what if you’re not working? Or if your employer is unwilling or unable to increase your responsibilities? Or if you’d like to change industries and can’t find a relevant way to employ your new skills in your current job?

 

Digital internships for MOOC students

For MOOC students, this is where Coursolve comes in. If you’ve been reading the blog, then you may know that I’ve been excited about Coursolve since learning about their work as a student in Foundations of Business Strategy.  Coursolve connects learners from anywhere in the world with businesses and organizations through “digital internships,” collaborative short-term projects that are often linked with MOOC course content.

As a student in Foundations of Business Strategy, I used Coursolve’s platform to find a business for whom I could conduct a strategic analysis as a final course project. Coursolve itself had posted a strategic analysis internship, and given my interest in all things MOOC,  I chose to conduct a strategic analysis for Coursolve. The best part? Based on the quality of my work, Coursolve hired me to work on business development – not because I had an MBA but because they had seen how I work first hand.

 

Businesses can benefit from digital internships

Now that I’m launching a business, I need Coursolve’s platform again. Over the next several months, I’ll be posting my own digital internship – only this time I’m a business owner looking for talented students who want to use their skills in a practical setting. There are several reasons why as a small business owner it makes sense for me to post a digital internship on Coursolve.

First, I’m still learning, and I’m looking to hone my management skills. A digital internship is a low-stakes way for me to improve my ability to manage people who are not physically located in the same place – a key skill given the structure of my business.

Second, I’m looking to build relationships with talented people. While I don’t have immediate hiring needs, I’m excited to work with people who can help build momentum for my business and who I may one day be able to employ.

Third, I’m building my brand. By providing educational experiences to students I’m both paying forward my own experience as an intern and generating good will towards the No-Pay MBA.

And by the way, these benefits don’t just apply to small businesses. Larger businesses can also source talent, promote their brands, and provide management experience to their employees through digital internships.

 

Join the No-Pay MBA’s digital internship on Coursolve

The No-Pay MBA internship is designed to be done in conjunction with the course Foundations of Business Strategy, taught by Michael Lenox of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. If you’re interested in working with me on this digital internship, here’s how to sign up.

1.  Register for Foundations of Business Strategy through Coursera. It’s one of Coursera’s on-demand courses, so it’s available all the time.

2.  Go to www.Coursolve.org. Click on the Login button and create a profile.

3.  Using the menu in the upper right corner, click Browse under the word Needs. The No-Pay MBA internship is listed in the Business Strategy/Innovation category.

The project involves applying several of the strategic analyses Professor Lenox teaches in his course to the No-Pay MBA business I am launching next month. You will put those analyses together into a final report,  which will become part of your educational portfolio. If you do an outstanding job, I’ll be happy to write you a recommendation. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Coming to a MOOC near you: 4 ways MOOCs are getting better (with Bill Aulet and Erdin Beshimov)

MOOCs Still Making Progress

 

Nearly two years into my MOOC adventure, my enthusiasm for this learning technology hasn’t dampened in the slightest. Despite the fickle coverage of MOOCs in the press, with time I grow more - not less - excited about the changes they portend for higher education. I imagine we will look back on these early days of MOOC education and marvel at how far we’ve come.

Bill Aulet and Erdin Beshimov, of MITx’s popular Entrepreneurship 101 and 102 courses, agree with me.

I recently got the chance to speak with this dynamic duo, and I was pleased to find that they share my belief in MOOCs as a transformative technology. As Erdin Beshimov put it, “I’ve enjoyed the latest disenchantment with MOOCs quite a bit. It’s the best time to innovate.  And I’ve come to believe that MOOCs are actually far more transformative than we had imagined in the beginning.”  

Professor Aulet agrees.

“The people who don’t understand MOOCs are going to be left behind. It’s like when I first started in business, people said ‘I don’t need to do computers.’ Well think about it today. You cannot survive without using computers.”

One giant advance in the world of MOOCs was just announced last week. Starting next academic year, Arizona State University will now allow students to take their entire first year of university courses online via the MOOC platform edX. More on that in a minute. But there are other reasons to remain excited about MOOCs.

 

The four MOOC developments I’m most excited about

 

Online courses will become more interactive than IRL versions

One of the biggest complaints about MOOCs is that it is hard to pay attention and stay motivated in an online classroom. It’s too easy to try to multi-task; switch tabs on your browser, and within a few seconds you’re lost. But MOOCs are going to get better. Platforms like edX are logging millions of clicks to figure out what keeps students engaged and to develop new course content in accordance with those findings.

“It’s kind of like when movies first came out, they just made movies of plays,” Professor Aulet told me. “When MOOCs first came out they just took video of lectures. Now you’re starting to see the development of the tools, the assessment, and the exercises.”  

Online courses certainly have the potential to be just as engaging - if not more so - than their classroom-based counterparts. Professors at Minerva, a startup university in California, have access to tools for the online classroom that allow them to track student engagement, call on people at random, assign groups, and deliver pop quizzes to assess comprehension. Even though Minerva’s first crop of students is physically together on campus, the online environment actually enhances the learning that is taking place rather than being an impediment to it.

This is also the goal that MOOC creators are striving towards. Says Erdin Beshimov, “What I think about on a daily basis is, how do I make our MOOC better than Bill’s on-campus course? It’s not an easy goal by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s what I’m doing. And I’m not the only one. Give it some time, but this mindset will take MOOCs from their uncertain beginnings to a very prominent position in education.”

 

Post-payment models will increase access to credentials and mitigate risk

EdX and Arizona State’s partnership to deliver the first year of university education online at a much-reduced cost is a ground-breaking development. What I find most exciting and innovative about this partnership is the fact that students won’t pay tuition until and unless they are successful at completing the courses. Admissions won’t be required; the courses will be accessible to anyone.

This model is similar to the model Udacity used in its partnership with Georgia Tech - no admissions; pay for certification only if successful.

I expect we will see more educational institutions adopting models like these, where the education itself is free and accessible and students pay for credit or a credential only after succeeding in the program.

 

Better networking possibilities

Over the course of my studies, I’ve watched MOOC communities form and grow. The community around Entrepreneurship 101 and 102 is especially large and vibrant, with over 150,000 people having taken at least one of these courses. For Erdin Beshimov and Bill Aulet, the community element is one of the most exciting things about teaching a MOOC. They emphasized that this community could be an important resource for entrepreneurs seeking co-founders. “Our MOOCs comprise a community of 150,000 people from every country in the world,” Beshimov explains.  “This is just incredible. At some point, we’re going to become the biggest place to find future collaborators and co-founders.”

I can certainly attest to the power of MOOC communities for building startup ventures. My own network has expanded exponentially due to my public quest to replicate the MBA using MOOCs. To wit, I’ve pulled the majority of my startup team from among the ranks of people I’ve met through my courses.

I expect we’ll see even better networking possibilities emerge through MOOC-based communities. This is a goal I am working towards as a major component of the business I am launching.

 

MOOCs will be recognized as legitimate professional training

Much of the coverage of MOOCs has been about their potential effects on undergraduate education and college-age students - will universities will disappear or change? Can tuition fees and debt burdens can be lowered? Besides from lowering debt, MOOCs are poised to solve another problem in higher education - the mismatch between rapidly changing work requirements and an educational system that delivers most of one’s higher education in a lump before you’ve ever entered the workforce.

Luckily, this is a problem MOOCs are already capable of solving. I’ve used free online courses to shift my portfolio at work to be more private-sector oriented. My husband is taking courses to beef up his data analysis and program evaluation skills. Both of us already have master’s degrees, and both of us are finding MOOCs valuable on the job. I predict that before long, we will see more and more use of MOOCs as low-cost or free professional training.

 

Are you excited about MOOCs? Join the conversation! I’ll be on a Twitter chat with @MIT15390x on 29 April at 12 EST, and I’d love to see you there. Tweet with #MIT15390xChat.

 

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