It’s New Year’s resolution time. Apparently MOOC platform edX’s new year’s resolution was to create a ton of new business and management content. edX has a bunch of great courses coming online in the new year, including some on specialized topics that aren’t covered on other platforms. This is great news for MOOC business students and a good sign that we will continue to see increases in the number and variety of courses available to us.

edX’s expanded business content provides a helpful starting point for showing the range of ways to use MOOCs. Whatever your professional goals, here are three ways MOOCs can help you reach them. 

1. To become more productive, whatever your industry

Some of the most popular MOOCs cover topics that apply to nearly every industry. Leadership, time management, design thinking, and communication are a few such subjects. One of edX’s new courses is project management from Australia’s University of Adelaide. Project management is one of my favorite topics, and I find that I learn new tricks from every course I take, even though I have been managing projects for years. Another edX course I’m excited about is Get Beyond Work-Life Balance from Catalyst. One of the interesting things about this course is that it was developed not by a university but a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women advance in business.  Get Beyond Work-Life Balance is a self-paced course and is part of a series of Catalyst courses on inclusive leadership. The next course in the series, Becoming a Successful Leader, starts mid-January.

2. To learn about a particular industry

You can also use MOOCs as an introduction to an industry. For example, edX has a new course on hospitality management from Cornell University, a must-take if this is an industry you are considering moving into, especially given that Cornell is home to one of the top programs in hospitality. For entrepreneurs, edX’s new course on getting venture financing for a startup could be the start to your journey into the world of venture-backed startups. Take this course on its own or after learning the basics of entrepreneurship in MITx’s popular suite of courses, User Innovation, Understanding Your Customer, and What Can You Do For Your Customer?

Online education allows learners of all ages to be life-long learners and acquire new skills or brush up on the latest business trends.

3. To achieve expertise, or as a pathway to a professional degree

This is where things get interesting. Are MOOCs meant to be previews of coming attractions, or are they feature films? Universities seem torn on this issue, and it is fun watching them negotiate what must be a sometimes frightening new reality. On the one hand, MOOCs have the potential to open up new revenue streams; on the other hand they have the potential to cannibalize the core business of the university. Many universities would be happy to have MOOCs act primarily as marketing materials for the programs that produce them, serving perhaps as a pipeline for admissions into traditional programs.  

But the real movers and shakers are dabbling with more radical alternatives.   For example, last year MIT announced a new way of getting a master’s degree. Through edX, students can take a semester’s worth of courses from MIT’s highly-ranked Supply Chain Management program. They can then spend one semester on campus to earn a master’s degree. Or, students can complete just the online portion of the program and earn what MIT is calling a MicroMaster’s in supply chain management.   Perhaps the most exciting part of the supply chain master’s program is that it relies on an inverted admissions process. The supply chain courses on edX are open to the public. Admissions into the master’s program is based on completion of those courses. Hence, admissions happens after a student has demonstrated mastery, not just potential. Classes start February 10, 2016.   I’m certainly partial to status quo-challenging approaches like the MicroMaster’s and professional certifications such as the one edX offers on mergers and acquisitions, which provide affordable options for career transformation without taking on massive debt or leaving the workforce. As CEO Anant Agarwal explains, edX is committed to continuing to offer more of this kind of content.

“We know that professionals and employers are interested in new forms of credentials that demonstrate in-depth knowledge and skill. And, online education allows learners of all ages to be life-long learners and acquire new skills or brush up on the latest business trends. It also affords an evolutionary path for universities in the face of mounting costs, and a way to leverage technology to blend online and on-campus learning pathways.”


Making your New Year’s Resolution

With all these great courses coming online in early 2016, it’s the perfect time to set a learning goal for the year. What’s yours?

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