The rise of open-source education.
Constant training and ongoing learning are critical drivers of success in a rapidly-evolving business environment. As new technologies emerge and the economic landscape shifts, pursuing new ideas and fostering innovation can mean the difference between success and failure for both organisations and individuals. However, formal training courses or education programs can be both expensive and impractical for anyone who is employed full time. However, with the emergence of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, there are a number of exciting opportunities that allow anyone with an internet connection to update their knowledge or study new material related to their current or future career goals. MOOCs are open-access online courses that are made available by a number of high quality learning institutions. Course content is provided in the form of text and videos, there is the opportunity to engage with course teachers and other students via platforms such as Skype, and there are often required assignments, quizzes and exams which allow students to test their knowledge. Some of the pioneers of MOOCs include prestigious universities such as MIT, Harvard and Stanford, along with many other institutions.
Finding and participating in an online course
There are a number of websites that list the courses available, including www.edx.org and www.coursera.org. These site allow users to register for upcoming courses on a wide variety of topics from different institutions. For example, edX offers 820 courses and Coursera over 1500, a number of which are business focused. There are a large number of business-related courses, including courses on data science, project management, smart business growth strategies, entrepreneurship and how to run a start-up company, amongst others. Each course will outline the requirements and estimated number of hours per week that should be allocated to completing the course. Certain courses can even be converted to a more formal certification for a fee, depending on the course and the institution that provides it.
The huge amount of information on a diverse range of subjects make MOOCs ideal for anyone who wishes to add to their knowledge base or grow new skill sets. The flexible time frames make it more convenient to study in this way, and the fact that the courses are free makes them highly accessible. However, even several hours a week can be taxing on top of a full-time job, and MOOCs typically have a high attrition rate. Participants need to be highly digitally literate and be self-motivated with the ability to work independently. MOOCs are not intended to be an alternative to official training, certification or degree programmes, and will not provide anyone with a recognised qualification. Instead, MOOCs function as a way to add to existing knowledge or provide an introduction to a particular topic. Regardless, approximately 6 million learners have registered for a course since MOOCs became available in 2012. Through its ability to disrupt and transform traditional education methodologies, this novel approach to learning illustrates the power of the digital landscape.