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Sharpen skills and advance your career with MOOCS


March 2014

In today’s digital age, learning is not confined to the classroom—and that’s a good thing for motivated workers eager to develop new skills and insights to drive individual performance and small business objectives. Technology has transformed our ability to access credible, cutting-edge information, build our competencies and gain valuable real-world knowledge.

And MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have emerged a key cog in this revolution.

What are MOOCs?
MOOCs are open enrollment online courses designed to accommodate thousands of learners.
Taught by instructors from Stanford, MIT, Harvard and other elite institutions, these online courses in areas such as entrepreneurship, data analytics and operations management allow you to gain progressive insights from thought leaders through virtual lectures and interactive features, such as online discussion groups and hands-on projects.

Often, the investment with MOOCs is limited to your time. Most courses are free, though some charge a small fee, particularly if a certificate or credential is granted upon completion. And though MOOCs have been criticized for their paltry completion rates, which hover near 10 percent, their self-directed nature nevertheless provides you with convenient access to relevant information for your professional field.

What tangible business benefits can MOOCs provide?
The consistent search for new knowledge helps businesses cultivate a fresh, forward-thinking mindset. In an ever-competitive marketplace, this is where the real value of MOOCs comes in.

For employees, MOOCs can update and sharpen their current skill sets, allowing them to approach challenges with new perspectives and practical insights for today’s marketplace. Tapping into the knowledge and experience of thought leaders, they can develop key competencies and then apply that learning directly to a workplace challenge. The MOOC experience can help employees remain competitive and valuable in the face of technology’s ever-quickening beat, allowing them to advance their careers and address skills gaps.

Small business leaders, meanwhile, can use MOOCs to boost their own skills or incorporate MOOCs into the company’s existing training and development kit as a convenient and cost-effective way to build team competencies and propel meaningful results. Readying the launch of a new product or looking for members of your team to develop new skills in project management, IT or operations? Search the sites of MOOC providers to find relevant courses that can either provide the necessary skills or supplement your organization’s internal educational initiatives.

Where can I find MOOCs?
There are dozens of MOOC providers around the globe, but leading players include:

Udacity was established in 2012, born out of a Stanford University online course titled “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” that attracted more than 160,000 students. With its distinct tech focus, Udacity has various courses addressing current workforce needs.

Sample Courses: Exploratory Data Analysis; Mobile Web Development; Interactive 3D Graphics

Since its founding in 2012, Coursera has offered more than 400 free online classes from over 80 universities and organizations, including Stanford, Yale, Northwestern and Duke.

Sample Courses: Social Entrepreneurship; Leadership in 21st Century Organizations; Sustainability in Practice; Surviving Disruptive Technologies

Founded in 2012 by MIT and Harvard, this Cambridge, Massachusetts-based nonprofit has grown to include courses from a number of partner institutions, including Cal-Berkeley, Georgetown and Cornell.

Sample Courses: Innovating in Health Care; Behavioral Economics in Action; Innovation and Commercialization.

As MOOCs gain more mainstream notoriety, providers solve still-lingering kinks and universities continue entering the MOOC ballgame, the world will enjoy even more direct access to cutting-edge information and thought leaders. The resulting insights can help businesses build more dynamic teams and prepare individual players to tackle the challenges of a more connected and competitive global marketplace.

You might also enjoy:
My first MOOC
Expanding your skills while running a business
Steer your employees in the right direction with effective IT education


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