Why You Should Sign Up for a MOOC Now

While the cost of college units is soaring, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are delivering free courses for technology careers. Is this a revolution in education or a fad? Either way, companies like Google and Nvidia have joined the effort to prepare the workforce for current technology jobs.

A MOOC aims for unlimited participation and open access via the Web. It is not uncommon for thousands to participate in a single course, and often a certificate is included in the program or offered for a modest fee. A recent MOOC in which I participated required completion of quizzes and homework assignments for certification, plus a $35 fee. The topic was gamification, and I was ramping up for an enterprise training project. In the end, I did not spring for the certificate, but did gain applicable knowledge of both implementation steps and best practices.

IT Giants Back MOOCs for Technology Jobs

Gigacom recently reported that MOOC provider Udacity has teamed up with technology firms to form the Open Education Alliance. The purpose of the alliance is to provide students around the globe with relevant courses and skills to pursue technology careers. In addition to Google and Nvidia, industry partners include Intuit, AT&T, AutoDesk, and Cloudera.

“The world moves so fast today… we have to stay updated,” Udacity co-founder and CEO Sebastian Thrun said at the September TechCrunch Disrupt conference. “This alliance is going to put the industry first… [so] you can learn the skills necessary.” Thrun also points to a U.S. Department of Labor report that says 65 percent of grade-school kids will eventually have jobs that don’t even exist yet.

Lessons Learned from the First MOOC

ALISON CEO Mike Feerick is a pioneer in launching massive online courses. In an interview with Forbes he provided the following lessons learned from seven years of “testing, experimenting, and succeeding” with MOOCs:

  • Workplace learning is the biggest market where the biggest impact can be made
  • Traditional accreditation is too slow and expensive for technology careers
  • Engaging with employers is key to making accreditation accessible to all
  • Employers need convenient tools to verify knowledge of learners
  • Advertising is part of revenue model: Learners clicking advertising in the developed world pay for courses in the developing world

Though MOOCs are still in the early stages of the development cycle, many in the market for technology jobs have already realized a benefit from these courses. With the investment tech companies are making in this education channel, the movement seems to have a stronger foundation than a passing fad.

One point can be made with certainty: By the time today’s grade-school kids enter the workforce, post-secondary education will have undergone a dramatic makeover. Professors and executives alike attest to the rapid pace of change in education innovation. There are also indications that education for technology careers will be more financially and socially accessible in the future.

Have you participated in a MOOC recently? Do you plan to take this type of course in the future? Share your expectations and experiences, or sign up for one now!

Tags: Career RX, MOOC