Two influential leaders of our time, Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs didn’t finish school – something that they could have done easily today through MOOC or Massive Open Online Courses. In some ways, MOOC, fueled by the Internet is correspondence school on steroids – leveled up and made affordable or free. It is a great equalizer because you can study the most wanted core and soft skills (and get certified for it) in practically any field from home. Some classes are conducted in real time, across different time zones. However, about 90% of courses give you the freedom to learn anywhere, anytime.
Staying Relevant in a Brave New World
LinkedIn, Indeed and Upwork have identified most wanted skills that have sharply veered from the usual customer service and marketing skills that dominated the past years. 2018 and beyond sees man pitted against bots and AI. Predicted also is greater collaboration among and between teams physically apart and working online through the cloud, making it necessary to acquire new skills for a cross-cultural workforce.
What is MOOC?
“Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale.”
MOOCs like EDX, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, Skillshare, and CodeAcademy offer a wide range of courses in popular fields like computer science, management, business and other technical courses like programming, design, graphics, gaming, and animation. Those who prefer to be grounded on the basics can start with Alison and GFCLearn. Khan Academy is heavy on Math, Coding and even offers a Pixar course for free! LinkedIn has thrown in its hat and has acquired Lynda.com, a popular site specializing in technical subjects. Latitudeu.com, a leader in LMS or learning management systems offers must-take courses for those who are applying for their first job or re-inventing themselves to remain relevant.
Getting a Master’s from top Universities like Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Berkeley, Wharton, Johns Hopkins and other Ivy League Schools is now a distinct possibility. In fact, the area of study is so wide that MOOCs can prepare you for practically anything – from language proficiency test preparation like IELTS, TOEFL to highly in-demand Apps Development, Microsoft, Programming Languages (JAVA, C, SQL, Python), Quickbooks, Maya, Adobe and other certifications. And just to prove that it is up-to-date, you can even study about Supply Chains/Logistics, Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Robotics!
Courseware, Delivery, and Quality Assurance
Typically, each course, whether fundamental or advanced has a very good industry-relevant and updated curriculum. Lecturers are from both the academe and industry. They are so skilled that even canned video becomes interactive with downloadable lessons, exercises, tests, assignments, and in some cases, projects. It can be tough and you can’t proceed to the next topic or level without passing the current one. Quality assurance is built-in every step of the way. The caveat is that “garbage in, garbage out” so to make learning meaningful, you must engage and focus.
When teachers go live, these sessions are recorded for viewing at a more convenient time. Tools like Zoom, Google Hangout, and Skype make it interactive with screen sharing, file sharing, messaging, video, and options for recording. Most of the lessons are offered free or on “audit” only which means that you pay only if you need a proof of accomplishment (e.g. certificate). Other courses are offered in clusters and you pay for the more advanced classes.
Before you get hired or contracted to work independently, companies in the words of the actress Sally Field, “must really, really like you!” Indeed, Glassdoor, Upwork, LinkedIn and Monster put prime importance on soft skills. EDX, one of the leading MOOCs, through the Rochester Institute of Technology, offers 3 reasonably-priced courses targeted to teach you:
Good to have skills – something oddly reassuring in a flux of changing paradigms. A brave new world indeed!