From the comfort of my home in Indianapolis, I’ve just started taking a course from University of Michigan, and I’m not paying a dime for it. Think about that for a second, and imagine this being possible ten or fifteen years ago. Compare this to the stories you hear about the cost of education spiraling further out of control (and out of reach) and the startling burden of student debt. It struck me this morning what a marvel it is that so much knowledge is available to me at the click of a button.
In this bold and scary new world for higher ed, you have to wonder, could MOOCs, which stands for Massive Open Online Course, ever replace a college education? The folks at Atlantic seem to think no, MOOCs have become a beast on their own – lacking in the human element, but “brilliantly democratic,” and I tend to agree. And I see another purpose evolving – one that hadn’t initially occurred to me (even with my HR background!).
Thanks to U of M and Coursera, I’m brushing up on the science and statistical side of survey design. I won’t earn a degree, and I’m not paying for the optional certificate that says I’ve completed the course. What I will gain is refreshed knowledge and some practices I can share with others on the team, and put to use directly in our research and consulting work with clients.
A couple of years ago we had an a-ha via 360 feedback that we really needed to invest in learning for our employees. Almost a year in, I wrote about some ideas for getting serious about professional development, which included understanding our career paths, starting knowledge share lunches and creating skills groups. Add to that list of ideas for improving professional development at your organization: make space for MOOCs!
I’ve come to see MOOCs as a budget-strapped organization’s golden ticket to professional development.
No matter your financial budget, encouraging independent or group study with MOOCs can provide focused learning in topics that matter to your organization. You simply need to encourage the behavior and give your team permission to spend time taking a course. Time is the big spend here, which of course is precious for everyone, but learning pays dividends that keep on giving.