Ever sat in class thinking, wouldn’t this be a lot more enjoyable at the beach? With advancements in MOOCs, you can now take free online ivy league courses from the comfort of a beach chair. Here a few simple steps to follow to help you organize a tailor-made self directed learning schedule you can use to learn from that perfect spot at the beach.
Step 1 Find a focus. This is where you need to figure out what you want to learn. Browse around degree program offerings at any school you want. Ask yourself what you’re good at, and what you want to invest time in.
Step 2 Pick a few degree programs that sound really interesting to you. Check out all of the courses you would have to take if you were going to go to that school and work towards getting the degree.
Between the course programs you browse, pick all of the courses that sound interesting, or like they would apply to the work you want to be doing. If they don’t sound interesting and like they won’t apply to what it is you want to be learning, don’t take them.
Now that you have some sort of structured set of courses around a specific topic, head over to Coursera, edX , Udacity, and search their course offerings that are similar to the ones you picked out, and see if you can match them. You can also check out degreed’s online learning list here!
Step 5 Get organized. Set up your Degreed profile to track and measure all your learning. Self directed/lifelong learning can get overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting out, but with a little organization and planning, you can supplement whole degree programs using all free online courses. Only take on what courses you can handle. Create calendars and task organization lists that work best for your style.
Step 6 Commit. This is the most important part. Nobody is going to be holding your hand, making sure you’re showing up for class and turning in papers. It’s all on you.
Maybe you enjoy the forest, or the desert. Wherever you know you’d rather be doing your learning, you now have the power to make that happen. You have the power to stay current with the most innovative and impactful practices from top professors around the globe, for free.
Guest post by Alex Cusack. This article originally appeared on Medium.
We’re still in the first phase of the education revolution.
Technology is being used to improve the old way of doing things, but we have yet to explore the radically new models that are being made possible by these technologies.
The collegiate campus
The genesis of the collegiate campus was the need to distribute knowledge. In a pre-internet world, if you wanted to learn something you had to be in physical proximity to the source. Whether it was a library, an office, or a lecture hall, accessing knowledge nearly always necessitated proximity. Content did not come to you, you went to it. Campuses were thus purposed around their libraries and lecture halls as their core function was the dissemination of the knowledge they held.
The process of transforming knowledge from its raw form into consumed curriculum can be broken down into three major categories: content production, content distribution, and content delivery. In the historical paradigm, institutions owned this entire “stack” out of necessity.
Institutions would work with faculty to convert their raw knowledge into consumable curricula. The campuses themselves served as distribution hubs, drawing the intellectually curious to campus, and the lecture halls and libraries served to facilitate content delivery and consumption.
Curating and housing the curricula gave institutions an effectively proprietary knowledge set, with each institution offering it’s own slightly unique curricula. The value of college was clear, if you wanted to access higher learning you had to enroll on the collegiate campus.
With the birth of the Internet, curriculums have progressed from proprietary toward being ubiquitously accessible. Topical knowledge can now be surfaced and queried in a matter of seconds. Full collegiate curriculums are being brought online and given away from free by groups like Coursera and Edx. Instructors no longer need to work in partnership with a university to monetize their knowledge- they can cheaply and independently produce ebooks or sell their lectures through Udemy, Fedora, and others.
As curricula progressed toward ubiquity, institutions began to develop and market byproducts of their core function as a knowledge center. Student housing, sports teams, grant opportunities, and research centers were all added, giving life to distinct campus cultures and communities.
This shift in marketing has forced institutions to drift from the focus of “how can we most effectively educate the student” to “how can we create the most attractive collegiate experience”. To a certain degree, the features birthed as byproducts have become the defining characteristics when comparing one university to another.
That brings us to today’s collegiate institutions- small cities with pools, luxury dorms, and seemingly professional athletic programs at the cost of $28,000 in student loan debt; all at the posited value of learning despite many of the most coveted curriculums being freely available online.
This is not to make equal the on campus and the online (MOOC format) learning experiences. There are both tangible and intangible benefits to the campus learning experience, but there needs to be a rethinking around what role the collegiate campus experience actually plays.
The influx of technology over the last four years has been a catalyst in driving the conversation around cost and outcomes, but the application of technology is still being limited to an optimization on the old way of doing things. The collegiate experience is still framed as sequential four-year, semester-based, experience that happens directly after high school.
What should be looked at now is how the collegiate campus experience might be redesigned in light of today’s tools to better play into the value it adds; the value of culture, community, and resource access.
The campus of the future
At its best, learning is manifestation of curiosity. Campuses should be designed to enable students to explore their curiosities while equipping them with the necessary skills and frameworks to work on challenging problems after graduating. Instead of lecture halls, campuses should be design more closely to a coworking space, or at scale, the Googleplex. Campuses should provide the environment that fosters community and collaboration while enabling students to engage with the learning they’re curious about.
Instead of relying on on-campus faculty to administer curricula, colleges should provide mentors and coaches that guide students through curriculums, regardless of which institution may have generated the curriculum.
The institutions that can afford to attract the experts themselves should continue to do so, as Minerva is doing and the Ivy Leagues will continue to do. Those that can’t attract experts (the inherent majority) should start more heavily leveraging third-party curricula rather than producing second-tier courses designed internally.
Individual institutions can still imprint their cultural values and perspective on the curricula, but it will be through the mentors and coaches rather than instructors themselves.
Leveraging third-party curricula will also enable institutions to create more customized courses, pulling smaller course modules from multiple institutions to create their own unique course.
Eliminating classrooms, libraries, and research centers means colleges could create a much larger and leaner network of affiliated campuses. When content is no longer tied to location, students can seek regions and cities of interest and educational relevance. Imagine a college finance track that leverages online curricula while allowing students to spend time in New York, London, and Dubai. Students could maintain core curriculum access throughout their experience while also benefitting from regionally specific experiences.
The opportunity to leverage new tools in redefining the collegiate campus experience is massive. The financial opportunity to unbundle the university ‘stack’, eliminate cross-institutional redundancies, and rebundle is larger still. (Expect a sequel!). This essay has only scratched the surface.
The second phase of the education revolution is on the horizon, all the pieces are here, they just need to be put in the right order.
I attended two community colleges within one year, and if you’ve been to community college you probably feel my pain when I say that when talking with employers, or even out at networking events, as soon as people learn you’ve gotten your education from a community college, something in the air changes.
There is no denying that if two candidates were side by side for a job, the one with a degree from a more recognized university has a better chance at landing that job, even if they are evenly qualified. Fifteen years ago when we didn’t have the Internet, this made sense because not everyone could gain access to these exclusive classes; there was a scarcity problem. Now, because of MOOCs and the widespread understanding of the importance of education, professors around the world are teaming up and opening their doors to worldwide collaborative learning.
Think about being at a job interview, for something as simple as a customer service job at a 7/11. If they ask you about your education and you tell them you’ve been taking classes from Harvard, it not only sounds better than community college, it feels better. This can be huge on a personal confidence level, which is important for success.
If we take a close hard look at this and clearly lay the options side by side, they look something like this.
1. Business Ethics 101 from Small Town Community College (Free, Accredited)
2. Business Ethics 101 MOOC from Harvard (Free, Not Accredited)
Okay, maybe it makes sense to choose option A. I mean, you are getting a free class from a community college, and of course it’s accredited. However, if you stop and think about it, for over 100 years we’ve allowed universities like Harvard to gain a sort of credentialing monopoly where they are held to a different standard than less-renowned establishments. More than rightly so, they are the ones with the most well-versed professors, with the greatest alumni, and all the nicest facilities. So even though a MOOC is not technically accredited, it is the same lecture people are paying big bucks for, available for free.
The second point to look at here is environment.
If you haven’t yet taken a MOOC and gotten to experience some of the passionate exchange between people from all across the planet, then I highly suggest you check it out. And it doesn’t matter your experience or knowledge level about the information being exchanged, because it is a friendly and open learning environment where people are there to help one another gain an understanding of the content at hand.
MOOCs really don’t make sense to take unless the topic is something that you are actually interested in or think you may be interested in. They are free, and you take them on your own time, and you only get anything from it if you really put the time in.
Again let’s lay these options out side by side:
1. Community college class with uninvolved classmates who are tired from work, stressed out from home life, and possibly have a crying child (Free, Accredited)
2. MOOC from the University of Michigan with engaged, professional, diverse, global classmates who are probably smarter than you, you know they care because they are there on their free time, and you can take the class in the location of your choosing – could be the beach! (Free, Not Accredited)
The free community college proposal is nice, and it sure is exciting to see the federal government trying to get involved and care about the education dilemma. But more awareness needs to be raised around how MOOCs can also help address the education problem we are facing.
Tony Rhodes is a self-directed learner living in Hawaii. He is passionate about learning, farming, food, and meeting people.
Imagine yourself as a high school senior (or maybe you are a high school senior) applying and getting accepted into college. Your family and friends are asking what your plans are, where you want to go to school, what you want to study, and how you plan to pay for college.
At 17 or 18 years old that can be quite a lot of pressure. You know that accountants, supply chain managers, and nurses are all in high demand. All of your friends seem to know what they’re doing. They know that if they can grind out what most people refer to as the “best four years of your life” and get that degree, that they can count on $60,000 or $70,000 a year, a nice house, a couple of kids, and a vacation here and there.
For some reason, this just doesn’t sound like something you can pour your heart and soul into. You know what you’re passionate about, but you constantly have friends and family in your space trying to make sure that you “make the right choice” and just do what people have been doing for the last 250 years, when what you really want to do is spend every single day of your life doing what you love, creating a life you don’t have to take a vacation from.
In his famous TED Talk “Start With Why,” Simon Sinek talks about how successful people, businesses, and organizations are successful because they always start with why they are doing what they are doing.
Well, put yourself back in the shoes of that high school senior, and ask your friends and family why. Why should I spend the next four years of my life doing all of this stuff I’m not sure I even really want to do? Why not travel? Why not volunteer? Why not live on an island in the middle of the ocean? Why not take the time to write that book? Why not do what’s important to me?
For a long time, the answer may have been, “Because at the end of the day, they can take your car, they can take your house, they can take your money, but they can never take away your education.”
Sorry, but that excuse just isn’t going to work anymore. With the introduction of MOOCs, you can now learn from literally anywhere in the world—as long as you have an Internet connection, you can take courses from the world’s top universities, for free.
MOOCs allow you to invest your resources into whatever it is you are passionate about, instead of into a piece of paper. In one of the most economically trying times in our history, building a passion-driven workforce—one full of people who can educate themselves, on their own time, at their own pace, and according to their own interests—is an exciting thing to imagine if you are a 20-something experiencing the hardships of a world you did not create.
MOOCs themselves start with the most basic question: why. Why would you spend your spare time learning for free online, when the courses you are taking aren’t even accredited?
The answer is simple, because you want to build a life that starts from a place of passion. Now you can do that, all for the price of a little time. And hey, that sure as heck beats paying $100,000 for a piece of paper.
Tony Rhodes is a self-directed learner living in Hawaii. He is passionate about learning, farming, food, and meeting people.
“World Class entrepreneurs are not lucky, they show up more than other people, they provoke luck” – Steve Blank
In this course, Steve Blank, a technology startup pioneer for the last 30 years, guides you through the basics to create your startup. If you are a serious entrepreneur who wants to be Lean and adopt a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, you should follow his lessons. The course is divided into eight chapters, including value proposition, customer segments, distribution channels, customer relationships, revenue models, partners, and resources.
What is great is the completeness of course resources:
2. An active forum (the last post was yesterday)
3. Access to Steve Blank’s websites where entrepreneurs can share their idea and get coaching and exercises.
Accessible anytime. Estimated time commitment: 6 hours per week for 1 month.
If you are planning to create or are currently developing an app or an online business, this course can be very valuable. Being able to implement game elements successfully can help you drive customer engagement and retention. Take for example Duolingo: they turned language learning into a game and managed to make their product social. They now have a very active community, whose members are now ambassadors for the company’s products.
The course takes you deeper into the psychology behind motivation and how to motivate users with gamification. The course also provides practical gamification design frameworks and design choices. Kevin Werbach finishes by covering the limitations of gamification and by going beyond the basics.
Starts January 26, 2015. Estimated time commitment: 4 to 8 hours per week for 7 weeks.
An important skill for entrepreneurs is the ability to communicate and persuade both individuals and groups. The aim of this MOOC is to improve your communication internally with the people in your company, as well as externally with potential investors, clients, and other stakeholders.
In this course, you will discover your communication style, learn how to structure your presentation, and learn the art of storytelling through great presentations. You’ll also learn a practical approach to speaking, how to train your diction, and how to set the tone and speed of your voice.
Available as of the January 13, 2015. Estimated time commitment: 2 hours per week for 6 weeks.
In these videos, Khan Academy founder Salman Khan asks great entrepreneurs who are shaping our world today to share their stories and how they managed to make their company big. Among the entrepreneurs he interviews, you’ll find: Elon Musk (Tesla, Paypal, SpaceX), Reid Hoffman (Linkedin), Drew Houston (Dropbox), Eric Schmidt (Google), Renaud Laplanche (Lending Club), and Richard Branson (Virgin).
I was very inspired by two talks: Elon Musk sharing why and how he bought the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile for SpaceX, and Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg sharing their cultural differences from when they arrived at the Google open office (the 1st Google office).
Sydney Cohen: Passionate about technological trends and eLearning. Strongly believes that technology will make it easier to learn anything we want. Founder at Elearnhero, Platform for entrepreneurs and startups to find the best learning materials to accelerate their business.