MOOCs Allow for Passion-Driven Lives

Guest post by Tony Rhodes

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.

4 Great MOOCs for Entrepreneurs to Start the Year 2015

Guest post by Sydney Cohen

1. Learn “the lean way” with How to Build a Startup

“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:

1. Videos
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.

2. Learn gamification

Kevin Werbach, the author of For the Win: How Game thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business, is starting his Gamification course again soon on Coursera.

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.

3. Master public speaking

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.

4. Be inspired by Khan Academy interviews

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).

Available anytime.

Author bio

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.


Daphne Koller on What’s Up Next for MOOCs

Where are MOOCs headed in 2015 and beyond? In this interview with Wharton’s Don Huesman, Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller talks about where MOOCs are now and where they will go in the future.

Koller says that MOOCs are just coming out of the “trough of disillusionment” phase of the Gartner hype cycle. She notes that Coursera’s student population continues to increase, both in the number of enrolled students and in the number of active students, and that most people are using the courses for their own professional development. In recent months, Coursera has focused on this core population–working adults who are not adequately served by traditional higher education–through initiatives including on-demand courses and its course sequences, called Specializations. Coursera currently has close to 1,000 courses available, and Koller predicts that in a few years, it will have 5,000, equivalent to the curriculum at a medium-sized to large university.

To learn more about future directions for Coursera and MOOCs in general, watch the video.

Why Do People Keep Saying MOOCs Are Dead?

For more than a year now, ever since Udacity’s famous “pivot,” it seems like at least once a week a new article comes out proclaiming that MOOCs are dead, that they failed and are now being buried (no doubt to the collective relief of higher education institutions and training departments everywhere).

You can find many examples of this. Just this week, education entrepreneur Aron Solomon wrote in Digital Journal, “The end of the MOOC is significantly closer than more people realize or care to believe. It has been, charitably, a failed experiment, one at which some people threw a lot of money and to which were pinned far too many hopes.”

Solomon’s article came to my attention the same day as this one at EdSurge, which suggests not only that MOOCs aren’t dead, but that in fact they are very much alive. EdSurge reports:

•  In 2014, both the number of MOOCs offered and the number of universities offering them doubled, reaching 2,400 and 400, respectively. Now, 22 of U.S. News and World Report’s Top 25 U.S. universities are offering MOOCs.

•  With 10.5 million students, Coursera is still the biggest MOOC provider, but its market share is down from one-half to one-third, as other providers, particularly ones in other countries, have expanded their reach.

•  In 2014, “we have seen strong development of the MOOC ecosystem,” as MOOCs mature and providers develop better business models. This year saw the emergence of alternative credentials, such as Coursera’s and edX’s course sequences, as well as universities offering credit for MOOCs. The quality of MOOCs also improved, and providers have started offering the courses on-demand.

In addition, we’ve seen MOOCs do things many people thought they couldn’t, like incorporate project-based learning and even hands-on science experiments. They’ve also influenced traditional higher education and are starting to make significant waves in workplace learning—both in how companies train their employees and in how workers train themselves.

MOOCs aren’t dead. Based on EdSurge’s data, they aren’t even sick. What they are doing is changing. At the beginning, MOOC providers put courses out there just to see what would happen. Now, after a couple of years of experience and data collection, the providers are focusing on making the courses better. The process of iteration has really just begun, and MOOCs in two or three or five years may look very different from what they do now. We may not even call them MOOCs. But it’s a safe bet that they’ll still be around.

5 Impacts of MOOCs in 2014

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to look back on what was accomplished as well as what lies ahead. For MOOCs, 2014 was a pretty big year—perhaps not in the way that many people predicted (obviously the courses have not replaced traditional education entirely), but a big year nonetheless.

Here are five ways MOOCs had a significant impact on higher education in 2014:

Brought teaching to the forefront of the higher ed discussion

From the beginning, some of the biggest criticisms of MOOCs have been that watching someone lecture on a computer screen isn’t a very effective way to learn. Of course, watching someone lecture in front of a class of 300 people isn’t much better. MOOCs and other digital forms of learning have led to an increased focus on the quality and practice of teaching, which is already improving both online and traditional courses.

Led to increased interest in education for non-traditional students

About three-quarters of college students are not “traditional” in terms of age and other factors; however, the adult students who actually make up the majority have traditionally been ignored by higher education institutions. The popularity of MOOCs, which by-and-large attract non-traditional students (85% of Coursera’s students are adult learners), has led more institutions to start thinking about how to serve this population.

Provided another option for skills training

For learners who are seeking skills, not degrees, MOOCs and other alternative forms of education provide an opportunity for low-cost training. Employers are starting to view MOOCs favorably, and many are now using the courses as part of their corporate training programs.

Prompted interest in alternative credentials

MOOCs, with their certificates of completion and digital badges, have prompted a large interest in non-degree credentials, including low-cost, online credentials. Just last week, the American Council on Education announced a consortium of 25 colleges and universities that will participate in an alternative credential pilot program, which will allow students to obtain transfer credit for selected free and low-cost online general education courses.

Took the stigma out of online education

Distance education has been around for centuries, and online education for several years, but it has been stigmatized, largely because of its association with the for-profit sector. But then MIT, Harvard, and Stanford started launching MOOCs, and perceptions started to change. Read Jeff Selingo’s “How MOOCs Legitimized Online Education” for more on this topic.

As we look back on the year, what are some other impacts MOOCs have had? What do you think 2015 will bring?

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