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Is Starbucks showing the way for corporate MOOCs?

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Is Starbucks showing the way for corporate MOOCs?

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I’ve written a number of times over the past year about how MOOCs can impact the corporate world and provide a more just in time form of learning that is fit for the 21st Century.  So it was interesting to read news earlier this month about the partnership Starbucks have formed with Arizona State University.

The partnership will see Starbucks provide employees a free online education to any employee working over 20 hours of week with the company.  The courses will be provided by Arizona State University via a MOOC style platform.

In a nice break with more formal means of learning, there is no requirement that any employee taking the courses must remain at the company for a period of time after completion.  There is however an intellectual bar for employees to clear before they can enroll.  Starbucks state that employees wishing to enroll must have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State.

“Starbucks is going where no other major corporation has gone,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, a group focused on education. “For many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education is the only reasonable way they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree.”

The partnership will give many employees the opportunity to get a fully paid for university education, which is undoubtedly great.  I can’t help but think that they could have gone much further.  After all, the company has around 135,000 employees, many of whom will probably not meet the criteria required to enroll on the course, but who may nonetheless have benefited from consuming the content.  As the cost for each new ‘student’ is marginal, that would have seemed a rather easy way to provide benefits to a lot of employees.

They have also of course limited their corporate college to a single institution, which, whilst it no doubt helped to set things up initially, does nevertheless rather limit what could potentially be achieved.

Suffice to say, Starbucks aren’t the first organization to go down this route.  SAP for instance have their Open SAP platform, which aims to offer employees and other people interested in the SAP environment, a range of courses on topics that the company believe are key to success in the SAP world.  The big difference, of course, is that SAP courses don’t come with university accreditation, which you could argue is less relevant in a tech world where GitHub and TopCoder profiles are the new form of resume, but does mark an interesting distinction nonetheless.

If you were, or are, a Starbucks employee, would this development interest you?

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