On the surface, MOOCs seem an absolute godsend for professionals who have a strong learning mindset. A catalog of top quality content from some of the finest universities in the world at your fingertips for free.
Since their inception a few years ago they have grown rapidly, with hundreds of institutions around the world offering courses to millions of students.
It’s probably fair to say however that despite the strong sounding numbers, MOOCs have not yet crossed the chasm into the mainstream, and have certainly done little to displace the traditional organizational development model.
A recently published ebook from Wharton looks to guide professionals through the MOOC landscape and show them how they can be used to develop their skills.
The book highlights how MOOCs afforded professionals the chance to develop new skills and get ahead in their careers in a way that would previously have been denied them by time or money restrictions.
Of course, the challenge for MOOCs is just how unique a proposition this is. After all, reading a book or watching a webinar can offer similar benefits, and an accusation leveled at MOOCs is that they primarily cater for the already motivated learner who you would assume would easily find alternative approaches were MOOCs not around.
The ROI of a MOOC
The book tells the story of several students who have derived clear benefits from taking a MOOC, whether that was obtaining a new job or gaining a promotion or even changing career altogether.
The challenge is in understanding whether these people would have done just as well via other means were a MOOC not available to them, and indeed quite what happens to the silent majority who perhaps don’t benefit to the same extent.
The book goes on to reveal some of the softer benefits of taking a MOOC, whether it’s the connections you make or the confidence you gain that stand aside from the actual subject matter knowledge picked up.
I wouldn’t say it’s a bad book, as many of the positives it highlights are undoubtedly true for all of the people covered in the book. The problem is that it is unashamedly in the pro camp when it comes to the value of MOOCs as a platform.
They do have tremendous potential, but there have also been tremendous flaws raised in the approach, whether it’s the very high drop out rate or the lack of take-up in certain sections of society, and the book doesn’t really cover those concerns.
For that reason I’m reluctant to recommend this as a book with wide appeal, but do please have a look and let me know your thoughts.