It was exactly two years ago that MIT and Harvard jumped into the MOOC market by rolling out an impressive and exciting initiative called edX. The move was perhaps inevitable given the rapid pace at which the online learning movement went viral at the end of 2011 and the first part of 2012. In rapid succession, Udacity came online, then a couple months later Coursera started, and by May of 2012 MIT and Harvard joined together world-class reputations and sizeable financial resources to produce their own new global initiative. To date, each founding institution has contributed $30 million to developing edX into a world-class and free open learning platform.
From the beginnings of its prototype course, MIT, 6.002x, Circuits and Electronics, launched in March 2012, the edX initiative has grown to 170 courses in everything from ancient Greek history to computer science, offered by some of the world’s premier institutions, including not only MIT and Harvard but also UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, Cal Tech, and more.
The high level of funding offered by MIT and Harvard has brought significant resources to the development of a truly innovative and unique learning environment. edX courses offer a learning sequence comprised of short videos interspersed with active learning exercises that allow students to operationalize concepts taught in the videos. Students have access to tutorial videos that are similar to small-group on-campus discussion groups, an online textbook, as well as an online discussion forum where students can post and review questions and comments to each other and teaching assistants. edX has been an innovator in the incorporation of online laboratories into its courses. For example, in edX’s first MOOC (6.002x, Circuits and Electronics) students built virtual circuits in an online lab. edX’s innovative approach has also spawned Open edX – an open source initiative where developers from around the globe can work together and contribute expertise toward creating the next-generation online learning platform.
edX is providing millions of active learners today with a unique opportunity to gain access to quality education through world-class institutions – all for free. However, like Udacity and Coursera, edX offers a Verified Certificate of Achievement for a modest fee. This certification can be used to enhance job or school applications or assist in getting promotions.
The online learning revolution that went viral 3 years ago continues to transform the way people learn in the 21st century. Becoming a purposeful contributor to the digital economy requires new and innovative skills in a growing variety of disciplines within the world of high tech, computer science, Big Data, and more. Now anyone can learn these new skills and update old ones, even as they advance in their careers or start new ones altogether. What is perhaps the best deal in all of this? Learning can now be done on one’s own schedule without leaving the comfort of the home or place of business; the only requirement is an internet connection.
To our original premise, MOOCs provide groundbreaking significance to the ultra-busy startup entrepreneur and new business owner who can’t seem to squeeze more hours into the day. Developing a business requires continual learning, brainstorming, and the ability to think outside the box. An occasional course can provide a great boost to helping see an old problem from a new perspective. Perhaps your startup project requires a certain skill set but you don’t want to spend lots of money to hire an expert. Instead, why not save money by taking a free online course and begin to build up your knowledge in that particular ecosystem? Taking a course also will likely inspire novel ideas about your business or project. By interacting and learning from experts you’ll see things in a much different light.
Taking a course will also help you to network and meet new people and develop potential partnerships that can significantly influence and grow your business. Why not take some time today to sit down and arrange your schedule to include time for that Java course you’ve always been wanting to pursue. Or if you’ve ever dreamt of building a company from the ground up, now is your chance to learn what it takes to successfully run a Startup from a leading industry expert . . . and without the need to mortgage your home to finance an MBA degree. If you’re working for a corporation or startup, then a course may just be what you need to land that long awaited promotion.
So signup today and start your journey to lifelong learning. With the new skills you gain online, you can follow your passion; in fact, who knows, maybe you’ll spark the next technology revolution! Why not challenge yourself today and take an online course in 2014.