MOOC your way to broader horizons

A discussion at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) in Sydney this weekend prompted me to share some reading-up I’ve been doing on MOOCs, and some of the sites that I’ve been referring to as part of my MBA studies.

For those not familiar with the acronym, MOOC stands for ‘Massively Open Online Courses’ – a burgeoning trend that is shaking up traditional academia worldwide. Some MOOCs are totally free, and hope to stay that way through the backing of philanthropic individuals and organisations. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, among others, is a big supporter of the philanthropic model. Other MOOCs are exploring potential revenue streams, such as charging for assessments and certifications while keeping the courses (largely) free.

It will be interesting to see how the MOOC model evolves over the next few years.

MOOC your way to broader horizons
MOOC your way to broader horizons. Photo Credit: Iaurizza via Flickr.


Here’s an intro to the more conspicuous MOOCs, in no particular order:

A joint venture between Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and UC Berkeley, edX has begun offering free online courses. There are 7 courses on offer as of today, on subjects ranging from chemistry and quantitative methods to computer science and artificial intelligence. The delivery model is not ‘access this course anytime’ – you need to sign up, and then step through the course from start of term to end of term.

Coursera has a model similar to that of edX, but the number of universities participating is much larger – 33 at last count – and includes institutions from the United States, UK, Europe, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Hong Kong. The 198 courses currently offered cover a wide range of subjects, including business and finance, the life sciences, maths, and the humanities.

Khan Academy

Having secured backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google, Salman Khan’s free educational video venture is already the biggest MOOC of them all in the sheer number of lectures delivered – approaching 200 million this month. The hundreds of courses on a diverse variety of subjects are offered in 22 languages, with more on the way following additional grants from philanthropic foundations in Europe.


In addition to the 14 courses available on the site, Udacity offers an online community of thousands to share and discuss, and to seek help and advice. The revenue models being explored by Udacity include paid assessment through certification centres worldwide, and recruitment consultancy (they offer to distribute your resume to potential employers).  Founded by a group of Stanford roboticists, Udacity has some pretty ‘heavy’ courses on offer, including advanced-level AI and Applied Cryptography.


Open Courseware from leading US universities

Some of the top universities in the US have made available online for free large chunks of their course materials, including video lectures, lecture notes, presentations, etc. While these are not as comprehensive as courses from the likes of Udacity, Coursera, or edX, they may be used to complement interactive ‘brick and mortar’ classes that you take at traditional institutions.

Below is a selection of the leading opencourseware sites.

MIT Open Courseware

Open Yale Courses

OLI @ Carnegie Mellon University

Tufts Open Courseware

Useful non-MOOCs

Additionally, for those interested in online resources for innovation, ideas and/or startups, here are a few sites that I like and recommend:

Springwise uses a global network of ‘spotters’ to aggregate, review and publish on the site information on thousands of new entrepreneurial ventures and ideas. I’ve found it an excellent site to get the grey cells into ‘innovation’ mode.

A very interesting site that weaves together philanthropic ‘bets’ with socially relevant long-term predictions. Again, like Springwise above, has a similar effect in triggering sparks in the brain’s ‘new ideas’ region. and

My two favourite crowdfunding sites.

Many, including yours truly, have found with varying degrees of shock and frustration that the secret ideas that they’ve been waiting to reveal to the world at the right time are already out there, and securing crowdfunding.

Excellent sites to get the entrepreneur’s head abuzz.



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