In a previous post, we explained what MOOCs are and what makes them unique compared to other forms of higher education. In this post, we’re going to talk about how you can actually use MOOCs to expand your education and training. Whether you are interested in simply gaining new knowledge, learning a new skill or further developing your professional abilities, MOOCs offer an accessible (open online courses) and affordable (usually free) way to accomplish this.
Currently, the top players in the MOOCasphere are Coursera, Udacity and edX. These MOOC providers have roots in some of today’s top colleges and universities (e.g. MIT, Harvard, Stanford) and can provide access to courses and/or professors from these schools (and others) without forcing you to become a student there first.
According to a New York Times article back in November 2012, common MOOC subjects include mathematics, computer science and business. However, courses can address everything from physics and electronics to medicine and the humanities—it all depends on which MOOC provider you use. Course offerings are most extensive at Coursera, which is currently the largest MOOC provider.
Dr. Skip Maffei, a business faculty member at Northcentral University sees MOOCS as a great opportunity for today’s students, especially non-traditional students who are experiencing increased educational opportunities through the Web.
“In the past 15 years or so, students mostly had the option of taking in-class courses,” notes Maffei. “However, today’s student has a range of options, including in-class courses, fully online, or a hybrid mix of in-class and online courses.”
MOOCs of course, fall into the “fully online” category, and offer an array of benefits for today’s non-traditional student. “The benefits include flexibility and a learning environment that can be adapted to students’ individual needs for a balance between work, family and academics,” continues Maffei. “Many students appear to have really grasped the opportunity and have made the academic experience more rewarding by embracing the options presented to them.”
Despite the ease of use, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you decide to enroll in a MOOC. First, if you are the type of student interested in MOOCs for potential credit, you will need to work very closely with your school to find out whether or not you can get transfer credit for your efforts. Second, if there is a way to get any semblance of credit (certificate, take proctored exam) you will probably have to pay for it. Nonetheless, MOOCs have certainly expanded the possibilities of online education, and everyone seems to have their own idea of what the MOOCasphere will look like in the future.
NCU education faculty member Dr. Renee Aitken, for example, believes MOOCs will become more widespread in higher education with students taking MOOCs for credit. “Currently, the decision to turn experience into credit (when available), or not, is decided by the learner,” says Aitken. “In the future, however, I see students bringing credits from a variety of courses and institutions to their degree granting institution and enriching not only their own understanding of the field but sharing those ideas with the faculty and their peers.”
Whether MOOCs continue to cater to students interested in higher education, become a standard source of college credits, provide a supplement to secondary education, or any of the other dozens of potential possibilities, for now at least, they are here for the taking in all their massive, open, online glory.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, you’ve probably heard of a little thing called MOOCs. In order to explain what MOOCs are, the most logical place to start is to decipher this odd, bovine-sounding acronym. Quite simply, MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course.
Massive refers to the fact that these courses can serve large numbers of people, sometimes accommodating thousands of students in one course. MOOCs are not constricted by classroom walls and fire codes like traditional campus courses or by limited enrollment numbers and faculty-student ratios like many other online courses. In the majority of cases, the number of students in a course simply depends on how many sign up.
MOOCs are also open, which means virtually anyone can sign up. As Northcentral University education faculty member Dr. Renee Aitken puts it, “MOOCs give anyone access to a systemic learning environment designed by a field expert.” In other words, you no longer need to be a student at Stanford to take Machine Learning with Professor (and Coursera co-founder) Ng, or study at M.I.T. to get an introduction to computer science and programming from Professor Eric Grimson. You simply register and sign up for whatever course you are interested in online (preferably checking that you meet any prerequisites beforehand for an ideal education experience) and you’re ready to go.
Of course, the controversy surrounding MOOCs seems to be less about the fact that they are massive and open, and more about the fact that most of them are free and do not count for academic credit. In a world where a college degree is practically a prerequisite for a job interview, how can you prove that you learned something in a MOOC if you don’t earn credit, or that it was really you and not silly (but brilliant) Uncle Earl passing all those MOOCs? Granted, the practice of awarding certificates of completion – for a small fee of course – is becoming more common, but it’s not quite the same as showing someone a copy of your unofficial college transcripts just yet, is it?
While the hypothesized pros and cons of MOOCs and their potential to alter the education landscape in the next five to ten years extend well beyond the confines of this blog post, it will certainly be interesting to see how things unfold, and whether or not MOOCs truly live up to their hype.
We’ll be following up this post with one on expanding your education through MOOCs so be sure to check back soon!
Hello fellow NCU students and alumni,
Greetings from Manang! So far the race is going great. We have finished through stage 7 and are on our rest day now. The team is certainly tired, but we are in a great position to attack these last few stages. Aayman Tamang, one of our Nepali riders, has finished on the podium in several stages and is sitting in third place overall. He has a great shot at the overall podium and we will be working hard to keep him in that position.
I am currently sitting in 8th place overall and I am the 3rd best non-Nepali. I am hoping to improve my position over the next few stages as the altitude should play to my advantage over some of the other competitors. Thor is having a solid ride, finishing in the top 10 yesterday and holding on to 12th overall. His strong hiking skills and comfort at altitude should help him improve on that position.
Rajan, our other sponsored Nepali rider is the youngest in the race, and is gaining great experience. Despite his young age he is right on Thor’s heels in 13th overall.
We are really happy with our results so far.
According to NCU faculty member Dr. Pamela Carter, big data, cloud computing, social media, smart machines, and mobile computing are the five big technology trends of the moment.
“The impact of just these five trends is overwhelming,” notes Dr. Carter. “Businesses now really have to focus on how to leverage these technologies.”
• Big Data – We’re currently overwhelmed by the amount of data being produced. According to Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive officer, the world creates five exabytes of data every two hours, which is roughly the same amount created between the dawn of civilization and 2003! Carter believes the secret is for companies to be able to know what data they need to pay attention to, analyze this massive amount of data, and then use it to their advantage according to business priorities.
• Cloud Computing – or the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet) entrusts remote services with a user’s data, software and computation. Carter notes that the trend has the potential to save companies money by increasing their computing power and reducing IT operational costs, but it also breeds a new generation of hackers trying to gain unauthorized access to the cloud provider’s server.
• Mobile Computing – Computers are on the move and our mobile devices give us the capability of workplace computing anytime, anywhere – and this huge trend seems to have the potential to get even bigger. And of course, with the proliferation of mobile computing, smart apps appear daily, helping companies manage and optimize their mobile workforce. Dr. Carter notes that manufacturing companies are analyzing supply chain data and risks with real-time insights via mobile technology.
• Smart Machines – We now speak into our iPhones and Siri reschedules appointments for us. While companies like GE Healthcare are using robotic modular manufacturing technologies to stay even more agile in the bioprocessing field and reduce research to market timeframes. Advanced applications of artificial intelligence and highly sophisticated machines, while replacing some jobs, are adding new knowledge-based jobs to the workforce. Finding people with the skills to take on these new jobs is already recognized as a growing problem.
• Social Media – People are becoming more connected through the use of social media. While large social media outlets such as LinkedIn and Twitter continue to evolve, more specialized social media are being used to create micro-networks that enable focused attention and interaction on specific topic areas. Businesses can create, follow, participate in, or analyze data from large and micro-networks to strengthen relationships with stakeholders and gain insights into important trends.
We’ve seen a number of business developments emerge during early 2013: Office Depot and OfficeMax have merged, while American Airlines and US Airways are creating one of the largest airlines in the world. Home prices are up in many parts of the country, and the DOW Jones Industrial Average reached a new record.
Dean Smith of NCU’s School of Business and Technology Management shares his insights on three things that remain important, even in a rebounding economy:
1) Reducing costs – “Making something cheaper has led to our current trends of outsourcing and globalization,” remarks Dean Smith. “We’re no longer competing with local neighborhood businesses here in the U.S. We’re competing with highly successful international operations in India, Vietnam, China and in this global spectrum, there’s a constant drive to increase profit margins for shareholders.”
2) Differentiation – Consumers are willing to pay more for products and services that are perceived as better. “This is where technology can really be a game changer,” he notes. “Innovation can create differentiation in areas like customer service and product development, by reducing labor costs and utilizing emerging technologies to better serve their valued customers.”
3) Educated Business Leaders – The key to successful businesses is still talent. People with the necessary skills, management ability, and vision to leverage the emerging technologies and seize competitive advantage are required. “Business leaders who fail to understand their operating environment will make costly mistakes that can decimate the organization,” shared Dean Smith. “But people who can see the big picture – people who can collaborate and are adaptive to new ideas and technologies – those are the individuals who can lead successful enterprises.”
Have you ever wondered about the psychology of sports – and why we identify so strongly with a particular team? We recently asked NCU faculty member, Dr. Pucci, why many of us are so dedicated to our favorite teams.
Dr. Pucci, who is a full-time faculty member in NCU’s School of Education and teaches courses in our Master’s program with an Athletic Coaching Specialization, believes sports fans love their teams because they are a microcosm for the normal lives that most of us lead. As in a work setting, great teams have bench warmers or “250 hitters,” blue-collar guys who perform their jobs with pride, and then, at the top, we have the all-stars who everyone either loves or hates – and they inspire us.
“I think we’re fans because sports give people a model for living life successfully – they give us hope,” reflects Pucci.
“At the heart of every successful team, just like every high-performance organization, is a great leader who can get people to do what he or she wants, and they are happy doing it,” explains Dr. Pucci. “On a truly successful team, individual goals become secondary to the goals of the organization.”
Dr. Pucci notes that great leaders of companies like Sam Walton at Walmart or Steve Jobs at Apple share very similar qualities to great coaches such as basketball Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) at Duke, Coach Lou Holtz, the football coach whose team at Notre Dame won a national championship in 1988, and the legendary basketball coach for UCLA, John Wooden.
“Wooden’s Pyramid of Success was basically a very simple way for his players to remain excited, successful and positive – and as in companies, once people buy in to the leader’s vision, they believe that this is their calling and great things can happen,” relates Pucci.
Dr. Pucci started his own athletic journey after completing his Ph.D. at the University New Mexico where he served as the head tennis coach. He then went to the University of Arkansas, where he coached the men’s tennis team and taught in the Physical Education Department for 11 years. Recently, he was inducted into the University of Arkansas Athletic Hall of Fame. Pucci has been an athletic administrator for 28 years and has experience at the NAIA, NCAA Division I, and NCAA Division II levels.