How MOOCs are Going to Change the World

Afraid student facing online test with laptop

Coming from families with high expectations themselves, my parents had big ambitions for me when I was a child.  They were always very careful not to pressure me into doing anything, but there was definitely a whole lot of hint-dropping.

“Did you know that Doctors get to do amazing things to help people and make lots of money at the same time?”

“Look, Honey, that businessman gets to be on a magazine cover!  Wouldn’t it be cool to be like him?”

They thought they were being quite covert, planting hints in my mind without actually telling me to do anything. I didn’t think I was the clueless 7-year-old they thought of me as.  It was in fact very obvious to me what was going on, so I came up with an insanely creative solution:  Every time a family member threw a hint at me and followed up by asking what I wanted to be when I grew up, I tacked on the career they wanted me to choose to my ultimate list.  My dad wanted to me to be an engineer like him, but my mom wanted me to be a doctor – so I told her I would be an engineer and doctor.  Then my aunt mentioned the merits of law – so I told her I would be an engineer-doctor-lawyer.  By the time I got through my closest family members, I had set off on a path to become an engineer-doctor-lawyer-scientist-businesswoman-writer.

Of course, I actually was the clueless 7-year-old my family thought of me as, and I ended up ditching all their ‘recommendations’ to become a marketing consultant.  In fact, I didn’t think about the ridiculous career goals I had set for myself again until I discovered MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) last year.  As odd as it is to think about, MOOCs actually provide a platform to learn at least the basics (for now) required for all the positions I wanted to have as a kid.  From physics classes at MIT to business classes at Wharton to Creativity & Innovations classes from Universities all around the world, there are MOOCs available for practically anything and they are covering more ground every day!

In fact, even the Georgetown University Medical Center has now launched a MOOC called Genomic Medicine Gets Personal.  Yes, that’s right: you can now take a medical school class online for free – and this is just the stethoscope-147700_150beginning.  MOOCs are in their infancy and are still relatively expensive to carry out.  In a couple years, though, systems will be optimized and cost effective.  Then what?  Will MOOCs replace all general education requirements and college major prerequisites?  Will college become cheaper (and faster) as a result?  Will people take more time to learn and improve within their careers when finances are less of a problem?  Will professionals adopt new or additional careers with cheaper, more accessible classes that let them learn at their own pace?

Yeah, probably.

So now imagine this:  An Engineer looks at her physics and chemistry materials and realizes she just needs a couple of biology and biochemistry classes to have medical school prerequisites finished too.  She also takes an ethics MOOC that ignites her interest in basic law classes.  She further builds her science background through more MOOCs and builds a large enough knowledge base to consider a PhD to become a scientist.  All her engineering and biological background skills along with knowledge of law then push her to taking business classes and and writing classes to build the skills she needs to build her own tech startup – maybe in biotechnology?.Business woman multitasking illustration

For free, this lady now has the ability to learn at least the basics of every career I wanted to have as a kid…she can become an engineer-doctor-lawyer-scientist-businesswoman-writer in her spare time with advanced MOOCs.

Obviously, it isn’t realistic to think that the average person would take as many MOOCs as our example lady.  What is possible, though, is for a master coder to take a few marketing, UX, and business strategy classes so that he has the background he needs to start his web-based company.  It is also possible for a UX designer to take HTML or Java classes so she can envision how to build the website she is designing.  It is even possible for a writer to take enough creativity and storytelling classes to knock away writer’s block or develop a new style of writing.

Basically, MOOCs are going to change the world by propelling knowledge sharing forward by decades – so start your To-Learn List on Accredible stat before you miss the MOOC train!