What Is a MOOC?
Emerging in the 2000s, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have played a major role in democratizing education, enabling students to learn remotely without enrolling in traditional college degree programs. Available entirely online, these courses cover topics as diverse as those in most traditional college catalogs, and many MOOCs are entirely free.
MOOC courses gather academic resources from more than 900 colleges and universities across the world, serving more than 110 million students annually.
This page offers an overview of business MOOC courses, including major online education platforms, typical course offerings, and factors to consider before enrolling.
What Are the Benefits of Business MOOCs?
MOOCs offer several benefits over traditional college courses. The convenience and accessibility of the MOOC platform makes it practical for many types of students, particularly working professionals who may not have the bandwidth for typical university coursework.
Why Should I Take a MOOC?
MOOCs feature democratized education, making courses from elite public and private colleges available to students around the world. However, institutions are still determining the best ways to use the unique MOOC delivery format. The following table highlights major pros and cons associated with MOOCs.
Comparing the Pros and Cons of MOOCs
- Pros of MOOCs
- Students can complete courses from anywhere in the world without visiting college campuses.
- Courses run at all times of year, commonly dispensing with the standard campus calendar.
- Specialized subject matter enables students to complete courses that meet their unique needs.
- Flexibility allows students to easily complete courses while maintaining full-time jobs.
- Certificates, microdegrees, and other specialized credentials can help students increase their professional standing.
- Some courses may count for college credit, enabling students to transfer into traditional degree programs.
- Even paid enrollment courses often cost less than traditional college tuition.
- Cons of MOOCs
- Students rarely interact with faculty members, except in some paid courses.
- Courses are primarily self-directed, requiring students to work independently.
- MOOCs offer fewer opportunities for group work and other collaborative activities.
- The open nature and high enrollment volume of MOOCs make individualized feedback and engagement difficult.
What Is There to Show For Taking a MOOC?
In some instances, MOOC participants may receive professional certificates or other credentials, such as microdegrees, upon completing online courses. These options most commonly accompany paid-enrollment MOOCs, which require students to pay course fees before receiving certifications. Free MOOCs rarely confer certifications, and those free credentials may carry less merit.
Students typically list these credentials on their resumes or LinkedIn profiles, just as they would traditional certificates earned from in-person workshops. These credentials can help working professionals distinguish themselves for job opportunities, and they may help candidates advance in their current careers.
Comparing MOOCs to Formal Higher Education Options
Business MOOCs serve as practical options for students looking to develop their professional skills, and these courses closely resemble traditional degree options, with some exceptions. This list outlines traditional degree and certificate pathways as they compare to MOOCs, exploring the benefits MOOCs offer at each academic level.
- MOOCs vs. Certificates
- Focused on building specialized skills in defined areas of knowledge, MOOCs often function similarly to certificate programs. Paid-enrollment MOOCs leading to certifications serve professionals looking to develop specific skill sets or build competencies in certain areas.
- MOOCs vs. Associate Degrees
- MOOCs focused on introductory business skills often resemble associate degree curricula. However, associate degrees build academic credit, which may apply toward a bachelor's degree, while most MOOCs do not. Associate degrees also build broad business knowledge, while MOOCs focus on specific subjects.
- MOOCs vs. Bachelor's Degrees
- More specialized MOOCs cover similar topics to bachelor's degrees in business. However, as with associate degrees, bachelor's degrees build a broader knowledge base, while MOOCs typically focus on individual topics. MOOCs can build foundational business knowledge, but they won't replace the broad subject matter of bachelor's programs.
- MOOCs vs. MBAs
- For advanced students, high-level MOOCs may build specialized knowledge similar to that of online MBAs, but at a fraction of the cost. Students who already hold bachelor's degrees but don't want to commit to full MBA programs may also benefit from MOOCs to hone certain skills.
Is a MOOC Worth It?
MOOCs offer notable benefits for students and business professionals. These benefits typically break down into three major categories: career progress, employability, and educational advancement.
How MOOCs Can Help With Your Current Position
- Develop Specialized Skills: MOOCs can help professionals advance their current careers by building their applicable skills. Candidates interested in pursuing management roles might complete courses focused on management practices, while those desiring more specialized computer skills might take courses in specific programs.
- Obtain Professional Certifications: Along with wide-ranging general knowledge, paid-enrollment MOOCs may confer professional credentials and certifications, which help professionals advance their current careers. Obtaining microdegrees or certificates can help candidates distinguish themselves for more advanced positions.
- Build Soft Skills: MOOCs can help professionals build soft skills for the workplace while building business knowledge. Such soft skills may include leadership, communication, organization, and problem-solving.
How MOOCs Can Help With Your Job Hunt
- Changing Career Fields: MOOCs offer practical pathways for professionals looking to change careers, and online courses typically enable participants to complete assignments while maintaining full-time jobs. Students seeking to change their careers can gain new skills through MOOCs without committing to full degree programs.
- Improve Employment Prospects: New skills, competencies, and certifications can help candidates distinguish themselves in competitive job markets. MOOCs enable students to build practical, relevant skills that stand out to employers, and the specificity of most courses ensures students won't waste time on irrelevant content.
- Explore New Areas of Interest: MOOCs offer opportunities to explore new fields of interest without committing too much time or money. These courses provide spaces to engage with new topics and determine their relevance to potential new career paths.
How MOOCs Can Help With Your Education
- College Preparation: For students uncertain about returning to school or enrolling for the first time, MOOCs allow learners to test the waters of higher education. These courses mimic aspects of the college experience, but they feature more flexibility, helping students adjust to the structure of higher education without worrying about tuition expenses.
- Earn College Credit: In some instances, students may apply MOOC content toward college credit requirements, completing their degrees more quickly than they could in traditional programs. Generally, only paid-enrollment MOOCs offer transferable credits.
- Determine Professional Interests: Just as MOOCs can help students determine their preparedness for college coursework, they can also help candidates determine their subject areas of interest. MOOCs offer freedom and flexibility, enabling participants to explore many topics and interests.
What Do MOOCs for Business Look Like?
Business MOOC courses encompass a wide variety of topics, which generally break down into a few major categories. This list outlines several common types of MOOCs, grouped by categories such as subject area, institutional provider, learning outcome, and skill level.
Different Types of Business MOOCs
MOOCs can be categorized by:
Business Concept or Skill
Many courses focus on widely applicable business skills such as leadership, management, or entrepreneurship. These courses may offer general overviews of topics or delve into more specific concepts and practices, such as securing startup funding for entrepreneurs or using social media for marketers.
Software tools play major roles in most aspects of modern business, and many MOOCs focus on specific programs. Corresponding MOOCs exist for most types of software, and many courses exist for popular programs like Excel, QuickBooks, and PowerPoint.
The accessibility of MOOCs creates a vast assortment of course offerings for business professionals of all skill levels. Introductory courses build foundational knowledge of business concepts and software applications, while advanced courses offer specialized knowledge for mid- and late-career professionals. MOOC platforms typically indicate the skill level of the course content.
Many institutions offer MOOCs, including universities, corporations, and professional organizations. For example, Harvard offers MOOCs in conjunction with edX under its HarvardX initiative.
Courses focused on specific skills, competencies, or software proficiencies may lead to professional credentials, such as certificates. MOOC platforms also offer "microdegrees," or series of courses building specialized knowledge in defined areas. In some cases, students may be able to transfer credits earned through MOOCs to college degree programs.
Business MOOC Examples
Identifying Entrepreneurial Opportunities
This general course examines concepts in psychology, sociology, and business practices, offering a broad framework for students interested in startup development, entrepreneurship, or corporate innovation strategies. Participants learn to identify, evaluate, and develop entrepreneurial ventures and innovation methods in a variety of business environments.
Supply Chain Technology and Systems
This course focuses on the implementation of technology in supply chain systems, exploring fundamental concepts, data analysis, and core systems. Students receive an overview of supply chain software tools and the key concepts underlying common types of supply chain management systems.
Business Analytics and Decision-making
Management decisions increasingly rely on data-driven models, with many organizations adopting evidence-based approaches to create competitive advantages. Intended for managers, this course highlights the use of business analytics in management strategies, giving participants the tools needed to identify, analyze, and implement data for effective decision-making.
Business Accounting Basics
Serving small-business-owners and students looking to develop their understanding of basic accounting, this introductory course familiarizes students with accounting fundamentals such as income statements, balance sheets, statements of retained earnings, and statements of cash flow. Students also explore methods to project profitability and analyze costs.
Enabling Teamwork with Microsoft Teams
Intended for IT professionals and other managers, this course introduces the fundamentals of the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform. The course covers how to enable users, configure Teams settings, plan for network usage, and configure voice functionality.
How Do I Take a MOOC?
Enrolling in a MOOC serves as a practical choice for students looking to begin or continue their business education, and choosing the right course platform represents the first step.
Sites Offering MOOCs
With thousands of MOOCs available, learners may feel overwhelmed browsing course listings among various platforms. This list highlights four of the most popular MOOC platforms, all of which combine robust business course offerings with academic and professional reputability. Their offerings may vary widely, but students can trust their general quality.
- edX Founded in cooperation between Harvard and MIT, edX is known for its connections to prestigious colleges nationwide, with charter members including Stanford University, Georgetown University, Cornell University, and the University of Texas system. The platform serves more than 20 million students, with courses available in subjects including business administration, economics, and project management.
- FutureLearn Founded in 2013 by the UK's Open University, FutureLearn offers courses to millions of students around the world. The platform's university partners represent a broad consortium of global academic institutions, including the University of Glasgow, King's College London, the University of Melbourne, and Johns Hopkins University.
- Coursera One of the leading MOOC platforms, Coursera offers more than 3,900 courses and specializations, with dozens of professional certifications available. Students can enroll in courses from major colleges in the U.S. and abroad, including the University of Michigan, Arizona State University, and Imperial College London.
- Udemy Describing itself as "the world's largest selection of courses," video-learning platform Udemy hosts more than 100,000 video courses, with thousands of new offerings added monthly. Students can explore a wide assortment of business courses, covering topics including financial analysis, digital marketing, and Microsoft Excel.
How To Find the Right MOOC
Online MOOC courses offer thousands of learning options, which can make it difficult to research and select a course. When exploring and selecting MOOCs, learners should consider the following:
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I put a MOOC on my CV?
- MOOCs resulting in credentials like certifications and microdegrees look great on resumes, CVs, and LinkedIn profiles. Students can include these designations as they would any credentials earned from in-person workshops.
- How does a MOOC work?
- MOOCs operate entirely online, allowing students to gain new knowledge and skills through distance learning. Many courses (particularly free offerings) are self-directed, requiring students to complete assignments independently without faculty supervision. Some programs entail more structure.
- Are MOOCs free?
- Many MOOCs are offered entirely for free, while others include enrollment fees. In some instances, MOOC platforms may enable students to audit courses for free but charge additional fees for expanded content, such as certifications or graded assignments.
- Are MOOCs worth it?
- MOOCs offer accessible, flexible education to students around the world. Free courses offer cost-effective methods of developing knowledge and skills, while paid courses often feature desirable professional and educational outcomes but at a much lower cost than a college degree.