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US Companies Buy in to MOOC Revolution


American companies are turning their attention toward MOOCs as a potential tool for finding new hires and training old ones. One of the newest programs along these lines is Udacity’s Open Education Alliance, a partnership with several major firms to create MOOCs that grant certificate in the skill-sets that are in high demand.

As the WSJ notes, there are other initiatives in the works as well. MIT is attempting a similar venture in which companies give input into the content of courses. Yahoo!, meanwhile, is actually paying employees to take certain MOOCs. One executive explains why these online courses are so appealing to companies:

Companies involved in the Open Education Alliance have committed to build at least one class at a cost of about $250,000. In return, they will receive access to a talent pool guaranteed to have studied the skills the employer wants, said Scott Smith, an AT&T vice president in charge of global hiring.

“We demand a certain amount of talent…the more entities that can help supply, the better,” said Mr. Smith.

This sounds like it could be a winner for both companies and students alike. Students get access to classes in exactly what they want to know for a fraction of the cost, with a much lower time commitment than a four year degree. Once they finish the MOOC, they will have direct connections to companies interested in their new skills. Companies, meanwhile, get access to talented labor, a cheap, efficient training system for current employees, and a solution to problem of colleges that graduate students with few job-oriented skills.

The biggest winners may be the MOOCs themselves. Employer buy-in is an absolute must if MOOCs  are to carve out a niche in the education marketplace. We believe that MOOCs  have the potential to offer instruction every bit as good as what one gets in the traditional college experience (at least in some subjects), but unless the business world takes MOOC credentialing seriously, MOOC programs probably won’t get a chance to live up to their full potential.

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