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Private Sector Warming to MOOCs


For all the talk about the MOOC backlash setting in, the past few months have actually been an extremely fertile time for innovations in online learning, particularly when it comes to partnerships between MOOC purveyors and private companies. We’ve already discussed LinkedIn’s plans to create a “direct-to-profile” credential for completing courses, but as Forbes notes, this is only the tip of the iceberg, as a number of businesses are looking to use MOOCs as a cheap form of training for current employees:

Bank of America partnered with Khan Academy to create, a cobranded MOOC to educate consumers on personal finance. SAP developed the openSAP MOOC platform to educate its ecosystem of developers and partners on SAP technologies.

Yahoo is reimbursing employees for the cost of verified course-completion certificates from Coursera. Online retailer 1-800-Flowers announced it will create an online education portal on the Udemy platform for its network of independent florists. The portal offers a mix of general business courses and custom-developed coursers on topics specific to the floral industry. Tenaris, a $10 billion manufacturer of steel pipes, has licensed edX’s software platform and course materials for its employee learning. The World Bank, International Money Fund, GE, and several major government ministries are licensing MOOC content and technologies for their constituents.

While this won’t be the higher-ed game-changer that MOOCs for college credit would be, it may be one of the best growth opportunities for the technology in the short term. On college campuses, MOOCs are fighting against a relatively small but well-entrenched group of university professors with considerable clout in their industry and a vested interest in the status quo. MOOCs may well gain ground there as well, but opposition from much of the establishment ensures that it won’t happen overnight.

In the meantime, however, private businesses will be more than happy to turn to cheap, efficient online courses to handle employee training. What’s more, courting deep-pocketed private businesses as customers could be a solution to the profitability problem that has dogged these courses from the beginning. MOOCs’ future is still bright.

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  • Andrew Allison

    BetterMoneyHabits has enormous potential. Economic illiteracy a a major factor in prevent people from living better lives. BoA is to be commended for this effort, and the segment, at a minimum, should be part of secondary education.

  • Rupert Levy

    And what of the social impact of MOOCs? The real relevance and importance of the open online education movement is the potential for social empowerment and liberalisation of the status quo to benefit global society — bringing the privilege of educational opportunities to the billions that are excluded by cost and opportunity. Khan Academy and are two of the pioneers that are continually innovating to ensure that MOOCs are for everyone, everywhere – not just the thirty-somethings with a Master’s in the USA.

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