Degree of disruption – MOOCs change how people earn degrees

Recently, I heard about an event at a business school, where MOOCs were discussed. The person I spoke with had attended this – closed – event, and mentioned how the experts had come to the conclusion that currently business schools and their degrees (yes, indeed: MBA) were not really threatened by MOOCs, and that no-one was yet giving out MOOC-based degrees. Oh, and no, it certainly wasn’t going to be the higher education world that was going to disrupt this status quo. The disruptions was going to come from the outside. The tone struck me as if they had added something like “in the distant future”.

Well, I couldn’t agree less. Currently, it seems there is still a big gap between the free education offered through MOOCs, and getting a tangible, old-fashioned (and in many cases expensive) diploma, with the right to call yourself MBA, or MSc. or any other hard-earned title. Don’t get me wrong: if you do the work, you deserve to show it off. But, what is already changing, is that MOOCs are becoming part of that work load.

Surely, there’s also disruption coming from outside the higher education systems. Projects like Degree of Freedom and The No-Pay MBA have already shown that with MOOCs you can compile your own degree, with a similar set of free courses as the expensive degree programs at (business) schools. So, yes, disruption is coming from outside, and it’s already here. For a while now.

But, the disruption of degree programs, and other certifications, is certainly also coming from inside the world of higher education. As a first example, the signature tracks that Coursera has launched, in which a few schools combine courses into a specialist track, with a special, often very profession oriented, certification at the end.

Another example are the Nanodegrees of Udacity, presented in collaboration with several companies. These are very focused sets of course, which, and this is important, increase your chance of getting a job at those companies. One of the important factors for people to aim for a degree, are, I believe, increased chances in the labour market. Udacity is offering exactly that. With a price tag attached, but still, not a very big number on that tag.

The last example comes again from Coursera. On their blog they run a series of ‘Learner Stories’. In a recent one, a Brazilian shared his story on how his Verified Certificates from a couple of MOOCs, were accepted by his university, and counted as credit he needed to get his degree. Indeed. This is how higher education institutions are going to be part of the disruption of degree programs: by accepting MOOC certificates, and translating them into study credits.

So, if you are running a business school that thinks it can wait for the disruptors of degree programs emerge, think again. They are already here, and they are coming from all sides imaginable: outsiders, insiders, and, maybe even more importantly, the companies that can make or break the value of your degree.

Whether you’re running a company or an education institution, MOOCs are impacting your business. If you want to learn more about how they do so, and what you can do to benefit from that, connect with me. We can discuss over a coffee the opportunities this brings for your organisation.

This post was published earlier on LinkedIn.

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