MOOCs at 3: Online Instruction Comes of Age



I’m not going anywhere this Labor Day weekend.

Nope – this weekend I’m going to school.

Rather than embark on one last beach vacation, road trip, or impromptu flight to Costa Rica or Cuba, I’m going to spend significant time learning new digital marketing skills from some video tutorials, courtesy of online education platform Udemy.

This is new for me, and it demonstrates just how far online video classes have come in the past few years.


Three years ago I had a client – a senior partner at a management consulting firm – who was attempting to establish herself as a thought leader in the online education space, the world of MOOCs.

Then new, MOOCs stands for “Massive Online Open Courses.”

At the time, these online video classes were new, but backed by such reputable and free platforms as:

The question, from this particular management consultant, was the extent to which free classes could or would disrupt traditional education – and if so, how employers (such as her firm) should evaluate students trained in such a non-traditional setting rather than a traditional university setting.

Due to advances in internet video streaming, for the first time students worldwide could access quality lessons from renowned professors for free – or at least for far less than the $150,000 most U.S. schools typically charge for a 4-year degree.

And while the courses were initially mocked by the academy as in no way comparable to in-person education, the courses gained legitimacy when professors from schools such as MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford and Yale began contributing.

Instructor grading – the next evolution

Last week, Inside Higher Ed published a post that evaluated MOOCs from a “3 years later” perspective. The piece fairly weighed the pros and cons of the online courses in the context of a recent announcement that student papers in one popular philosophy course given by MIT will be graded by “a trained philosopher.”

For the author, the new direct feedback and engagement given by a real-live instructor is a potential game changer, and the next step in the evolution of MOOCs:

By now we know that MOOCs are not the final answer. Higher education will not be saved (or destroyed) by these massive open online courses that splashed into everyone’s consciousness about three years ago. Yes, they provide some fascinating opportunities for expanding access to higher education, for helping us to rethink how teaching and learning works, and for revitalizing the debate about the role of faculty and the power (or futility) of going to college.

Regardless of the broader philosophical debate over whether free online courses are an appropriate substitute for in-person instruction (and the direct engagement and feedback that allows), MOOCs can – at a minimum – provide quality lecture-based instruction in narrow vocational topics not usually taught by traditional universities.

My weekend curriculum

And so I turned to Udemy this week for a series of courses in non-traditional subjects that all deal in some way with digital marketing.

Specifically, I bought classes in topics including:

  • Facebook marketing and ad targeting
  • Instagram marketing
  • Pinterest marketing
  • Building a personal brand
  • SEO training
  • Web development

These are the types of narrow topics that I’d otherwise have to learn via local community college courses or through un-vetted video tutorials on YouTube.

Time will tell how effective just four hours of video instruction will be at teaching me how best to create and target Facebook ads.

But for my first foray into low-cost instruction on best practices for cutting-edge digital platforms, I’m excited.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

Be the first to comment on "MOOCs at 3: Online Instruction Comes of Age"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.