Sunday, December 23, 2012

Online Education--Do It!

 The authors of Marginal Revolution, one of the economics blogs I read, pioneered a new open education venture sponsored by their employer's Mercatus Center at George Mason University.   I enrolled in the course not only because I am an economics junkie who is interested in development economics as part of a current project in Uganda I am working on, but also because I am an innovation blogger.  I am learning and enjoying not only the teaching, but watching the project develop as a participant. 

I have been a fan of accredited online university learning for many years, and am following online edcuational innovation leaders such as iTunes U, Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, and edX.  So I have jumped in to experience the wave of innovation myself. 

Online education is a leading force in creative destruction globally.  Over the past two years, I have learned through the lectures of massive open online courses presented by Yale University, MIT, Harvard, Liberty, RTS, Berkeley, and others.   MRU is the first of the open courses I have taken to offer some level of quizzes (they are very simple), mid-term and final exams, and a certificate of completion. 

The podcasts are short; designed for life in our fast paced world.  I listen while driving as well as on my iPod at home.  Each short two to five minute segment is packed with information and links to supplemental articles and data.  The Development Economics course topics are great for those involved in international business, diplomats, residents of developing countries, and economics junkies in general. 

On the downside, the somewhat dull monotone style of the presenter's scripted reading is a minor distraction.  Since this is the dismal science I suppose it is fitting.

According to a recent article in The Economist, Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and author of “The Innovative University” predicts “wholesale bankruptcies” over the next decade among standard universities.   Mr Christensen predicts that most universities below the upper tier will have to integrate a “second, virtual university” into the standard one. Good online classes would reduce the need for costly campus facilities and free teachers’ time for individual tutoring.  

As a CFO and lifelong learner, I am riding the wave of innovation as an early adopter.  Over the Christmas break, I am taking a Udacity class on business startups and refresher course in statistics as we are working on new strategy and a lean initiative where I work.  Coursera also has some offerings later this winter on innovation, and I am considering an introduction to computer science from Harvard via edX.  

I challenge all of you who have been out of college for more than a few years to update your skills by experiencing one of these innovative opportunities.  It keeps your brain active and will keep you competitive as your degree value decays. 

If you never had the opportunity to go to college, now you can!  Open course education will give you an advantage over others in the marketplace who also do not have a degree, or those who have an earned degree but are terrible at what they do.

If you are an educator or administrator in one of America's colleges and universities--remember Kodak.  The innovator's dilemma is real.  As a resident local to where Kodak was once a giant, help us redeem the demise and bankruptcy of Kodak by learning the lessons of its failure.  Take a course by the leaders of innovation, and decide whether online education is for real or not by firsthand experience. 

Let your creativity run, write down your ideas, learn, and grow!

Merry Christmas,