Universal Access to Education: A Few Business Options

Yesterday I attended a workshop on campus on The Future of Learning led by Dr. Arshad Ahmad and Dr. Robert Lapp. Three megatrends were identified: hyperconnectivity, universal access, and personalized education. There was much discussion of MOOC (massive open online courses) and I started to wonder what options might exist for courses in business and/or Aboriginal topics. Naturally, I couldn't resist poking around the interwebs to see what I might find.

Coursera draws from 33 participating universities and offers courses in 20 different categories. Of interest for this inquiry are the categories of Economics & Finance and Business & Management (but there are also courses in Food & Nutrition, Medicine, Law, etc). Courses that stood out in my browsing include Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning, Introduction to Finance, Organizational Analysis, and Foundations of Business Strategy. Also of interest is the course Aboriginal Worldviews and Education. You can find the complete list of courses at the Coursera website.

Khan Academy has lessons available, largely through short videos, that focus primarily on the K-12 level; however, it has been suggested that these may also appeal to lifelong learners more broadly. In addition to an astounding number of topics in math, categories available also include Finance & Capital Markets, Microeconomics, and Macroeconomics. Each category is subdivided, including multiple videos on topics such as interest and debt, taxes, stocks and bonds, consumer and producer surplus, foreign exchange and trade, and any number of other topics. I particularly enjoyed the video on Economics of a Cupcake Factory (since I often joke that I will one day open a bakery). It's worth taking the time to browse through the lessons and videos available at Khan Academy.

Both of these websites made me think about my first introduction to the notion of free online learning — a blog link that appeared in my facebook feed last April titled 12 Dozen Places to Education Yourself Online for Free. It included 12 options under the topic Business & Money. After reviewing all of the options, for a lark I decided to talk an entrepreneurship course titled Starting My Own Business from MyOwnBusiness.org. I was surprised to find that the course was very well structured with videos and quizzes for each topic, and when I was done (and successfully completed the final exam), I did receive a certificate of completion in the mail. (I'm not suggesting that this is necessarily a credential that I would put on a resume, but mention it to confirm that the organization does indeed follow through on their end of our bargain.)

Of course, the question of credentials is not one to be taken lightly, since for job acquisition and advancement they are still required (at least in most contexts). But, for those with an interest in lifelong learning, those needed a refresher in a particular area, or those looking to test out possible (perhaps new) career paths, there are great options available.