Overloaded In The Online Education Marketplace

In the supermarket of online college courses, as when grocery shopping, it is best not to enter the store hungry.

My goal is to sign up for two courses from Coursera, Udacity or EdX, arguably the three leading so-called MOOCs. But I have quickly found a choice problem: too many courses for my hungry mind.

There are other problems, too.

Where Coursera offers a quick keyword search (“quantum,” for example, will bring up a result for the University of Maryland’s “Exploring Quantum Physics” course), Udacity and EdX don’t appear to have a search tool. But Udacity labels courses as beginner, intermediate or advanced, a nice ease-of-use touch.

Udacity also typically allows users to sign up for a course at any time, unlike Coursera and EdX, which have set-in-stone beginning and ending dates for classes.

EdX is a not-for-profit, while Udacity and Coursera are for-profit ventures trying to nail down just how they can make money from online offerings.

Many MOOCs seem to be shifting away from a free model to a fee model, sort of like a grocery store offering free Oreos today and charging for them tomorrow.

Those are all problems — call them niches or opportunities, if you must — that MOOCs must sort out as far as functionality or business models.

But my problem as I cruise the MOOCs is in whittling down which classes to take. How can I pick only two courses from this panoply of offerings?

What about “Principles of Macroeconomics” on Coursera’s site? It’s applicable to the work I do every day. Forget it. The instructor is at the University of Melbourne — I’ll never be able to understand his accent.

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