The rise of free online learning platforms has been evidenced this year by the addition of MOOC (massive online open course) to the Oxford English Dictionary in August, and a recent announcement by University of Pennsylvania further endorses the concept. UPenn’s Wharton School is offering four first-year MBA courses online for free through Coursera, one of the most popular MOOC platforms, which partners with top universities around the world to deliver courses to hundreds of thousands of students.
Specifically, these four ‘foundation’ courses are in financial accounting, operations management, marketing and corporate finance. The prestigious business school also offers five elective courses, covering topics such as sports business and microfinance. Courses range from six to ten weeks long and consist of prerecorded lectures from the same Wharton professors that teach the MBA classes, along with interactive elements such as discussion boards. With these nine courses, a student can essentially complete the coursework for the entire first year of the MBA program, a program which is typically a two-year and $200,000 investment.
Don Huesman, managing director of the innovation group at Wharton, reported to Business Week that while much of the same content of the program’s coursework is now available remotely, and at no cost, the Coursera courses are no replacement for the MBA program with its immersive on-campus experience, assistance with internship placements, career services, and alumni network. Students who successfully complete the Coursera foundation courses can receive a certificate of completion for a fee of $49, although this certificate will not be recognized for course credit should the student later enroll in the Wharton MBA program. However, students would be able to test out of certain first-year courses based on the material covered in their Coursera course(s).
“This is the first time that a business school has bundled a collection of MOOCs together in this fashion,” Huesman says of the foundation series, as reported in Business Week. It is already proving to be a popular concept, with approximately 700,000 students from 173 countries enrolled in Wharton MOOCs, and apparently additional courses should be expected soon.