Will the Education Revolution Spill Over to Company Training?


Free online education is driving an education revolution that can help employees and employers alike.
Thomas Friedman wrote in his column of May 15, 2012 about what he considered to be a revolution in higher education. It made me wonder if this revolution could spill over into company training. Perhaps you can help me decide.
Friedman described a new, out-of-the-box, educational model that offers classes from institutions like Stanford and Penn for FREE. Coursera, founded by Andrew Ng of Stanford offers major college courses, online, for FREE. Friedman says “…Coursera, hopes to revolutionize higher education by allowing students from all over the world to not only hear his lectures, but to do homework assignments, be graded, receive a certificate for completing the course and use that to get a better job or gain admission to a better school.” We all know that online learning has been around for several years. But not for free. Ng has already used it to teach 100,000 students in one semester when he would normally only reach 250. Friedman says this model is desperately needed in a time where the cost of a college education is going through the roof and you have a generation that is hyper-connected and used to doing so much online.
Friedman remarks “Coursera is the next step: building an interactive platform that will allow the best schools in the world to not only offer a wide range of free course lectures online, but also a system of testing, grading, student-to-student help and awarding certificates of completion of a course for under $100.” From both an individual student standpoint and from an employer standpoint what a terrific opportunity for learning! Friedman says “These top-quality learning platforms could enable budget-strained community colleges in America to “flip” their classrooms. That is, download the world’s best lecturers on any subject and let their own professors concentrate on working face-to-face with students. Says Koller: “It will allow people who lack access to world-class learning — because of financial, geographic or time constraints — to have an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.”
It would work well for cash strapped companies who need better educated employees but don’t have the financial resources to do educational reimbursement. Coursera is already being able to link with employers to provide them with the names of students who have done well in classes in hopes of helping employers get better educated employees.
Friedman is predicting this is going to be huge, I agree. It will require a different way of approaching education. Teachers had better be prepared to teach online, consultants as well. HR departments need to start looking at this and seeing how it may fit with their employee population and learning requirements. I am excited about it. I have already enrolled in a September 10 week class on Networked Life offered by the University of Pennsylvania. I predict the number of my classmates will be quite large and that opportunity for that kind of interaction will be awesome.
If you want to read more of Friedman’s article you can click here.
The link to Coursera is here.
And the link to the class on Networked Life is here.

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