Said in a Brooklyn accent, the title of this article could sound like some kind of neighborhood taunt. But what I am referring to when I say “MOOC” is a new wave of online educational courses, affectionately named for “massively open online courses.” Welcome to the new world of “edutech.”
The exponential growth of these free, online courses can be best illustrated by the growth of one of the new industry leaders, Coursera. It was started in 2012 by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, who wanted to offer unrestricted access to free online classes from top-tier universities. They began with a smattering of courses from three institutions. A year later, they were offering more than 200 courses from 33 top international and domestic schools to 2.4 million students across 196 countries.
This explosion is not exclusive to Coursera. Harvard and MIT created another MOOC they called EdX offering free online classes from each university. A year later, it has attracted more than 753,000 students from around the world. Stanford University offered three free online computer science courses and attracted 356,000 people from 190 countries. Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford computer science professor, quickly developed another MOOC called Udacity after he attracted over 160,000 students for one online class on artificial intelligence in the fall of 2011. MIT Media Lab’s first foray into MOOCs, an online course called “Learning About Learning,” received 24,000 enrollees around the world.
Besides Coursera, EdX and Udacity there is the Khan Academy and Lynda, and there’s a great blog, MOOC Report, to keep track of it all.
This has all the makings of a major disruptive force in the once impervious, hallowed halls of higher education, at least when the groundswell becomes a viable business model and the new industry addresses some of its completion rate and retention challenges, which it will soon enough. Regardless, MOOCs essentially prove that disruption and evolutionary change spare no one, even in the insulated realm of higher education. That means if your industry hasn’t been disrupted yet, it’s coming.
Universities globally, including Oxford and Cambridge, have been scrambling to determine their response to this demand for knowledge. There are now dozens of MOOCs and variations on the theme in different stages of development. In 2015, the number of universities offering MOOCs has topped 500, for a total number of cumulative courses reaching 2,400. Twenty-two of the top 25 U.S. universities in the U.S. News & World Report rankings are now offering courses online for free.
This new global access to top professors and special educational content could very well become a watershed event. Besides launching great professors into rock star status and increasing the appeal and ease of ongoing learning, it will spawn new digital technologies and methods to share and collaborate on knowledge and ideas; foster virtual learning communities; and inspire and empower millions of people globally to accelerate learning, growing, creating, inventing, solving and sharing new solutions to the many challenges we face.
As the rate of change continues to compound all around us, this new educational technology could be a major tool helping us keep pace with the rapid rate of business and cultural change!  
I highly encourage everyone to explore this evolutionary force by taking a class and being a participant in this process. There are many courses on understanding and implementing more innovation in your thinking and your business. It may provide a lot of ideas for your present business challenges and lead you to something amazing in your future. Happy learning!
The Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial advisors and financial services firms. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and best practices to drive and facilitate their growth, differentiation and unique community engagement strategies. The Institute was launched with the support and foresight of our founding sponsors--Pershing, Voya Financial, Ultimus Fund Solutions, Fidelity, MeridianIQ/AdviceIQ, Innovation Equity Partners and Charter Financial Publishing (publisher of Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines).