不过，所有MOOC都具备一个显著特征：面向所有人。这正是它们如此红火的原因所在。诚然，许多MOOC都是免费的，但它们正在吸引数以百万计的学生，这些学生恰恰是高等院校未来的潜在客户。这就是为什么课程时代( Coursera)、edX和Udacity等平台正在与大学开展内容合作。比如，edX最初与哈佛大学(Harvard)和麻省理工学院(MIT)结盟，后来又增加了加州大学伯克利分校(University of California at Berkeley)和德克萨斯大学(University of Texas)，谷歌公司(Google)最近也加入了这个联盟。课程时代由斯坦福大学(Stanford)的教授发起，提供来自沃顿、哥伦比亚(Columbia)和耶鲁(Yale)等大学的课程。
So you want an MBA, but you can't afford to take two years off and invest upwards of a quarter of a million on tuition, books, living expenses, and lost wages?
Boy, do I have a proposition for you.
Now, it's a little unconventional. And it'll require a load of self-discipline. When it's over, you'll have an Ivy League education on your resume. And it won't cost you a cent.
Sound too good to be true? Maybe it is. But I got your attention. And that's one of the first things you learn in a foundational marketing class. And one of the world's best business schools -- Wharton -- offers one of those for free through a MOOC.
MOOCs -- an acronym for massive open online courses -- are courses that can be accessed globally over the Internet. Thanks to their flexibility, students covet them.
It can be hard to describe what a MOOC is. To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, you "know it when you see it." Most MOOCs rely on set start and end dates, though a few are self-paced. They can be scaled to accommodate tens-of-thousands or just a select community. Occasionally, students can earn grades and college credit through MOOCs. Mostly, though, students receive a certificate of completion.
Tests can be proctored, but many MOOCs rely on the honor system. Textbooks are often optional (though some courses come with eBooks and downloadable software). Although professors deliver content through videos and PowerPoint in MOOCs, many engage with students on message boards in realtime (and even keep office hours for online students). Although MOOCs are grounded in distance education, many students form regionally based online communities.
Still, there is one characteristic that marks all MOOCs: They are available to anyone. And that's why they're booming. Sure, many MOOCs are free. But they're also drawing millions of students, potential future customers for universities. That's why platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udacity are partnering with schools to house content. For example, edX started as a consortium between Harvard and MIT -- and has since added the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas to its membership (along with recently joining forces with Google (GOOG)). Coursera was launched by Stanford professors and offers courses from the likes of Wharton, Columbia, and Yale.
That raises the question: With so much content available for free, do students even need to enroll in college anymore? MOOCs have democratized education globally (provided you have an Internet connection). Could students treat education like IKEA furniture?