Another benefit? You can enjoy all of these benefits without quitting your job, losing two years of work experience, and shelling out six figures for tuition. In fact, you won't even need to study for your GMAT, pony up for an MBA admissions consultant, or face those daunting odds of getting into a top 10 business school.
To be sure, there are drawbacks. You won't be able to flaunt your GPA. If you struggle with English, you won't find many courses with foreign language subtitles on Coursera or edX. Despite message boards and interactive discussions, MOOCs still lack that face-to-face give-and-take that facilitates learning, particularly when case studies are involved. In a class of hundreds (or thousands), you'll probably receive little personal attention or support. And just being on your own is difficult. It takes significant drive to complete assignments and tests. Without structure, it is easy to lose interest, particularly when free classes mean you have no skin in the game. What's more, MOOCs put you at the mercy of technology. And, despite their earnest efforts, professors are still adapting to teaching out of a studio.
Most important, MOOCs can't deliver the real draws of business school: The network and internship. Theoretically, MOOCs can give you the tools to run circles around your more pedigreed peers. But their internship opportunities and alumni network will give them a huge head start (even if you keep working). Fair or not, degrees matter. Without certification from a renowned educational brand, few employers will trust that you've mastered advanced coursework.
So should you take the plunge? That's up to you. But consider this: In 2014, Harvard will join Wharton in making foundational MBA courses available online. With that, you can expect a MOOC arms race among the top business schools.
That said, here's a word of warning: MOOCs won't stay free forever. Sure, top institutions are building their brands by giving students a taste of their content. Eventually, they'll need to tie their open source ideals to a revenue stream. Otherwise, MOOCs could potentially disrupt and cannibalize their existing businesses.
By giving content away for free, educators have opened the same Pandora's Box that media outlets did nearly 20 years ago. Customers began to expect free content. And it resulted in a consolidation and decentralization of that market. A decade from now, academics may view the present as the heyday of MOOCs. To continue this model, educators will eventually need to charge for the content or reduce access or quality.
So if you're going to enroll in a MOOC, do it now. Paywalls and restrictions are soon to come.