The 'Open' Education & Training Revolution Continues

First came free and 'open' source software. Then along came 'Open Access', 'Open' Data, 'Open' Standards, 'Open' IT Architecture, 'Open' Hardware, 'Open' Communities, 'Open' Government, 'Open' Education, and …  The 'Open' Movement continues to spread disrupting almost every industry.  The 'Open' Revolution is a rapidly spreading 21st century global phenomenon.

This article focuses on some of the major disruptive changes occurring related to the field of 'Open Education & Training, in both the public and private sector. These include everything from 'open access' journals and textbooks to 'open source' education and training software - and the latest phenomena, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).


The number and quality of free and 'open source' education and training software products out there continues to grow. Have you checked some of them out? They are aimed at students, teachers, and public and private sector education and training organizations.  Have you heard of Sakai, Kuali, Kaltura, Moodle,  or Zotero? Check out some of the better products now available – go to the COSI Open Education web site.

You might also want to check out some of the many sources of high quality, free and 'open access' journals and textbooks available on the web. Do you know about Bentham Open Access, OER Commons, Versita Open, or the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? Check out these and many of the other 'Open Access' Education resources.

Then there are Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) web sites that offer low cost, online courses aimed at nearly unlimited levels of participation by students or trainees around the globe. In addition to using traditional course materials (e.g. textbooks, videos), MOOCs also provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and instructors. MOOCs are a relatively recent development in distance education.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) emerged from the open educational resources (OER) movement. The term MOOC was first coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island and Senior Research Fellow Bryan Alexander of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education in Canada. You can read a lot more about the history of MOOCs on Wikipedia.

While MOOCs initially emerged and were used in academic settings, many private corporations around the world have begun to embrace them as a new, cost effective alternative for providing training to their employees.

Major Examples of 'Open' Education & Training Solutions

The following are brief profiles of some of the more notable Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms that are currently available:

edX  is a non-profit collaborative organization and web portal offering interactive Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) in subjects such as law, history, science, engineering, business, social sciences, computer science, public health, and more. Their decision to release their source code to the community was made to further accelerate enhancements to the platform.

Coursera  is an education company that has partnered with top universities and organizations around the world to offer free courses online for anyone to take. Coursera enables its partners to offer their courses to millions of students. It has emerged as the current leader of the pack, with over 10 million enrollments in Coursera from approximately 195 countries.

Udacity  is a for-profit education and training organization offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). Their mission is to help reinvent education for the 21st century by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment.

Udemy  is another for-profit education and raining company helping its students make career moves – whether it be getting a promotion, breaking into a new industry, starting a company, or furthering a passion.

Other MOOC platforms to check out include Academic Earth, FutureLearn, OER University, OpenCurriculum, and YouTube EDU.

Corporate Training & MOOCs 

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) are starting to impact corporate education and training programs. One of the most obvious benefits of making world-class academic and corporate educational experiences available online is the opportunity to lower training costs.

For example, a one day training program for 100 employees at a remote site could easily cost an organization well over $100,000 to hold.  Use of MOOCs allow the costs of developing course content and delivery of training to be amortized over thousands of company employees taking self-paced training sessions – with no major travel, facility, or equipment expenses required.

Many of today's knowledge workers are 'always on', expecting to access information and training anywhere, anytime – as needed.  MOOCs are ideally suited to these workers of the future. There is an excellent article posted on entitled MOOCs On The Move From Colleges To Companies that is well worth reading and goes into the topic of MOOCs  in much more detail.

The article notes that major corporations around the world are adding online courses to their new 'blended learning' training programs with increasing success.  It also states that "Online access to company training courses is making it possible for corporate employees outside of headquarters to have the same opportunity for management training and promotion as their HQ peers; for foreign contractors to perform at the same level as their local peers; and for small companies to provide the same level and frequency of training to their employees as their larger competitors. "

An increasing number of corporate Human Resource (HR) management  officials are giving MOOCs a closer look as a new, more cost effective way to deliver training to employees. After trying it out, many early adopters have warming to the idea and are sharing their 'lessons learned' from their pilot initiatives with others.


In the healthcare arena, the MOOH - Massive Open Online Healthcare – is their counterpart to MOOCs. Like a MOOC, MOOHs could help revolutionize how education and training will be delivered in the future to thousands of healthcare providers and millions of patients – at their convenience. In other words, MOOHs could play a significant role in reducing healthcare costs, while also  increasing operational efficiency and effectiveness. Read more about this in The Atlantic.

To get a taste of what is currently being offered, check out some of these links to sites with Massive Open Online Healthcare (MOOH) courses: edX Medicine Courses, Coursera Medical Courses, MOOC Medical List, Class Central Health& Medicine, Health Informatics MOOC.  

Major Issues & Challenges

MOOCs are a relatively new phenomena. As they continue to catch on and gather momentum, resistance to them is increasing. There are numerous obstacles to overcome in the coming years before MOOCs find their place, as the field of education and training rapidly changes to meet the challenges of the 21st century 'Information Age'.

Some of the many challenges and issues that must be addressed include:

• Helping people overcome their fear of change and adjust to the new technologies and solutions – whether they be faculty, students, management, employees, young, or old.
• Helping facilitate radical change in how academic institutions and corporations currently offer education and training 
• Changing outdated legislation or policies that favor the status quo – traditional classroom training offered by 'brick and mortar' institutions
• Continue to recognize and facilitate the move towards lifelong learning – offered to anyone, anywhere, anytime
• Continue the move towards the privatization of education and training at all levels – high school, college, on-the-job, etc.
• Continue to enhance the technologies and processes needed to provide high quality, online distance learning solutions
• Continue to make changes to current education and training programs and practices – college degrees programs vs. certification programs; obtaining accreditation for online courses; …
• Address the many privacy and security issues raised as we move towards use of many new technologies and more online education & training programs
• Explore and create new revenue opportunities for academic institutions, faculty, and private corporations providing education and training to people around the world.


Bottom Line - Traditional educational institutions are going to change dramatically over the coming years – investing more heavily in new technologies; increasingly going online; going after corporate customers; thinking global; offering certificates in addition to degrees; using open access textbooks; cutting costs while simultaneously offering more services; reducing academic staff; learning to be more flexible and 'open' minded…

Corporate training program will continue to evolve and outsource much of their training – the difference being that they will increasing make use of low cost, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) offerings by public and private sector organizations.  Some of the larger corporations will  stand up their own MOOC systems – using some of the many high quality 'open source' software tools now available, as well as using 'open access' textbooks and raining materials. They may even generate revenue by offering training to others outside their own organization.

Globalization, international competitiveness, and the growth of the knowledge-based industries of the 21st century will drive the growth of MOOCs. India has already grabbed the #2 spot in use of MOOCs, after the U.S.  Expect Europe, China, and a growing number of other countries to quickly take advantage of MOOCs as they compete in the global marketplace.

Have you used a MOOC? What was the experience like? How can they be improved? Do you think the use of MOOCs will continue to spread? Share your constructive impressions and ideas with us.

Key Massive 'Open' Online Courses (MOOC) Links

Academic Earth         
Khan Academy
OER University (OERu)
Peer to Peer University (P2PU)
YouTube EDU