There has been a significant amount of chatter about the value of online learning, their effectiveness and the future of the classroom. I have put together different MOOCS (on Intellectual Property for The Ontario Consortium of Graduate Studies), taken a number of Coursera courses, a Udacity class and I am doing an online certificate in Retail Management with Ryerson. Although only a few classes are certified university credits (Ryerson) I learn something from every class I take. No wonder online learning is one of the fastest growing educational industries, people want access to education.
Online open courses like Coursera and Udacity are changing their business models to become major revenue generators. Coursera has verified certificates, which range from $30 - $79 per class. I officially went through the "Managing Fashion and Luxury Companies" by Bocconi University and was very impressed by the level of content provided and the engagement in the class. I am also doing "Digital Marketing" unofficially and they do not offer any kind of certificates/recognition without paying, and the course is $79USD, too high for me. For me, student participation is impressive, people want to learn, connect and receive recognition. I have never experienced students so engaged, definitely not even comparable to my Ryerson class filled with professionals and students, or on any other online learning platforms like Lynda.com. I understand the skills are important, and getting credit is very important as well, but employers care about the practical applications more than 'start-up' universities. Is it really worth ~ $500USD to get a Coursera certificate? I'm not sure yet.
Udacity has a number of free classes, but offers a $200 monthly subscription model for people interested in 'nanodegrees'. Many of the classes are created by Facebook, Twitter and Google. These are pricy 'nanodegrees' ranging from $200 - $2000USD. Again, skill based. I am personally incredibly interested in learning more about data science, statistics and programming. I can learn for free in some of the classes and there are many options in learning these skills. I am not sold that recognized credits from Udacity, or Coursera are worth hundreds of dollars. I think the skills will speak for themselves.
Why am I paying thousands for a Certificate in Retail Management from Ryerson though? Many of my friends have done certificates there, and it is a reputable university with a well known continuing studies department, The Chang School. I believe this will give me the specialization I need to make my retail company, ULLO, even better. It is specific knowledge that is not offered anywhere else and Ryerson is one, if not the only, Retail Management school in Canada. I have also gone through interesting learning experiences, aside from textbooks and online discussion questions. Having to do a group project and never meeting anyone was a trip and enjoyable! However, for those visual and audio-visual learners, these are not the classes for you. No video lectures, just pure text book reading. I can tell you my new Relationship Marketing textbook does not look like a 'hoot' to read.