Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Transitioning MOOCs For Vocational Training

Because MOOCs are still relatively new, the courses are still transitioning for viability. Udacity and Coursera are for-profit companies, so they need to find ways to make money. The latest twist is the "NanoDegree," which offers vocational training via MOOCs for specific skills training. 

The NYTimes reported that Udacity and AT&T have partnered to create a "NanoDegree." "For $200 a month, it is intended to teach anyone with a mastery of high school math the kind of basic programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer or the like. The 'NanoDegree' offers a narrow set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job, providing learners with a bite-size chunk of knowledge and an immediate motivation to acquire it. AT&T will accept the 'NanoDegree' as a credential for entry-level jobs (and is hoping to persuade other companies to accept it, too) and has reserved 100 internship slots for its graduates."

It's a kind of vocational training that may be the key to the future of specialized training. "It may finally offer a reasonable shot at harnessing the web to provide effective schooling to the many young Americans for whom college has become a distant, unaffordable dream."

There's been an outcry in industry over the last few years that students are not graduating from undergraduate institutions with the appreciable, specialized skills necessary to enter the work force. Many argue that the jobs are there, but the workers lack in the skills necessary to actually do those jobs.

"This [MOOC] is designed by business for the specific skills that are needed in business. Putting traditional college courses online may do little to close the gap [between rich and poor]. Instead, the evidence so far suggests that online education may do better in giving low-income students a leg up if it is directly tied to work. And companies, rather than colleges, may be best suited to shape the curriculum."

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