Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, put forward a radical idea when they hit the scene a few years ago: take all the material from a course and put it online so anyone with an internet connection can learn from home.
Now, a venture capitalist wants to go a step further and do the same thing with an entire degree. Chris Haroun’s An Entire MBA in 1 Course has become one of online education platform Udemy’s most popular offerings, with over 35,000 students currently enrolled according to the company.
With the MOOC, Haroun aims to distill the key points from the MBA curriculum into a single course. The course material begins by looking at how to start a business and raise money and continues through the basics of IPOs.
In designing the course, Haroun drew on his wide-ranging experience in business. Haroun received his MBA from Columbia Business School in 2000. He subsequently worked at Goldman Sachs and Citadel and lectured at McGill University before becoming a partner at Silicon Valley VC firm Artis Ventures.
Haroun’s VC background is apparent from the course. The course content is geared toward entrepreneurs, with lots of information relevant to those founding startups. However, it can also serve as an overview of management basics.
This isn’t the first time Haroun has set out to bring another perspective to business education. In 2015, he published the book 101 Crucial Lessons They Don’t Teach You in Business School, which Forbes put on its list of 6 Books Every Entrepreneur Needs to Read Right Now.
While Haroun’s attempt to boil down an entire MBA curriculum into one MOOC is a product of his background as a venture capitalist, lecturer and author, the course itself is part of a wider trend.
Educators are increasingly paying attention to the potential of online learning as an alternative or supplement to traditional business courses. With more and more learning going virtual, Udemy’s MBA-in-one may be a sign of where things are headed.
The “Entire MBA in 1 Course” offering is a good example of how innovations in technology have paved the way for innovations in education.
When Haroun discovered Udemy, he saw a platform that was fundamentally changing the way people learn. As Haroun put it in an interview with No-Pay MBA:
It reminded me of YouTube in the early days. Udemy is the quintessential education platform that is going to democratize the global education market.
Part of this democratizing comes from the “Massive” and the “Open” in Massive Open Online Courses. With virtual classes, there’s no limit on who can enroll. As many people can sign up as are interested, and getting started is as easy as clicking a button.
For Haroun, though, part of the appeal is in how the process works for teachers. Opening up the education system could allow teaching talent to rise to the top:
I’m incredibly bullish on ed-tech because if you fix education, and if you incentivize people who teach, you can attract the best and the brightest. And I believe that with education every problem gets solved.
Both educators and students benefit from the flexibility of online education. Educators can innovate in the way they present material, like Haroun did with his efforts to condense an MBA curriculum into a single course. And students can choose the courses that are relevant to them.
None of this is to say that online education is bound to replace traditional learning completely, but it is likely that virtual classrooms are here to stay, for a simple reason: they provide educational opportunities to people who don’t have the option of going for a degree in person.
Different Visions for Online Education
It’s becoming increasingly clear that online learning is going to play a significant role in the future of education. What’s less obvious, though, is the exact form this online learning will take.
MOOCs run by private companies like Udemy are one possibility, but they’re far from the only one.
Recently, Harvard Business School has made a big push into the online business education market with their program HBX. The initiative offers several online courses taught by HBS faculty, including the trademark HBX CORe courses, which cover fundamentals of business.
Compared with Udemy, the HBX model has the advantage of an educational name brand behind it. On the other hand, HBX’s offerings also cost several orders of magnitude more.
Yet another approach is that of MIT OpenCourseWare, which distributes the content from MIT courses online for free. Rather than trying to create an independent online learning platform, OpenCourseWare makes syllabi, lecture videos, notes and other course content freely available on the internet.
These different methods cater to different audiences, so it’s possible they’ll continue to coexist. It’s also possible that some will outlast others, or that the real online learning system of the future will be different than anything we’ve seen so far. This is likely an area where we’ll continue to see innovation.
Where Does This Leave the Traditional MBA?
While online education has opened up entirely new possibilities for how people learn about business, there’s a reason B-schools continue to flourish. Traditional MBA programs have a variety of other benefits that online courses haven’t been able to replicate so far – including networking and credentials.
How to provide credentials is a problem that online education platforms have struggled with in particular. Some platforms offer technical certificates or even college credit for coursework, but clearly none of these carry the weight of an MBA.
It’s no accident that Haroun’s MBA-in-one course is targeted at entrepreneurs who are founding startups. Often, the credential aspect is less important for these students than for MBA students who are preparing to hit the job market.
For now, then, the educational system as we know it continues to exist alongside innovations in online learning.
At the same time, even if the in-person MBA is still strong, don’t expect its virtual relatives to go anywhere. We’re entering a time where online and offline learning have different advantages that appeal to different people, and every student has to take stock and decide which option is the best fit.