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Get on Course to Career Development

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Given today’s economy, it can sometimes be difficult to find the time or money to attend courses and presentations, even if they might improve one’s skills or career prospects.

But help may be at hand in the form of Coursera and Udemy.


Coursera is a website that enables visitors to "take the world’s best courses, online, for free". More than 2.5 million people have enjoyed lessons in such topics as mathematical thinking, finance, business strategy, innovative ideas, and much more, provided by lecturers from prestigious universities including Columbia, Princeton, Stanford, London, British Columbia, and Toronto.

The lessons are divided into categories like Business & Management, Economics & Finance, and Humanities, and generally range in length from six to 12 weeks. Earlier this month, for example, those viewing the Mathematics section could have signed up for a seven-week course by Friedrich Eisenbrand of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne on linear and discrete optimization with a syllabus that included linear programming, the simplex method, the theory of duality, and integer problems. In the same section, forthcoming courses include:
  • Analytic Combinatorics with Robert Sedgewick of Princeton;
  • Introduction to Mathematical Thinking with Keith Devlin of Stanford; and
  • Calculus: Single Variable with Robert Ghrist of Pennsylvania.
The description for each course offers the expected workload (six to eight hours a week is fairly typical), a summary, information about the instructor, a recommended background for participants, suggested reading, and more. Joining simply involves completing an online form.

Founded by two award-winning academics, Coursera is backed by private investors, one of whom has sponsored ventures that have created 200,000 jobs. It describes itself a social entrepreneurship company that envisions "a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions . . . We hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in."


Rather than universities, Udemy partners with individual academics, authors, celebrities, and business leaders who have taught more than 500,000 students. Backed, like Coursera, by venture capitalists and other investors, the site has fewer science courses and not all sessions are free of charge. But its list of business-related lessons is extensive, covering titles like:
  • Operations Management;
  • Foundations of Business Strategy; and
  • Enterprise Gamification.
Course descriptions are written by the presenters and explain what is required, their background, the syllabus, and more. Those signing up for the free course Energy Economics and the Environment, for instance, will join over 3,300 students being taught by a former White House economist via 27 lectures lasting more than six hours. Or why not follow in the footsteps of 20,000+ others who enjoyed An Entrepreneur’s Checklist, in which highly-regarded serial entrepreneur Steve Blank briefly explains key topics for those forming their own company?

Pros:

Coursera—the credentials of the presenters; the free nature of the courses.
Udemy—the broad range of presenters.

Cons:

Coursera—some subject areas have only limited numbers of courses.
Udemy—the cost of some courses may be prohibitive.

Addresses:

Coursera—https://www.coursera.org/
Udemy—http://www.udemy.com/

 

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