Ever heard of MOOCs? If not then you might want to get researching, as MOOCs provide excellent opportunities for learning and in many cases this education is free. MOOC is an acronym that stands for Massive Open Online Course and even when courses are not free they are often low cost. MOOCs aim to provide unlimited participation in education, bringing educational programmes to people that might otherwise find them to be inaccessible for a number of reasons. MOOCs often have many, many students in each class, but even this in itself does not dilute the learning experience. Rather, it adds to it as MOOCs frequently use online learning forums that other students participate in too. Getting exposure to the ideas of other students that hail from a very diverse range of walks of life can add significant value to the educational experience. There are also a very broad range of different types of courses to choose from, varying from Vehicle Dynamics to Sabermetrics 101 to Advanced Cryptology. There’s something for everyone.
The good news for social entrepreneurs is that this means that MOOCs are available in social entrepreneurship as well. Such courses enable aspiring social entrepreneurs that want to build their knowledge a chance to do so. Courses aim to help would be social entrepreneurs to drive social change and put together plans for expanding their endeavours. For example, a Social Entrepreneurship MOOC from the Copenhagen Business School is designed to help people with a mind for business to be able to create social change through using their skills to innovate and solve difficult problems.
The Copenhagen Business School MOOC defines social entrepreneurship as “the discovery and sustainable exploitation of opportunities to create public goods”. Social enterprises are defined as “hybrid organisations” between the profit and not for profit sectors. Those on the course are required to form groups with others attending the MOOC to identify an opportunity to drive social change. In this case the groups will develop a business model and put together a business plan. Ultimately that plan will be submitted and the project may even get funded.
Ashoka is an organisation that seeks to encourage social entrepreneurs in their activities. This entity is also a firm advocate of MOOCs to help social entrepreneurs to be able to get underway. On this subject, writing for Forbes, Nabeel Gillani and Amit Jain (2013) argue that a link is provided between the online world of MOOCs and the real world outside, stating:
“The opportunity to engage MOOC participants offline extends beyond business strategy and will only become more common in the future”.
MOOCs provide many opportunities for social entrepreneurs to build up their skills and knowledge for free. They provide the ability for students to be able to learn about almost every aspect of business to get underway with social enterprise. As raised by Nabeel Gillani and Amit Jain, MOOCs are not without their challenges however. One problem is that student retention and engagement rates can be low, and this can lead to a degraded educational experience. However, in terms of the diversity of students that do attend and stay involved, this can lead to students being exposed to a very wide range of different points of view as well as a wide and diverse network that can enable opportunities to be taken from studies and put to work in the real world – just as the Copenhagen Business School is doing with its students.
A respected social entrepreneurship MOOC is also offered by the University of Pennsylvania. This course focuses on social innovation and entrepreneurship either for-profit or not. There is an “open track” and a “signature track”. The “signature track” is similar to the Copenhagen Business School programme and students working on this track create a plan for an organisation which they then get feedback on later. The open track focuses more heavily on strategy and planning tools that a social entrepreneur will need to be equipped with in order to be successful. With a focus on practical applications the benefits of this type of course are of course, considerable. Additionally, when students on the signature track do exceptionally well they will be offered a scholarship to go to a mountain retreat in the USA to develop their idea. This is an excellent opportunity for any would be social entrepreneur. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to investigate the world of MOOCs.
Another amazing resource for social entrepreneurs is Khan Academy. Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” Its website features thousands of educational resources, including a personalized learning dashboard, over 100,000 practice challenges, and over 6,000 micro lectures via video tutorials stored on YouTube. Khan Academy provides valuable resources for social entrepreneurs such as playlists of videos on youtube on finance, economics, computer science, and everything you could possibly think that can help you in your social entrepreneurial project.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.