Online Education: The First Truly Public University

    Kashif Choudhury
    Kashif Choudhury

    Infographic on the history of online education

    Diacetylmorphine is one of the most widely known intoxicants that has been used by people throughout the ages to induce euphoria and a sense of high. The euphoria is induced when diacetylmorphine is being metabolized into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) and morphine in the brain. This drug caused a productivity loss of $11.5 Billion in the US in 1999 according to a research by the MEDSTAT Group and is likely to have increased manifold by now. I bring this up because there is a competing addiction coming up through the ranks currently that instead of destroying careers and ruining lives makes careers and enriches them. I am talking about the phenomenon of online courses that are offered for free by the top universities in the world. Websites like Coursera, Udacity, EdX and many others are changing the face of education by bringing it to the masses at no cost; the only requisites being an email address, a password and the ability to sit on a chair and look at a computer screen.

    Everything from genomics to computer science all the way to fundamentals of audio and music engineering are taught at these websites. At the end of each course, a Statement of Accomplishment is offered by the conducting institution to students who get marks above a certain threshold. This gives those doing the courses an incentive to go on till the end and get a certificate from the elite institutions of the world.

    This can turn into an addiction in the pursuit of fulfilling the thirst for knowledge that Allah Subhana Wata’ala has instilled in us all. So many subjects, so many great institutions, so many things to learn. In addition, doing these courses does not mean that you are going to become an expert in the field because I have learned that I forget a lot of what I learn in the courses after about six months of completing them (especially the technical ones). However, it’s not all about retention; it is about building up the repository of resources you can go back to the day that duty calls. The videos, the notes and all the work that you did are going to be like something out of the Matrix where characters could download skills like flying a helicopter when the situation arose.

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    This development in education and resource availability is a fundamental shift for a developing country like Bangladesh because it means that the world’s best education is available to the people who could never hope to get it otherwise, much less for free. It is getting to the point where anyone in a certain age bracket who doesn’t have adequate human capital doesn’t have anyone but himself to blame. Because the constraint of the lack of resources has been removed by these initiatives and the only barrier remaining is the motivation and the need to learn. The online course revolution is also relevant to companies in industries that are dynamic, always changing and holistic in nature because it allows its employees to gain skills that are very broad in terms of topics and at the same time relevant to the company they work in. For a Business Intelligence firm like LightCastle these platforms offer the opportunity to learn and advance business strategies and develop new ways of approaching problems. Some of the courses that I find to be relevant here are discussed below. All of them are in session now and you can enroll in them by following the links.

    1. Foundations of Business Strategy: This course is taught by Michael J. Lenox at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and was the first online course that I successfully completed. This course focuses on the methods that we learned in business school regarding the strategies a firm can use to make their business thrive and builds on them. It uses these tools in a holistic way and calls the combination of these methods the ‘strategist’s toolkit’. For instance, it focuses on methods such as SWOT analysis, Competitor Analysis, Capabilities Analysis, Environmental Analysis, Five Forces Redux Analysis and VRIN analysis among others. At the end of the course students are required to conduct a strategic analysis of a company of their choice using all the tools learned. It was a fascinating endeavor and this is the strategy report I submitted on AMD (Advanced Micro Systems). There is nothing that makes you feel more like a strategy consultant than scoring a 90% on a peer reviewed report.
    2. Developing Innovative Ideas for New CompaniesThis course conducted by James V. Green of the University of Maryland and is one of the most popular courses in the Coursera platform. It covers entrepreneurship from the mentality of the entrepreneur all the way to go to market strategies including competitor, demand, positioning analysis among others as well as the final business plan formulation. It is the quintessential course on building your own startup and following the calling of your inner entrepreneur.
    3. Microeconomic Principles: This course is offered taught by Dr. José J. Vázquez-Cognet of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Following from his cool name it takes the economics principles we learned in college and applies it to everyday problems such as the market for marriage, drugs and kidney donors among others (granted that some of these are more everyday than others). This is a course that has the potential for teaching a budding entrepreneur as well as a business consultant how to apply his or her knowledge of economics to solve problems related to work in innovative and effective ways.
    4. Data Science: This is not really a course but a concentration on an entire field offered by Coursera called a specialization. It is offered by the good people at John Hopkins University and consists of 9 courses that cover the gamut of topics in the field of data science from programming in R, the data scientist’s toolbox all the way to practical machine learning. These courses are very promising indeed and offer an insight into a field that will dominate the business scene in five years’ time.

    These are just some of the courses that may be of interest to people in this field and I encourage you to check out each of the courses as all of them are in session now. We can use these resources and many others to enrich the level of our human capital which will in turn enable us to dance with the best of the best from around the world in all aspects of our work and business.
    Finally, in case you were wondering, diacetylmorphine is the chemical name for heroin.

    Kashif Choudhury

    Kashif is an Assistant Vice President at LightCastle Partners and is a Research Associate at the Green Banking Project funded by the World Bank. He completed Honors in Economics with a Dual Major in Finance from North South University and is currently doing MS in Economics. His love for Economics is matched only by his passion for technology and he is always looking for areas where these two fields merge. He can be reached at [email protected]

    3 comments:

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      Zahedul Amin

      Great write-up!

    • Avatar
      Bijon Islam

      Good One

    • Kashif Choudhury
      Kashif Choudhury

      Thank you Zahed bhai and Bijon bhai for your kind words.

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