11 Interesting MOOCs for Marketers

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Life moves pretty fast these days. It wasn’t long ago that the only time most people had ever heard a word that sounded like “mook” was in this NSFW scene from 1973‘s Mean Streets: “I’m a mook? What’s a mook?”

Today, we have the MOOC. What’s a MOOC? It’s a massive open online course, a term first coined back in 2008. They are all the rage, combining the knowledge base of iTunes U’s ever-increasing reservoir of university lectures with the interactivity that we have come to expect from a web-based product. In 2011, Stanford launched an Intro to Artificial Intelligence that attracted over 160,000 students. The next year, the New York Times declared 2012 to be the “year of the MOOC.”

Gradually, more and more courses are being offered through this new conceptual framework for distance education. And it’s not just math and science any more; it’s now marketing and advertising along with everything else. It’s like going to a conference on your own time without the hotel; professional development without the continental breakfast.

So now that MOOC’s are with us to stay, now might be a good time to look at what’s out there to help you brush up on the latest developments of marketing and advertising. Most of the best MOOC’s can be found several platforms that are emerging as leaders in the MOOC-space: edX, Coursera, Udacity and Canvas.net.

Here’s a break-down of each platform and then some of the courses offered at each:

Udacity A MOOC platform developed out of Stanford built mostly for math geeks and code jockeys, but that’s not a bad place for a marketing executive to look for insights when you’re working with a team of nerds. Udacity only offers a few courses that aren’t related to math, programming or design.

Coursera Also founded by professors at Stanford, Coursera is a MOOC platform designed to offer courses in science, math, medicine and other science areas; it’s hosted on the Amazon cloud. With over 4 millions users by July 2013, Coursera is also on the verge of offering courses for college credit.

edX Started by MIT and Harvard, edX is the East Coast’s answer to Udacity and Coursera. It has 1.6 million users and 26 other universities offering courses or preparing to.

Here are 11 MOOC’s from these platforms that a marketing pro might find worthwhile:

How to Build a Startup -- Taught by a “seasoned Silicon Valley entrepreneur” with teaching credits from Standford, Berkeley and Columbia, this free self-guided course can help you understand every facet of a startup and not just the view from your office space. If this course lseems too entry-level for you, don’t worry -- you can skip ahead and it’s completely free. From Udacity.

Creativity, Innovation and Change -- This course from Penn State is team-taught by doctorates in psychology and theater to teach students the power of innovative and creative thinking. Course-takers will learn about concepts like “Intelligent Fast Failure,” which teaches rapid prototyping skills, and “the Adaption-Innovation creative style spectrum,” which helps one understand how and why certain ideas are unique. The professors recommend the course for “adventurers, explorers and tourists.” From Coursera.

Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior -- Offered by Duke University, this course seeks to explain to its students why people behave in ways that are “less than rational” and “how we might overcome” them. But for an experienced marketing executive, maybe one doesn’t want to overcome anything... only better understand others’ irrational behavior so as to better market to their irrationality. From Coursera.

Understanding Media by Understanding Google -- Marketing in the digital space has become so granular and techniques so dependent on the latest incarnation of the search engine algorithm du jour that marketing executives can no longer leave the nuts-and-bolts understanding of Google to the nerds and geeks. You got to roll up your sleeves and get in there. A course like this, offered by Northwestern University, will help you anticipate the future impact of Google on information consumption, creation and distribution -- and by extension, marketing and advertising. From Coursera.

Introduction to Recommender Systems -- So you know how Amazon says, “If you bought X, you might like Y”? That’s a recommender system. This MOOC course, offered by the University of Minnesota, helps students understand the algorithms behind recommender systems to help them better understand how they work. It’s offered in two tracks -- one for programmers and the other for just the “concepts” -- which means if you’re not up to the math and programming language, you can still get enough out of the class to understand how systems like this could enhance your company’s overall marketing strategy. From Coursera.

Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies -- This MOOC course, offered by the University of Maryland, focuses on the entrepreneurial aspects of starting a business from creating a business plan and attracting first-round investors. Maybe not for every marketing executive, but if you want to take a step back and see how the marketing role fits into the big picture of a startup, a class like this would be a good one to take. From Coursera.

Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth -- This course, offered by the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, is a great one for a marketer to come back to refresh the basics. A marketer’s job, after all, is to help the company grow. The course will break down five real-world case studies of company growth. From Coursera.

An Introduction to Marketing -- Why would a marketing executive need to take an “intro to marketing” course? Well, this particular course, offered by U Penn’s Wharton School of Business, is a graduate-level, Ivy-League marketing course, so maybe there’s something good here that even a seasoned pro can find useful. Focusing on achieving customer loyalty, the course looks at branding, customer centricity, and “practical, go-to-market strategies” to help its students understand the underlying drivers that motivate customer behavior. From Coursera.

Use Mapping to Position Your Brand -- Offered by eCornell, this free MOOC explores concepts and data-driven visual analyses of customer segments -- not geolocation marketing as the course name seems to suggest. Instead the maps are perceptual, used to identify how consumers differentiate among products and how they perceive one product relative to another. From Canvas.

Big Data for Better Performance -- Offered by Australia-based Open2Study, this is a MOOC course to help you stop fretting about big data as you learn how to harness it to better reach your customers in more efficient ways.

Service Marketing: Selling the Invisible -- Another Australian MOOC, this one from the University of New South Wales, explores a challenging concept as marketing continues to move online: how do we market a service these days? This course will take you through the conceptual steps of the service product, blueprinting, the service brand, and servicescape analysis and design.