Boston University’s Questrom School of Business will offer a set of free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, starting this May. The courses will be part of a MicroMasters program that will help facilitate the process of attaining a Master of Science degree in Digital Innovation, said Chrysanthos Dellarocas, the university’s associate provost for Digital Learning and Innovation.
The MOOCs will be split into a digital product management program and a digital leadership program, where instructors hope to teach students some of the most important aspects of modern business practices.
Dellarocas, who is also a professor of information systems in Questrom, is one of three professors who will teach the Business Analytics for Data-Driven Decision Making course. He said the course will teach students an indispensable facet of today’s business world.
“Business analytics is becoming an essential part of every business student’s toolkit,” Dellarocas said. “Analytics are increasingly used to make all sorts of business decisions, and it’s becoming almost a philosophy of management that’s based on data and concrete evidence as opposed to intuition and insight.”
John Byers, a BU computer science professor, will also be teaching the course, along with Andrei Lapets, the director of research development at BU’s Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science and Engineering. Byers emphasized the efficiency that the MOOCs system affords to students as well as instructors.
“One of the nice things about the online courses is that we can make every minute count,” Byers said. “What we’re going to do is to have very carefully scripted lectures and pedagogy so that we can communicate and really maximize the amount of information we can get to students in 60 or 90 minutes.”
The courses will feature a mix of independent student work and interaction between students and instructors, Dellarocas said. The platform for the courses will be made possible by edX, an online education tool developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in 2012, according to its website. Instructors hope to take advantage of this setup to make the courses as effective as possible.
The skills in data management and analysis that the students will learn from these courses are in extremely high demand among organizations, while few people have them, Lapets said. These courses will make the students more competitive in the field and valuable assets to their respective companies and employers, Lapets added.
Completion of the courses will also save students who go on to attend residential graduate business programs some money. Students can take the courses and learn the content for free and then pay $200 to receive their verified certificate of completion.
“The real appeal of this program is that, if a graduate student completes all classes of the MicroMasters successfully and passes the proctored exam … this person can then apply to the Questrom school’s Master of Science in Digital Innovation [program],” Dellarocas said.
Although completion of the courses does not guarantee acceptance to Questrom, it could potentially help certain students get in if they did particularly well, Dellarocas said. If a student is accepted, Questrom will give the student credit for the MOOCs, allowing them to complete a Questrom degree in less time and at a much lower cost.
The MOOCs will launch in succession beginning in May, and the final launch will take place in February 2018, said Dellarocas, whose course already has about 1,500 students enrolled almost a year in advance.
Several students expressed their support for the program, praising its affordability and convenience.
Stephen Hui, a Questrom junior, said he would like to take advantage of the courses eventually, as long as they’re beneficial.
“If it doesn’t really cost me anything, then I could just try it out,” Hui said. “It just depends on if there’s any penalties — if there’s a permanent record if I did poorly or something. But if the benefits outweigh the costs, then I’ll try it.”
Rachel Feinman, a Questrom senior, said she thinks the courses will be a good way for students to test the waters and see if going to graduate school is something they really want.
“It’s a good opportunity for people who maybe didn’t think they wanted to go to grad school and then they can take the courses for free just to try them and see,” Feinman said.
Anish Guha, a Questrom junior, said she has heard of the edX courses before and is strongly considering taking some after next year.
“I think there’s some pretty good material in there,” Guha said. “And talking to some of the MBA students, I think it’s a really good opportunity for Questrom to make the school more affordable.”
Guha said she also hopes to see a similar program offered to undergraduate students.
“I’d love to see them offer it to undergraduates as well,” Guha added. “Especially with some of the lower courses in the Questrom School of Business. I think that would be a really good value and something that would help.”