October 23, 2013

Brands do homework, sign up for online courses

Posted by: in North America

Marketers are starting to catch onto the potential of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, the new wave of higher-education classes offered (mostly) free by top universities and others. Genetics testing company 23andMe is sponsoring an introductory course, “Tales From the Genome,” which launched on MOOC provider Udacity a few weeks ago. Several instructors are teaching the class, along with some scientists from 23andMe. On a lighter note, the AMC cable network is pairing with UC Irvine to offer Walking Dead-branded courses in science, public health, math and physics to coincide with the show’s new season. As the course page on the Canvas Network blithely puts it, “Enroll and survive.”

For the last six months, Bank of America has been offering personal finance courses in collaboration with Khan Academy—not a MOOC per se but also an educational-video initiative—via the portal Better Money Habits. And Levi’s has hooked up with Skillshare, another instructional platform, to sponsor how-to videos in various creative fields, including stop-motion animation, as part of its “Make Our Mark” campaign. In Saudi Arabia, mobile provider Zain, Intel and Harvey Nichols are sponsoring a MOOC course for women entrepreneurs.

More ambitiously, AT&T is backing a fully accredited master’s degree in computer science from Udacity and prestigious Georgia Tech; its sponsorship is helping to keep the cost to participants under $7,000. And next year Google is partnering with EdX to open a “YouTube for MOOCs,” to be called Mooc.org. It’s also among the corporate sponsors of Udacity’s Open Education Alliance, designed to give people the skills they need to pursue technology careers.

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