Although it may sound like a cow with a cough, the acronym “MOOC” stands for something even more substantive that has been resonating around the world since 2008 and had become a popular approach to learning by 2012 — the massive open online course.
The development of the web enhanced the feasibility of distance education. Open access and unlimited participation are characteristic of MOOCs, which, under their current business model, are typically free of charge. They are available in a variety of formats through a range of commercial and not-for-profit platforms.
As part of the “Chautauqua Speaks” series, venture capitalist and Case Western Reserve University assistant professor Michael Goldberg will talk about “Taking a University Course to the Masses: How A CWRU Professor Developed a Course for Over 50,000 Students from 190 Countries,” at 9:15 a.m. Thursday at the Chautauqua Women’s Club House.
Twice during 2014, Goldberg taught a seven-week online course titled, “Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies.” He said it has been translated into 13 languages and become the top translated MOOC available through the “Coursera” platform.
After graduating from Princeton University, Goldberg worked in South Africa for the National Democratic Institute for two years.
Before he began designing and implementing voter education programs for South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994, including developing culturally nuanced material, he knew nothing about voter education. Afterward, he remained in the country for a year and taught in a rural school.
His return to the U.S., Goldberg said, coincided with “Internet 101,” the widespread launch of the Web, and he decided to apply to business schools.
While earning his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Goldberg worked for Microsoft, and after graduating, for IMG, a global sports, events, and talent management company.
“They gave me a taste of the startup world,” he said.
For five years he worked at America Online, where he became the director of international business development and was responsible for structuring and negotiating international partnerships in Asia. One such partnership was AOL’s joint venture with the Chinese multinational computer technology company Lenovo Group, to develop interactive services for the Chinese market.
When AOL backed away from international development work, Goldberg said he became interested in investing. With Avshalom Horan, he co-founded the Bridge Investment Fund L.P. nearly 10 years ago to invest in Israeli medical device companies that have completed their initial clinical trials and are seeking further clinical validation and a marketing organization in the U.S.
“Initially, the technology was mainly for military use,” Goldberg said. “A lot of tech companies are using technology that was originally for military applications.”
Goldberg has been active in Cleveland’s entrepreneurship community. He has served as a mentor to Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs through the public-private partnership “JumpStart” and the Cleveland startup accelerator and venture fund “FlashStarts.”
Since the turn of the century, public-private partnerships in Cleveland have been transforming it from Entrepreneur magazine’s least entrepreneurial region into a model of innovation and entrepreneurship for other cities, regions, and even countries that are not rich in private sources of funding.
Cleveland is a more apt model for Vietnam, Goldberg said, than is Silicon Valley.
Thanks to two Fulbright fellowships, Goldberg, who began teaching at CWRU in 2009 in an adjunct capacity, had the opportunity to teach entrepreneurship at the National Economics University in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2012, and at the Polytechnic of Namibia in Windhoek, Namibia, earlier this summer. He has also taught courses in entrepreneurial management and finance in Turkey and Greece.
“There are parallels to the developing world and the startup world,” Goldberg said. “It’s pretty unstructured and you have to be creative.”
“I have done international stuff my whole career and continue to be challenged by figuring out what works locally — how to thoughtfully create content and product of value to local people,” Goldberg also said. “Entrepreneurship is hard. We’re seeing tremendous job loss. Lots of communities around the world are struggling with it.”
He’s seen that struggle first-hand: in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, which sponsors the Fulbright Program, Goldberg has conducted entrepreneurship seminars around the world.
In Germany this past March, for example, the U.S. Consulate in Düsseldorf partnered with a local organization doing MOOCs. Of the 50 or so people participating in the entrepreneurship class, only two or three had officially registered for it. Goldberg said they gathered at local accelerators and had local discussions about the role of non-governmental organizations.
According to Goldberg, the MOOC world is currently in an experimental phase.
“There’s a lot of work, thought and planning that goes into the pedagogy,” he said. “An online course is different. I think MOOCs are yet another opportunity for people to go deeper into topics.”