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New Questrom MOOCs Offer Path to MicroMasters Certification

Successful students can go for an MS in digital innovation

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What should the next product at LinkedIn, the online network for professionals, look like? How would a company develop such a product, introduce it to customers, and fit it into an overall corporate strategy?

These are the kinds of questions that students taking a new set of MOOCs (massive open online courses) are expected to answer as part of new MicroMasters programs in digital product management and digital leadership. The courses, offered by the Questrom School of Business and BU’s Digital Learning & Innovation, will be available starting May 31 through edX, the online education platform launched by MIT and Harvard in 2013.

The courses are free, but those seeking a certificate validating successful completion of each course must pay $200 per course. Students who complete five verified courses and pass a proctored exam in either the digital product management or digital innovation programs earn a MicroMasters credential, and can then apply for admission to Questrom’s MS in digital innovation (MSDi) program. The course work in the MicroMasters programs allows admitted candidates to waive 25 percent of the degree requirements, meaning that an MSDi candidate could finish a master’s degree in as little as seven months.

The MicroMasters programs are BU’s latest addition to a series of MOOCs that now offers 34 courses that more than 225,000 people from 127 countries have enrolled in. Unlike stand-alone MOOCs that explore one subject, the MicroMasters programs delve into course work designed to advance careers, says Paul Carlile, a Questrom associate professor of management and information systems and senior associate dean of curriculum and innovation.

The programs offer three benefits, Carlile says. They give students from around the world low-cost access to Questrom course offerings that can further professional advancement. They expand the potential applicant pool for Questrom’s MSDi program. And the experience of devising the curriculum for seven MOOCs, running the online classes, and collecting data on their progress and results helps BU educators see what works in online learning.

Faculty are consulting with industry about the skills employers are seeking, he says, to help them develop the seven courses for the two MicroMasters programs, with three courses common to both digital leadership and digital product management. “We met with key people at Fidelity to go through the themes and options and approaches we will take to those topics in the courses, to get validation from their point of view,” Carlile says. One example is a course called Business Analytics for Data-Driven Decision Making, which teaches how to collect and analyze information. Instructors for this course include John W. Byers, a College of Arts & Sciences computer science professor, Chris Dellarocas, the Richard C. Shipley Professor of Information Systems at Questrom, and Andrei Lapets (GRS’11), Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering director of research development.

Other courses:

Digital Transformation Strategy, with N. Venkat Venkatraman, Questrom’s David J. McGrath, Jr., Professor in Management.

Leading in the Digital Age, with Lloyd Baird, a Questrom professor of organizational behavior, Kristen J. McCormack, a Questrom master lecturer in organizational behavior and assistant dean for sector management, and Darrell Griffin, CEO and president of PerformancEdge.

Social Media Marketing, with Barbara Bickart, a Questrom associate professor and chair of marketing.

Platform Strategy for Business, taught by Marshall Van Alstyne, a Questrom professor and chair of information systems.

Designing for Experimentation to Enhance Digital Business Innovation, taught by Carlile and Ben Lubin, a Questrom assistant professor of information systems.

Product Management with Lean, Agile and System Design Thinking, with Nitin Joglekar, a Questrom associate professor of operations and technology management, and Varun Nagaraj, CEO of Sierra Monitor Corp.

Joglekar, who helped develop the MicroMasters program, says the courses are designed to complement one another and make students more marketable in their careers. “We talked to top-notch companies and we got good validation that they were looking for this kind of talent,” he says. “They tell us the problems they face, who they are hiring, and how they might train them. They may even encourage their own employees to take the classes.”

Carlile says a prospective student could be a programmer who wants to learn how to be a product manager or a project manager who wants to advance to a more strategy-focused role. “A project manager may know technology, but doesn’t know where the technology sits inside a company’s strategy and the company’s competitors’ strategy,” he says.

He hopes the programs will lead to new talent joining the Questrom community—whether that means students entering the MSDi program or professionals who later participate in one of Questrom’s executive education programs. He says the courses also can be a resource for alumni looking to enhance their skills.

BU is one of several universities that in February announced new MicroMasters programs, most with a technology bent, such as supply chain management (MIT), artificial intelligence (Columbia), and data science (University of California, San Diego).

The Questrom entry into the MicroMasters format signals BU’s commitment to the edX platform the University joined in 2013, says Dellarocas, who is also associate provost for digital learning and innovation. “We want to be experimenting with new concepts and ideas. EdX is a very innovative partner in that respect. One of our strategies at BU is that we want to build capacity so that we are able to deploy all these new innovations,” he says. “And when the ideas are ready to move into the mainstream, we will be ready to move fast.”

“For the Digital Learning Initiative, it is about pushing boundaries and experimenting with various forms of content delivery,” says Romy Ruukel, director of the Digital Learning Initiative. “What Questrom is doing is ambitious, offering two interconnected MicroMasters at once. By offering courses taught by some of the best faculty at Questrom, in innovative and hot topics, they are very much putting their best foot forward.”

Learn more about the MicroMasters program in digital product management here. Learn about the MicroMasters program in digital leadership here.

Michael S. Goldberg can be reached at michaelscottgoldberg@gmail.com.

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