That’s changing. The university will begin offering a popular Sloan data analytics course for free to the general public in the spring semester. The class, called Analytics Edge, includes studies of the Oakland A’s “moneyball” strategy, dating site eHarmony, and the 2012 presidential election. Curriculum for the online course will be the same as the on-campus offering, according to a press release. Students will watch prerecorded lectures and submit homework assignments online.
Sloan’s foray into the world of MOOCs comes as online education appears to be recalibrating. Earlier this month, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education published study results showing that only 4 percent of students complete the courses for which they register. Sebastian Thrun, a former Google (GOOG) scientist and the co-founder of online education startup Udacity, said his company had a “lousy product” in an interview last month, delighting critics in academia.
Sloan’s decision to launch an online offering now may be a question of competition. Earlier this year, Wharton made its entire first-year MBA curriculum available for free on Coursera. Harvard Business School is developing an online initiative of its own.
It may also be that Sloan thinks that Analytics Edge has real-world applications will encourage participation. “Anyone with an interest in analytics can learn how to use this powerful tool to make their organization better and more efficient,” said Sloan lecturer Allison O’Hair in a press release. We’ll have a better idea of whether the power of analytics is enough to get students to sign up—and stick around—for the online course in about six months.