In the age of shutdowns and quarantines, those of us stuck inside have had to reinvest in home-based hobbies, or discover new ones. This isolation coupled with boredom led many to seek self-improvement through MOOCs. MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, cover a wide range of topics, and many are free to enroll in. This is likely why they’ve seen a 400% increase in enrollment between February and March of this year. But not every learn-it-yourself topic is created equal, particularly for those in the creative marketing industry. So in 2021, when should you DIY a skill, and when should you bring in an expert?
In general, benefits of MOOCs include their 24/7 accessibility, short module lengths, and open source, collaborative environments. Because the lectures are almost always pre-recorded, you can learn at your own pace and return to content that didn’t sink in the first time.
More specifically, the appropriateness of a MOOC to learn a marketing skill can be judged largely on your role at your agency. If you’re looking to fill the role of a PMP-certified project manager, a couple free MOOCs on agile versus waterfall project management won’t cut it. But if you’re an art director who wants to get your team better organized, and who wants to interface more effectively with your agency’s project manager, a MOOC on best PM practices might be the perfect choice for you.
One great skill that would benefit anyone at a creative agency is to understand marketing analytics. A course like Marketing Analytics: Marketing Measurement Strategy can help you identify market trends, and therefore stay on top of them no matter your role.
There are some MOOCs that offer a paid option where you can get certified in a skill. For example, the Social Media Strategy class offered by MIT’s Sloan School of Management has a path towards a certificate, which could help you seek out a new role or a promotion.
Part of the fun of seeking out a MOOC is looking for industry experts to learn from. With the rise of platforms like Masterclass (which does require a subscription), you can take lessons in marketing creativity from the likes of Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, the creators of the “got milk?” ad campaign, among others.
So what can we expect from MOOCs in the future? Because these courses are expected to realize an annual growth rate of 29% from 2020 to 2025, there will be no shortage of topics and skills to study and improve in. Options ranging from graphic design to SEO will continue to be available, with new iterations based on the changing times. If you’re looking to sharpen your existing talents and stay on top of new technologies, MOOCs are a great option. If you’re an agency looking to have specialty work completed by an expert as a one-off, it will likely make more sense to hire someone who is fully trained and competent instead of trying to rush an employee through a course. Use your best judgement, and stay curious.