Yes, a full college education costs $40,000 a year and up at many places, but one of the paradoxes of the information age is that many courses that make up a solid business curriculum are now online -- and free for the viewing.
Even more astonishing is the fact that many ivy-league business schools -- including MIT, Carnegie-Mellon, and Columbia -- have their courses available online for the asking through open courseware offerings.
B School.com provides a list of 100 such offerings, from a variety of disciplines. Many are dated (some were delivered close to 10 years ago), and content may be limited to lecture notes, and of course, they are not for credit. But they are great resources for anyone wishing to increase their knowledge in given areas.
Here is a sampling from some of the site's 100 top online courses, as well as my own picks:
Mathematics of Finance, with Professor Mikhail Smirnov (Columbia): Mathematics of Finance is a two-part course on the basics of probability and finance. This course requires a solid understanding of calculus.
Experiments in Economics/Introduction to Economics, at Carnegie-Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative: This course is based on a series of experiments that encourage active engagement. hen you join an experiment you will be given some basic background information and the option to join various sessions.
Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, taught by Professors Eric Grimson and John Guttag at MIT: This course aims to provide students with an understanding of the role computation can play in solving problems. The class will use the Python programming language.
Competitive Decision-Making and Negotiation, taught by Professor Gordon Kaufman at MIT: This course is centered on twelve negotiation exercises that simulate competitive business situations. Specific topics covered include distributive bargaining (split the pie!), mixed motive bargaining (several issues at stake) with two and with more than two parties, auctions and fair division. Ethical dilemmas in negotiation are discussed at various times throughout the course.
Architecture and Communication in Organizations, taught by Professors Diane Burton, Frank Duffy and Tom Allen at MIT: While no businesses succeed based on their architecture or space design, many fail as a result of inattention to the power of spatial relationships. This course demonstrates through live case studies with managers and architects the value of strategic space planning and decision making in relation to business needs. The course presents conceptual frameworks for thinking about architecture, communication and organizations.
Technology Strategy, taught by Professor Jason Davis at MIT: This is not a course in how to manage product or process development. The main focus is on the acquisition of a set of powerful analytical tools which are critical for the development of a technology strategy as an integral part of business strategy.
Generating Business Value from Information Technology, taught by Professor Jeanne Ross at MIT: This course provides concepts and frameworks for understanding the potential impact of information technology (IT) on business strategy and performance. We will examine how some firms make IT a strategic asset while other firms struggle to realize value from IT investments.
Principles of Industrial Hygiene, taught by Patrick Breysse and Peter Lees at Johns Hopkins University: Provides an introduction to the field of industrial hygiene and to occupational health in general. The instructor focuses on introducing concepts, terminology, and methodology in the practice of industrial hygiene and identifies resource materials.
The opportunity to learn from the greatest minds in science, math, literature, and history is open to everyone - not just Ivy Leaguers. More than two million students now engage in online learning, according to a report from Eduventures. MIT reports that its OpenCourseWare averages one million visits each month; translations receive 500,000 more.
Plus, the courses presented don't just happen once then are forgotten. They are now captured digitally, and can benefit life-long learners for potentially generations to come. Call it the "long tail" of education.