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How online courses can further your personal and professional development

How online courses can further your personal and professional development

Massively open online courses (MOOCs) have been making headlines in past year. Heralded as a “revolution” in higher education, many commentators celebrated the open access to the knowledge and experts at the world’s elite universities. Now anyone with an internet connection can log on to platforms such as Coursera or EdX and take prestigious classes for free.

Although the hype has started to die down, and some are now instituting payment schemes for “verified certificates”, nerds like myself may still be interested in MOOCs. Although the nature of development work means that a lot our learning is done on the job, there are times I wish I could go back to school now that I have a more concrete idea of what I need to know to be effective.

I might not be able to enrol full-time in an MBA program, but I would like to have some basic business skills since my program has a social business and microfinance component. Alternatively, those who work in communities with large public health concerns might want a basic understanding of disease, even if their individual work is more generalist or administrative. Many people working on monitoring and evaluation may find it useful to brush up on basic statistics or data management. Others may want to hear from leaders in the development field, such as Jeffery Sachs or Esther Duflio.

Whether you are driven by intellectual curiosity to learn more about the history of the country you are working, or by a practical desire to up your proficiency in a technical skill, MOOCs are a low-cost option for personal and professional development.

If you’ve been out of academia for too long and are longing for the familiar excitement of lectures and syllabi, here are some of my top picks for upcoming MOOCs for development nerds. Check out any that sound interesting or useful to you. Complete all the assignments for a shiny certificate or just audit the class and watch a few lectures. Happy Learning!

General Development/Social Change

How to Change the World – Wesleyan University
Critical thinking for Global Challenges – University of Edinburgh
The Challenges of Global Poverty – MIT


Introduction to Sustainability – University of Illinois
Turn Down the Heat – the World Bank
The Age of Sustainable Development – Columbia University (Editor’s note: two writers at Development Intern are going to be taking this new course from Jeffrey Sachs and will be blogging about it. Check in the coming weeks for more information.) 

Global Health

How Viruses Cause Disease – Columbia University
Epidemiology: The Basic Science of Public Health – UNC Chapel Hill
Global Health: Case Studies from a Biosocial Perspective – Harvard

Business Skills

Foundations of Business Strategy – University of Virginia
Developing Ideas for New Companies – University of Maryland
Subsistence Marketplaces – University of Illinois


Basic Statistics: Descriptive Statistics – UC Berkely
The Analytic Edge – MIT


Content Strategies for Professionals – Northwestern University


Meghan Hussey is currently an international fellow with Mosaic International in Moshi, Tanzania. She was previously a Fulbright student scholar in China, where she did research on programs and services for adolescents and young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. She has also worked for as an intern at the Ministry of Health in Botswana and research assistant at the Center for High-Impact Philanthropy. She has a degree in international relations and political science from the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow her on Twitter at @meghan_hussey or visit

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Meghan Hussey serves as International Field Director at Mosaic International. Previously, Meghan served as a fellow for Mosaic in Tanzania, did research on autism programs in China as a Fulbright scholar, and worked with disability and global health programs in South Africa, Botswana and Ireland. She holds a bachelors degree in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and a masters degree in Global Health from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. You can follow her on twitter at @meghan_hussey.

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  1. […] sentiments blogged about here on HREC over the past few months, another great post over on recently rounded up some great massive open online courses (MOOCs) that may be […]

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