Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies Director and Professor John Budd, along with several colleagues from the Department of Work and Organizations, recently partnered with Coursera to launch an online series of courses making up a specialization focusing on human resources. The courses harness the power of technology and respond to a growing interest in online education.

Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer courses online that are open to anyone. Budd’s course, “Preparing to Manage Human Resources,” is the first of four courses that make up the HR Management specialization. The offerings are intended to leave students with a new-found understanding of the range of options available for managing employees and help them develop their own human resource management skills.

These courses make up a “MOOC” (massive open online course). Budd, whose course launched in early February, says that teaching a MOOC has more up-front, intensive development and production than a traditional classroom-taught course, but less interaction with students.

Budd made a total of 47 videos for this four-week course, most of which were produced at the Carlson School in a recording studio in front of a green screen. He also created a short ungraded practice quiz for each lesson, as well as a longer, graded quiz each week. The course also requires students to complete two assignments in which they are assessed by their peers.

“Most of the work occurred before the course even launched. Now that the course is running, students can sign up at any time and they start with a new cohort of classmates every two weeks,” Budd explains. “I monitor the discussion boards to make sure everything continues to run smoothly, and I add some thoughts to the discussion boards when students have questions or make insightful comments. But they can watch all the videos and complete all of the assessments at their own pace without any involvement from me.”

According to Budd, teaching this MOOC has been very rewarding so far. The course has been available for approximately one month, and has already enrolled 3,885 students. Because this course is freely accessible online without any entry criteria, it has reached students from more than 100 countries who are interested in learning more about human resources management. 

“It's particularly rewarding to think that we can provide the leading expertise of our HR program to individuals in countries who otherwise don't have access to this kind of education, and that we can make a difference in their lives,” says Budd. 

Although it has been a positive experience overall, Budd does note that there are challenges when teaching an online course. One of these challenges is deciphering how to create a personal connection with the students, given they have no personal interaction with the professor. Students are encouraged to communicate with each other, however, and they have access to student discussion forums that Budd can monitor. He also created a LinkedIn page that will help the students keep in touch with each other after completing the course.

Participants rate the course overall on a 5-point scale. So far, Budd boasts a score of 4.8. Students can also comment on specific videos if they have a question or comment. In a MOOC, anyone can watch all of the videos for free, but as of now a little over 200 students have purchased the paid version of the course and earned a certificate.

The remaining courses in the HR specialization will be launched in the approaching weeks and months, with the expectation that they will all be available online for several years to come. 

Upcoming courses

  • Course 2, “Recruiting, Hiring, and Onboarding Employees,” will be taught by Senior Lecturer Amy Falink and MA-HRIR Program Director Stacy Doepner-Hove.
  • Course 3, “Managing Employee Performance,” will be taught by Senior Lecturer Larry Bourgerie.
  • Course 4, “Managing Employee Compensation,” will be taught by Assistant Professor Alan Benson and another instructor.

Budd says the process of creating this MOOC and preparing it for students was the busiest time in his entire career. And although it was exhausting and at times overwhelming, it has been a great experience because of the positive feedback from the learners and the truly global interest in the course.

Learn more