MOOCs are all the rage lately, degree options are available thru these Massive Open Online Courses that are focused at classes of thousands, interactions among the participants and all kinds of resources available to you via your browser. Depending on the platform and design MOOCs can combine synchronous as well as asynchronous delivery and can include an on-demand delivery model designed for self-paced learning. Same content delivered to large groups make this delivery method a cost effective option and assessment strategies can range from none to papers and everything in-between.
The focus has been on education but I think corporate L&D teams are overlooking how this delivery method could benefit them more. A recent Forbes article outlined ways MOOCs could be used in corporate learning. One component highlighted the flipped classroom that places responsibility on the learner to prepare in advance of classroom interactions by reading, testing online with the materials placed there and, if designed instructionally, to participate online with fellow learners and facilitators (think subject matter experts, SMEs). Why is this important you might ask? Online learning can be “chunked” up into short, targeted learning experiences that can reduce seat time, can be personalized to the individual, and assessed to evaluate progress and target learning opportunities in advance on face-2-face interactions. This goes to the bottom line, saving time saves money. Time spent by the employee working on their own is time not away from the job and according to the ASTD 2012 State of the Industry Report organizations spend a little over $1100 per employee per year averaging 31 hours.
Some companies are using MOOCs to develop talent. Aquent, specialized recruiter for ad agencies, created a MOOC as it sought people with programming skills. About 10,000 people enrolled to take Aquent’s free training course on HTML5, with 180 of those who completed the training receiving job placement with digital ad agencies, Farmer said. Aquent provided the course content and instructor. A recent article said there were close to 4 million open job in the US, yet surveys report that many U.S. companies can’t find qualified people to fill their open roles. Formal education has not provided the technical skills a company needs or can’t find the workers in the desired location. What if a blended approach, that included MOOCs, could help find and train people leading to employment? Consider a new solar panel company looking for skilled workers: What if they could train and hire displaced autoworkers in the Midwest within a few weeks?
So perhaps the real connection is to build learning together, maximize the strengths the academic community has and the need of the business community. Andrew Ng, co-founder of MOOC vendor Coursera, stated recently “We think of ourselves as a two-sided marketplace where we work with universities to create content, and then the other side of it is content consumption,” he said. “The companies we’re working with consume or take advantage of the content. I found it interesting that two- thirds of those students said they would be more likely to complete a MOOC if they could get college credit or a certificate of completion for it. It seems that companies still have a strong comfort, or trust, level with the traditional transcript and credit value that educational institutions provide. Like all delivery systems, including face-to-face, some topics seem to have a greater impact on the individual learner with a specific interaction, for some it is evident that mastering critical thinking, collaboration, presentation skills and genuine empathy require human connection, interaction and practice, and are best acquired in person, not only online. The key is to design content that engages the learner no matter the delivery vehicle and meets the learners need, the design must clearly demonstrate the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for the learner.
At this point, there’s just no way to really know whether they’re effective or not,” said Shanna Jaggars, assistant director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, which has produced some of the most recent scholarship about online education. So why invest? While some truly believe MOOCS are the future of online education this delivery method offers a cost effective solution to meet a large learning community quickly and bring business experts to the learner easily. To make it really work several things need to come together. First, define the strategy of how MOOCs can fit within the corporate learning pathway, can they fit into the new hire experience speeding up the onboarding process or can they spread the collective technical experiences held by a few experts to a broader, dispersed community of users speeding up time to proficiency? Will this be a design option to partner with a content provider such as an educational institution? Will the organization be able to integrate the tool into an existing tracking/recordkeeping system or will the support be a new IT request?
MOOCs are cool in today’s learning world much like Facebook was a couple of years ago. The take-away is that the tech should not drive the teach, ultimately every learner needs the touch. We have a larger workforce of digitally connected employees who believe in “bring your own device” (BYOD) and eLearning, including MOOCs, fit in this mobile lifestyle. The key is to focus on the business need while reaching and engaging the person. Design should drive delivery and blending tools to teach, combined with the right degree of touch will personalize the experience, increase the engagement (solving the retention issue), and provide a cost effective solution.