By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On December 2, 2013 No Comments
It seems like at least once a week there is a major news headline declaring that our educational system is broken, and looking at the data on how U.S. students compare with students in other countries, it is hard to doubt that this conclusion is true. The training system is broken as well. Results from an ASTD study suggest that as much as 90 percent of new skills learned during training are lost within one year, which means that despite large expenditures on training programs, many companies are not realizing significant returns on their investment (ROIs). What’s worse, many companies do not systematically analyze these ROIs, so they really have no idea what they are getting for their training dollars. Part of the problem is that the traditional models of education and training aren’t brain-friendly, meaning that they are completely removed from how people actually learn. For many years (and even centuries), the commonly held belief was that exposure to information equaled learning. But this simply isn’t true: spending an hour listening to a classroom lecture or attending a four-hour seminar with no follow-up does not translate into meaningful learning, yet this remains the dominant model in many organizations.
There is some good news to be had in all of this: broken systems open the door for innovation, and that is exactly what is happening right now in education and training. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have swooped onto the scene, threatening commonly held beliefs and business models left, right, and center. I’ve said before that the main influence of MOOCs is pedagogical—they are changing the focus from knowledge to outcomes, from what students know to what they will be able to do. Using MOOC tools, instructors can design courses that do translate into meaningful learning because they are more closely aligned with how people actually learn. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On November 25, 2013 No Comments
So far in this series, we have looked at ways massive open online courses (MOOCs) have led educators and trainers to rethink how content is delivered and the role of social media in the corporate classroom. This article focuses on a topic that has historically been an albatross around the neck of training and development: assessment.
Assessment in corporate training is complicated by a couple of factors. First, there is a widespread misconception that exposure to information equals learning. The result has been an overabundance of objective testing methods that assess information recall but little else. This practice is probably responsible for the fact that employees retain only about 10 to 15 percent of what they learn in training sessions—information is easily forgotten; only when we apply that information does it become knowledge. The second complicating factor is even more troubling: many organizations don’t assess employee learning at all. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last year, corporate training researcher Eduardo Salas noted that one of the biggest mistakes businesses make in training is failing to evaluate employee learning. If they do, he says, “they usually stop at the first level of evaluation—the reaction data. Companies think that if there is a positive reaction to the training, people will learn. But what we know is that the correlation is very week between reaction to training and actual learning.” (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On November 18, 2013 No Comments
Most discussions of massive open online courses (MOOCs) focus primarily on the massive component. These courses are huge in every sense of the word—they have massive enrollments, they generate massive amounts of data, and they have certainly caused massive controversy. It’s true that the technology that underlies MOOCs allows for all aspects of instruction to occur on a much larger scale than was ever possible before, but focusing solely on this element masks what is arguably MOOCs’ most valuable contribution to education: flexibility. MOOCs allow education to occur in highly flexible and adaptable environments, and one consequence of this is that learning is not only getting much bigger, but in some important ways it is also getting significantly smaller. Access to anywhere, anytime learning has liberated instructors and students from the four-hour seminar and the three-day workshop: they can now make the most of even five spare minutes, which has led to a new interest in microlearning.
Microlearning is learning that takes place on a very small scale. Currently, the term microlearning is used to describe a couple of different instructional formats. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On November 11, 2013 No Comments
Big data is revolutionizing all fields, and smart organizations are taking note. According to a 2011 report by global management firm McKinsey: “The use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual firms. From the standpoint of competitiveness and the potential capture of value, all companies need to take big data seriously.” Now, in 2013, massive open online courses (MOOCs) are bringing big data to education. With courses enrolling upwards of 100,000 students each, an enormous amount of data is being generated and preliminary reports are starting to come in.
The current available data come from three reports on three MOOC ventures: Duke’s Bioelectricity (Coursera), a group of six MOOCs offered by the University of Edinburgh (Coursera), and MIT’s Circuits and Electronics (edX). Here is a brief look at what the data show so far and what corporate trainers can learn from them.
Who Takes MOOCs?
MOOC students are older than traditional university students: Duke and Edinburgh reported that, respectively, 86 and 72 percent of students were age 44 and under, with one-third of Edinburgh students falling into the 25-to-34 year-old range. These data show that MOOC participants are more representative of the workforce than of the university population, a trend that should be encouraging for corporate trainers because it suggests both that employees are voluntarily engaging in challenging educational pursuits and that the MOOC format appeals to these independent learners. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On November 4, 2013 No Comments
So you are ready to design your own massive open online course (MOOC) and you want to incorporate social media. How should you go about it? What tools should you use? When the first MOOCs hit the net, the only real option was blogs. Then Coursera, Udacity, and edX popularized discussion boards, similar to what is used in non-MOOC elearning. Since then, social learning tools have exploded onto the market. At a minimum, most MOOCs today use discussion boards, blogs, and microblogs, and many have some kind of dedicated social network.
Training MOOCs are by nature different than academic MOOCs. One difference that affects the use of social media is the potential audience and the type of content. Organizations need to decide whether to make their MOOCs truly open and host them publicly on the Internet or whether to restrict part or all of the courses to authorized users. The deciding factor may be the amount of proprietary or competitive information included in the course content. For example, a business etiquette course may be hosted on the Internet, while a sales training course may be run on a private intranet. Different social media tools are available depending on whether or not the training will be made public. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 28, 2013 No Comments
Over the past few months, we have explored the social component of massive open online courses (MOOCs) from several angles. We have examined the role of peer learning in organizations and the importance of creating personal learning networks. We have also reviewed the major technology-enabled learning tools that MOOCs use to support social interaction. In this article and the next, we will put it all together by looking at why businesses should use social media in their training and development programs and various practical ways to implement peer learning through social media in corporate MOOCs.
Many organizations are wary of social media, mainly because of a lack of control and the fear that social networking on the job will quickly devolve into “social notworking.” This fear is probably largely unfounded—companies were also suspicious about email and the Internet, but there is little doubt (and a lot of empirical research) that these innovations have improved, not harmed, productivity. In today’s environment, businesses that do not adopt new technologies are setting themselves up for failure. According to a 2012 Capgemini report, digital leaders—defined as those companies that use new technologies such as social media, mobile technologies, and analytics—are 26 percent more profitable than their competitors and generate both more revenue and higher market valuation ratios. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 21, 2013 No Comments
Over the past several months, I’ve written about the many advantages of using MOOCs in training programs and given suggestions for how L&D departments can most effectively incorporate this new training format. In this article, we’ll look at some of the MOOCs that have been developed specifically for training purposes and business audiences, as well as how some companies are already using these courses are part of their workplace training and development programs.
MOOCs for Business and Training
Some enterprising startups have recently developed training MOOCs. For now, these are mostly in the technology fields, but the scope is rapidly expanding. In addition, the major MOOC providers now offer a variety of MOOCs targeted toward a business audience. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 14, 2013 No Comments
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have lately been moving in different directions. Instructors at various institutions have taken the fundamental parts of MOOCs (video lectures, interactive elements, etc.) and reworked them to meet the needs of their particular schools and students. This reworking has given rise to a variety of new MOOC-like courses, including big open online courses (BOOCs), synchronous massive online courses (SMOCs), and small private online courses (SPOCs). Although they all take different forms, these new courses share a common foundation of MOOC principles and components. With these new instructional formats, we are starting to see real innovation in the way instruction is delivered.
These new models can also provide solutions for businesses looking for new ways to deliver more efficient and more effective training. One of the more interesting models to emerge is the distributed open collaborative course, aka the DOCC.
Though billed as an “anti-MOOC,” a DOCC is a model that combines MOOC elements with personalized tools to meet the needs of individual learners and learning groups. Instead of using a single complete set of learning resources (videos, readings, forums, assignments, tests, and so on) to automatically deliver instruction to all learners, a DOCC consists of individual “nodal” courses built around a central theme. The core learning materials for each nodal course are the same, but the approach to those materials is different. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 7, 2013 No Comments
If there’s one thing we have learned from the rapid changes in education and training over the past year it is that there is more than one way to do things, even in education. New technologies emerge, they disrupt the status quo, and then, inevitably, they change. This is exactly what has happened with massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Contrary to what many people predicted, MOOCs were not a “one and done”—they have continued to expand and gain credibility, and now you can get a massive online master’s degree in computer science from Georgia Tech. And contrary to what many feared, MOOCs have not yet replaced traditional colleges and training programs (at least the last time I checked all of our country’s higher education institutions were still standing). What MOOCs have done and will continue to do is change how education is delivered, both online and in the classroom. They have broadened the scope of what people expect from courses and from technology-enabled learning tools. Over a short series of articles, we will look at some new ways MOOCs are being used and how these models can facilitate training and development programs.
One of the main, and perhaps least surprising, uses of MOOCs and MOOC elements is in blended learning. Blended learning is a model in which online and instructor-led environments are combined to enhance learner mastery and success. This isn’t just randomly introducing technology into classrooms; instead, it is harnessing the power of technology to streamline the educational process, free instructors to spend more of their time actually teaching, and provide learners with the additional supports they need to succeed. (more…)