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5 Non-Financial ROIs of MOOCs

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On December 1, 2014 NO COMMENTS

ROI on Blue Puzzle Pieces. Business Concept.Often when we talk about the ROIs of any type of training, we focus on things that can be easily monetized. There is good reason for this—L&D, like every other department, must usually justify its existence by showing how its courses and programs are having a positive financial impact on the company. However, not all ROIs of training can easily be boiled down to dollars and cents.

The intangible benefits of training in general are many. In an article for Training Journal earlier this year, Martin-Christian Kent identified six intangible benefits that are common to all types of training programs:

  • Increased employee satisfaction
  • Increased organizational commitment
  • Improved teamwork
  • Improved customer service and reduced complaints
  • Reduced conflicts
  • Reduced stress

Even though these training results range from difficult to near-impossible to measure in monetary terms (at least immediately), they can have significant impacts on the success of a company. As training solutions, MOOCs can provide these benefits just as well as instructor-led training (ILT) or traditional eLearning. But as flexible, collaborative digital learning environments, MOOCs have the potential to provide even more intangible assets to an organization.

Here are five non-financial ROIs of using MOOCs for your corporate training and development.

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How Much Learning Really Occurs in MOOCs?

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On November 24, 2014 NO COMMENTS

touch- tablet in hands businessmenThis is a question I hear often, and only recently has research become available providing us with an answer. But before we get there, take a moment to ask yourself two questions: “How much learning really occurs in instructor-led training?” and “How much learning really occurs in elearning courses?” The reason I call your attention to these questions is that for many trainers in many organizations, the honest answer is “I don’t know.”

But you should know.

Whether learners are actually learning is important information for companies that are finding themselves increasingly required to provide more training, more frequently. Too often, however, we focus so squarely on training delivery that we fail to measure, or even notice, if anyone on the receiving end of that delivery is even awake, much less encoding any information.

The problem of forgetting

One of the main challenges for workplace education, what Art Kohn calls “the dirty secret of corporate training” is that learners forget, and they forget fast. Kohn cites research showing that learners forget 50% within an hour, 70% within 24 hours, and as much as 90% within one week.

Perhaps the single biggest cause of this extreme forgetting is the fact that traditional training doesn’t gibe particularly well with how people learn. Bottom Line Performance President Sharon Boller puts it well when she writes: “A significant portion of what organizations label as training fits [a common but ineffective model]: it’s delivered as a single ‘glop,’ and large volumes of it are delivered up at once with nothing repeated. The intent in these instances is efficiency, but the result is the opposite because people don’t remember well in these scenarios.”

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What Style of MOOC is Right for You?

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On November 17, 2014 NO COMMENTS

Press Online button.If there is one idea I hope I’ve impressed upon you in writing about massive open online courses (MOOCs), it’s that, unlike instructor-led training and traditional elearning, MOOCs are highly flexible online learning environments. The popular media often refers to a MOOC as being just one kind of thing, and that one thing is usually associated with the types of MOOCs found on Coursera. But, this perspective doesn’t provide the full story—over the past year or so, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of experimentation and development of the MOOC, and today the acronym is an umbrella term that is used to refer to a wide variety of large-scale online courses.

In the corporate training world, there are three main distinctions that are meaningful when determining what style of MOOC to implement:

  1. Scheduled versus self-paced
  2. Moderated versus non-moderated
  3. Fully online versus blended (or hybrid)

In this post, we’ll look at each of these distinctions to help trainers decide what type of MOOC best meets the needs of their organization and their learners.

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ILT, Elearning, or MOOC? When to Use Common Training Formats

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On November 6, 2014 NO COMMENTS

Training optionsCorporate training used to mean one thing: “Here’s an orientation pamphlet and a couple of manuals. If you have any questions, ask Joe.” Then it meant another: “Your training will take place October 14 through 18, from 9 to 5. Bring a lunch and try not to snore too loudly.” And then another: “Just hit ‘Next’ on this computer presentation until you get to the end, and then take the test.”

I jest, of course, but only slightly.

The point is that when many people, even in L&D departments, think about effective corporate training, they have one specific format in mind, and that format is usually either instructor-led training (ILT) or elearning. The popularity of each type of training has risen and declined according to various factors, including who’s in charge, training budgets, and what’s trendy. Today, however, with innovation and new technologies, there are many different types of training formats in use, including the classics (ILT and elearning) as well as newer developments like complex computer-based simulations and massive open online courses (MOOCs).

With so many options, which one do you choose? The various formats are not mutually exclusive, and ideally you would not have to make this choice for an entire training program en masse. Instead, the training format you use should be the one best suited to the content to be learned, the needs of the audience, and the needs of the organization.

Below are some guidelines for when to use traditional ILT, elearning, and MOOCs.

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Instructor Led Training…Is It Still the Gold Standard?

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 30, 2014 NO COMMENTS

Gold BarsIn the training world, we often refer to instructor-led-training (ILT) as the gold standard. We compare every other form of training to it and seek to replicate it as closely as possible when developing new training methodologies. But it recently occurred to me that the underlying assumption here might not be correct, and that ILT might not be the ultimate high-value training after all.

Digital learning environments like massive open online courses (MOOCs) are starting to challenge the preeminence of ILT. Is it time we had a new gold standard?

Why is instructor-led training considered the best?

ILT became the gold standard not because it’s perfect (we all know that isn’t true), but because it’s better than other traditional methods of training. There is no question that ILT is superior to sending a new hire a booklet to read or putting an employee in a room with a computer to hit “Next-Next-Next” on a PowerPoint deck, but these are not exactly examples of high-quality training.

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What a MOOC Is and What It Isn’t

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 22, 2014 NO COMMENTS

What a MOOC is and What it is notMassive open online courses (MOOCs) are the education and training story of this decade (at least so far). In barely three years, they have expanded from a single course on artificial intelligence taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig in the fall of 2011 to thousands of MOOCs taught by instructors from leading colleges, universities, and companies on various platforms around the world. It’s impressive.

However, while there is growing awareness of the existence of MOOCs, there persists a good deal of confusion about what they actually are and what they can do. This is unsurprising for two reasons:

  • MOOCs have changed considerably since they first came out, and they are continuing to evolve as both the pedagogies and the technologies
  • Many types of courses fall under the MOOC umbrella. Education insiders have developed an entirely new vocabulary surrounding the courses, but in popular parlance, they are all commonly referred to as MOOCs.

The goal of this article is to clear up some of the confusion by exploring what a MOOC is and, perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t, and clarifying the roles MOOCs can play specifically within the context of corporate training.

A MOOC is a framework, not a platform.

One of the biggest sources of confusion I encounter is the idea that a MOOC is an online learning platform, a learning management system (LMS). This misconception is understandable, since the language we use often equates MOOC providers like Coursera and edX with the courses themselves, but it is a misconception nonetheless.

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The 3 Ms: MOOCs, Mobile, and Millennials

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 15, 2014 NO COMMENTS

Technology in the handsMOOCs, mobile, and Millennials—these three ideas often elicit some measure of discomfort in training and development departments, because while these three forces are greatly affecting businesses in general and workplace education in particular, they remain relatively poorly understood. This lack of understanding means that while Millennials are increasingly adopting a mobile mindset and seeing MOOCs as not only a viable method of training, but their preferred one, many companies are still slow about moving in these new directions. The result is a model of corporate training that is not well suited to its target audience.

Let’s look at some data highlighting the disconnect between corporate training and these various factors.

Here is what Millennials think about MOOCs:

  • In a Software Advice study earlier this year, almost three-quarters of 18 to 24 year-olds, and nearly as many 25 to 34 year-olds, said they would participate in a company training MOOC. The same study found that more than half of Millennials would be more likely to apply for and stay with a company that used MOOCs for training. (Learn more about the study.)
  • A recent study by QuestionPro found not only that respondents believed that MOOCs offer a high quality of education, but that 78% rated them as being a better experience than a traditional classroom. Millennials in particular are so positive about this learning format that almost 80% of 25 to 34 year-olds expect that in the future MOOCs will replace some parts of traditional education entirely.

Now let’s see what employers think about MOOCs:

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MOOCs at the 5 Moments of Learning Need

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 8, 2014 NO COMMENTS

5 moments of learningWhen does your organization provide training to employees, when it’s a good time for you or when it’s a good time for them? If you are stuck too firmly in the first category, it’s time to start inching over, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) are excellent tools to help you get there.

In 2011, Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson fundamentally changed many firms’ approach to training when they introduced the idea of five moments of learning need. Their model turns training from organization-centric to learner-centric, resulting in training that is more relevant to learners’ needs.

The five moments of learning need are:

  1. New: When learning something for the first time
  2. More: When building upon what you’ve already learned
  3. Apply: When applying what you’ve learned
  4. Solve: When things go wrong or don’t work as intended
  5. Change: When learning a new way of doing something, which often requires unlearning and relearning

Traditional formats too often approach all training in the same way, such as through instructor-led training (ILT) or elearning

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Video Production and Learner Engagement in MOOCs

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 2, 2014 NO COMMENTS

Television studio cameraThe idea that massive open online courses (MOOCs) can greatly enhance learner engagement and retention in corporate training settings has been a recurrent theme on this blog. (If your department is still using traditional instructor-led seminars for most of your training, well, you probably know that in some cases, there is no place to go but up.) Obviously, it isn’t just the mere use of technology that leads to increased engagement, but rather the fact that the MOOC format allows you to design training courses to better correspond with how people learn. One of the most significant advantages MOOCs have over ILT and traditional elearning is in how the content is delivered.

Video is the primary means of content delivery in a MOOC. Because video plays such a central role, it has a huge impact on the learners’ experience. In terms of course design and development, video is the area where trainers may have the least experience, and it can also be the most expensive element to put together. For all of these reasons, it’s important to get video right.

Fortunately, we don’t have to guess at how to do that. For a study released last spring, researchers at MIT analyzed about 7 million

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New Technologies Making MOOCs Even Better

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On September 24, 2014 NO COMMENTS

Idea concept on black. Perpetual motion with light bulbsI’ve been writing about massive open online courses (MOOCs) fairly steadily for the past year and a half or so, and over that time, MOOCs have changed considerably from what they were when they first appeared on the scene. Largely, these changes have been due to more investment and research into the development of digital learning environments.

Early MOOCs were often nothing more than long video lectures with a few multiple choice questions at the end—if you read much MOOC literature, you will know that these early implementations were roundly criticized for their poor pedagogy and almost complete lack of meaningful learning experiences. And the critics were right. However, that is no longer what MOOCs look like. As more institutions have experimented with them, and more research has been done about how to improve online learning, new pedagogical approaches and technologies have come on the scene. In terms of quality and learning, today’s MOOCs rival and sometimes even eclipse what is found in many instructor-led courses.

This post examines a few of the innovative new technologies that are helping MOOCs evolve into powerful active, collaborative, and immersive learning experiences. (For a review of basic technology-enabled learning tools used in MOOCs, see here and here.)

Enhanced content delivery: LectureScape

Watching a long video lecture isn’t any more engaging than watching a long in-person lecture. There are certainly some advantages to video, for example, learners can pause, rewind, and return to the content as needed, even after the course is over. But MOOCs can do better.

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