risk-237960_640For the past month, this blog has focused on common objections to using massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other technology-enabled learning tools in corporate training programs. We’ve explored the arguments that MOOCs aren’t interactive, that they are a one-size-fits-all solution to a many-sided problem, and that people don’t learn very well in them.

This article finishes up the series by addressing the idea that MOOCs are simply too risky on which to bank something as important as corporate training success.

What are the risks of MOOCs?

In addition to the issues explored earlier in this series, here are some perceived risks of using MOOCs in particular and technology-enabled learning in general.

The technology could break down or become obsolete.

Well, yes it could. But so could any other technology your company uses, whether it be an iPad or a cloud-based software application.

These risks are inherent to technology, but they are not reasonable arguments against using technology. Instructor-led training (ILT) doesn’t always work either—sometimes the trainer gets sick, sometimes flights are delayed, sometimes there is a power outage at the venue. ILT can also quickly become obsolete as technological and other advances are made in a field. In fact, it’s easier to revise a MOOC to reflect current practice by adjusting the module content than it is to redeliver an entire ILT training course.

Content could leak into public sources.

Training consultant David Kelly has an excellent response to this idea:

“Some dismiss the idea of a Corporate MOOC based solely on the open aspect. The idea of corporate knowledge being shared with the population at large is seen as a risk. In some rare cases that might be true, though I’m struggling to think of what corporate secrets are baked into the average leadership or communications course.”

The fact is that the content of most corporate training courses isn’t classified, so there is often little to lose by embracing the open aspect. If that approach doesn’t fit with your company objectives, you can still use the MOOC framework to run a private course. Kelly notes that open doesn’t have to mean “open to the public”; it can just as easily mean “open to all employees.”

Business plans could be revealed due to public awareness of the training being delivered.

First, see the previous point—most corporate MOOCs don’t involve classified information, and those that do don’t have to be truly open.

Second, some companies are actually using MOOCs to solve business problems, to spur innovation and collaboration, and to drum up excitement for new initiatives, both within and outside of the company. While you certainly don’t want all of your business plans revealed to the public, running MOOCs that inform learners about your business could actually be part of your marketing campaign.

The truth is, if your content is ultra-sensitive, it’s likely that a MOOC isn’t the best choice for delivering it in the first place. Read this post on when to use common training formats for more suggestions on how to decide between ILT, traditional elearning, and a MOOC.

A compliance risk may exist from not having your inter-staff communication monitored.

Companies in the financial services sector (and other sectors as well) are facing increased regulations in many areas. Today, compliance programs require that firms monitor and archive all electronic communications, including email, blog posts, and even social media. How can organizations run MOOCs—which take advantage of a variety of online communication tools—and still maintain compliance?

The answer is: technology.

While the amount of communication data generated by MOOCs can be immense, various technologies are available to help you keep track of it. One solution is to have employees limit their MOOC discussions to certain tools, such as the course discussion forums, a private social network, or a new communication platform like Slack.

If your MOOC will be run on the web at large, there are many tools available that will provide surveillance and archiving of communications including emails, mobile messages, social networks, and more. These tools have very powerful search capabilities, and many are available as cloud-based software applications. Even if you aren’t running MOOCs, monitoring employee communications in this way is still recommended to ensure that you keep on the right side of compliance regulations. This report by PricewaterhouseCoopers provides best practices for how to integrate technology into a compliance program.

So, are MOOCs too risky?

While it may appear that MOOCs have a few extra risks, they also have a lot of benefits that other training formats simply don’t. In addition, all of the risks can be easily managed. Setting procedures in place to mitigate potential risks such as information leakage and compliance breaches, is simply good practice, and something you should be doing anyway, whether you use MOOCs for training or not.

As with anything, if you worry too much about the potential risks of MOOCs, you will lose the opportunity to gain the benefits. In the next article, we’ll look at the flip side of this issue: what you risk by not using MOOCs in your training and development programs.

Copyright 2015 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes.

For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive.

Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City.

He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should ‘engage and inspire’ students to greater productivity and performance.

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