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Archive for the ‘Featured Posts’ Category

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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How MOOCs Can Solve Common Training Problems

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

Problems Solutions handwritten with white chalk on a blackboard.From the outside, corporate training appears to be something of a paradox. On one hand, it is becoming ever more necessary for companies to provide training, especially for recent college graduates: according to a Gallup survey, only 11% of business leaders believe that college graduates are adequately prepared to succeed in the workplace. Corporate training is also a huge factor in company success—a 2000 analysis by Laurie J. Bassie found that investing $1,500 per employee per year leads to 24% higher profit margins and a more than 200% increase in revenue per employee. On the other, research suggests that as much as 90% of what is learned during training is lost in a short period of time.

Given these data, it’s obvious that training is one of the key drivers for companies’ success. But the data also suggest that many organizations aren’t doing it as well as they could be, which means they are likely not achieving anywhere close to the level of success indicated in Bassie’s analysis.

I’ve written before about various ways massive open online courses (MOOCs) can improve upon traditional training, for example by better meeting the needs of today’s corporate learners and by making elearning more interesting, more interactive, and more relevant. This article addresses three common problems found in training and discusses how MOOCs provide solutions to these problems.

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Strategies for Making the Transition from Instructor-Led Training to a MOOC

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On September 10, 2014 NO COMMENTS

Old Way, New WaySo, you have decided to replace, or at least supplement, some of your instructor-led training (ILT) with a massive open online course (MOOC). Great! You are about to join the myriad companies that have seen their training programs blossom through the incorporation of this new form of technology-enabled learning.

Now what?

Moving from traditional ILT to a MOOC is not as simple as just putting your current learning resources online. In fact, studies have shown that this approach is the exact opposite of what you want to do. The best MOOCs are designed as MOOCs from the ground up, from a digital perspective and taking full advantage of the available technologies. This article outlines an overall approach for making the transition from ILT to a MOOC.

Plan, plan, and then plan some more

Teaching a MOOC is much different from leading an in-person training course, and what all of the differences point to is the need for more advance planning than you’ve probably ever done before. You will be developing the entire course in advance for an audience with whom you may or may not interact on a personal level. This means you won’t be able to see the confused looks on

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Training Reboot: Assessing Your Company’s MOOC Readiness

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On September 3, 2014 NO COMMENTS

MOOC ReadyYour training programs need a reboot. You need to train more learners and get them up to speed faster, and you need to do it on what seems like an ever-tightening budget. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are potentially an excellent solution to help you meet your training goals. But is your company ready?

Rolling out new training initiatives is always challenging, and it’s important to assess the climate in your organization to ensure it is up to the challenge. Below are several questions to ask yourself to help you decide whether your company is ready for a MOOC.

Do you have a large number of employees who need to learn the same things?

If your organization’s training needs can be satisfied by a series of one-time seminars each delivered to a different small group of people, a MOOC is probably not the best option. But, if you have a large number of geographically diverse learners who need consistent, standardized training, MOOCs can provide huge benefits. According to Bersin’s 2013 Corporate Learning Factbook, companies spend anywhere from $100 to $500 per employee per year teaching core business skills like basic management, office productivity, and Microsoft Office. MOOCs can teach these skills just as effectively and at a significantly reduced cost.

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How MOOCs Address the Needs of Today’s Corporate Learners

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 28, 2014 NO COMMENTS

PlanningHow do your employees feel about your organization’s current training program? Are they getting the training they need? Do they find that training valuable? Engaging? Relevant? Does it help them do their jobs better?

Corporate learners today need something different from their training than they did in the past. This article will focus on those needs and on how massive open online courses (MOOCs) can address them.

More training

There are no two ways about it: today’s employees need more training—both more than they have ever needed before and more than they are currently getting. This need takes a variety of forms:

  • More new-hire training. A recent Accenture survey revealed that while 80% of 2014 graduates expected formal training at their first job, fewer than half of 2012 and 2013 graduates actually received any training at all. Companies, especially those facing a skills gap, need to provide more training to help new hires be successful on the job.
  • More regular training. With the pace of technological change, the half-life of skills is getting shorter. In many cases, knowledge and skills acquired five or 10 years ago are now obsolete. This is especially true in tech industries, where skills that were in hot demand even a few months ago may already be in need of an update. Annual or biannual training isn’t sufficient to keep up with the pace of change. As management consultant Mark Lukens wrote for Fast Company, the traditional once-a-year approach to training often focuses more on filling gaps and fixing weaknesses rather than on developing strengths. It also encourages complacency. Lukens suggests that organizations should “change goals as they become redundant or something better shows up, not just because it’s January.”
  • More varied training. According to a new study by IBM, 80% of companies are now looking outside of their IT departments for ideas to bridge technical skills gaps. With boundaries between departments becoming blurrier, today’s employees need more well-rounded training options, including technical training outside of their areas of expertise and soft skills training to improve communication and collaboration.
  • Innovation training. Innovation is the key to success in today’s competitive business landscape. Innovation expert Anthony Ferrier recommends training employees at all levels how to be innovative, not just to manage innovation. This training can result in benefits an improved bottom line and more empowered and engaged employees.

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Training in an Ad-Hoc, BYOD Environment

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 20, 2014 NO COMMENTS

byodFor more than a year now, this blog has focused on massive open online courses (MOOCs). We’ve looked at what they are, the technologies that underlie them, and their place in organizational and employee learning and development. At this point, it feels like a good time to take a step back from the ROIs and the how-tos, and explore the top reason MOOCs are having such a huge impact on corporate training.

MOOCs are not just fancy new technologies to attract and retain Millennials. Nor are they just more efficient methods for companies to save time and money while also delivering high-quality training. Over the past few years, especially as the skills gaps continue to widen and digital technologies pervade every aspect of our personal and professional lives, some of the fundamental ideas that have defined training for decades are shifting. Training is not only moving from in-person to online, but from just-in-case to just-in-time and from knowledge transfer to performance support. MOOCs have become popular largely because their flexible format allows companies to deliver the type of training required in the increasingly ad-hoc, BYOD environment that is the modern workplace.

Training with a purpose

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