New forms of education require new types of credentials. But what does it mean when job applicants put digital badges on their resumes or when an employee earns a verified certificate from a free online course? One of the biggest opportunities for MOOCs and other digital learning environments has been in the development of alternative credentials, which may turn out to be even better than traditional degrees at highlighting one’s knowledge and skills.
Why do we need alternative credentials?
As you are probably well aware, employers in general are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with traditional higher education. This stems from the fact that most business leaders don’t feel that recent graduates are adequately prepared for the workforce: in a recent Gallup survey, only 11% of business leaders strongly agreed that colleges and universities are doing a good job preparing students for work. Only 11%! Most companies want to hire degree holders, and indeed the number of jobs requiring a degree is expected to hit 60% by 2018, but hiring managers are becoming less and less certain about what those degrees actually mean.
To solve this problem, alternative credentials are being developed that are more closely tied to specific knowledge and demonstrable skills.
What alternative credentials are available?
There are basically two types of alternative credentials: non-degree credentials offered by degree-granting institutions (i.e., professional diplomas and certificates) and new credentials that are outside of the traditional higher education system altogether. This article focuses on the latter, as they are the types of credentials that are being developed in conjunction with MOOCs.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 21, 2014 NO COMMENTS
As digital learning environments, MOOCs are incredibly flexible—they can be used for fully online courses, in hybrid courses, as supplementary materials, and more. One of the offshoots of the growth of MOOCs has been an interest in “flipped classes,” which is commonly conceived as a reversal of in-class time and out-of-class time. For example, the typical formula for flipping a class is to assign video lectures as homework and use in-class time for collaborative activities including role play and problem-solving. Here, we’ll look briefly at how to use MOOCs to flip a corporate classroom in this way as well as explore a broader perspective on what it means to flip an online course.
Flipping class time
When people talk about “flipping” a classroom, what they are usually talking about is a way of integrating technology into
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On April 9, 2014 NO COMMENTS
Over the past several years, the educational requirements for jobs have been increasing. According to a study by Georgetown University, 63 percent of all jobs will require a bachelor’s degree by the year 2018. However, although students have been scrambling to get their degrees, employers are experiencing an unprecedented gap between the skills they need and the skills their employees have. In a survey conducted last year by Adecco, 92 percent of U.S. senior executives reported a workforce skills gap. The major areas of weakness were soft skills, technical skills, leadership, and computer skills, and these gaps are negatively impacting U.S. businesses, particularly in terms of their ability to obtain investment.
The problem can be traced to inadequacies in traditional education as well as a lack of sufficient workforce training. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents reported that U.S. colleges and universities are not adequately preparing students for the workforce, and although 89 percent believe corporate apprenticeships or training programs could be a solution, more than 4 in 10 said that cost was a major impediment to developing in-house training programs.
The apparent disconnect between what students are learning in their degree programs and the skills that employers require has sparked interest in competency-based training programs, as well as digital learning environments like MOOCs that can greatly facilitate this training. Businesses need employees with skills, and they need them now.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 27, 2014 NO COMMENTS
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) like the ones offered by Coursera, edX, and Udacity have been around for about two years now, and over the past year or so, I have written about how they have evolved and the impact they have had on corporate training. Now, after several ups and downs, MOOCs are starting to find their place, and it turns out that place is much larger than could have been anticipated: MOOCs aren’t just disrupting how training is delivered; they are changing how companies interact with their employees and others on a much grander scale.
As organizations continue to expand their use of new digital learning environments, we can identify some MOOC megatrends that are starting to shape up. I’ve touched on many of these trends before, but over the course of the next several weeks, we’ll look at each of these trends in turn, defining them, describing where we are in the process, and identifying challenges in their adoption. The goal for this series is to provide a complete picture of the place of MOOCs in training departments and in organizations as a whole.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 26, 2014 NO COMMENTS
This is the last article in our series about how businesses are using MOOCs, as identified by Bersin by Deloitte. In previous articles, we looked at ways MOOCs are being used even before employees are hired, to build talent pipelines, as well as in more conventional training environments, such as for onboarding new employees, self-directed employee development, and workforce training. This final article examines three uses of MOOCs that go far beyond any standard conception of training: educating partners and customers, brand marketing, and collaboration and innovation.
Educating Partners and Customers
MOOCs are excellent tools for workplace education, but there is no rule that says that education needs to be limited to the workplace! Innovative organizations are using these tools to provide education to partners and customers as well.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 24, 2014 NO COMMENTS
This series is exploring the seven main ways companies are using MOOCs as identified by Bersin by Deloitte. In the previous article, we looked at building talent pipelines and onboarding new employees: two uses for the massive courses that come at the very beginning of (and even before) a company develops a formal relationship with its employees. This article focuses on two subsequent aspects of that relationship—self-directed development and workforce training—which fit more neatly into traditional ideas about job skills learning and development.
Many different types of learners take MOOCs, and they do so for many different reasons. One of the major reasons millions of people spend their free time taking online courses is to enhance their job-specific knowledge and skills to advance their career. In fact, more than six out of ten MOOC students take the courses either to learn more about their current field or to prepare themselves to enter a new one. That’s a huge number of learners engaging in self-directed development.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 17, 2014 NO COMMENTS
If you ask anyone in any company why their organization has a training and development program, you will probably be met with a look of confusion—obviously the purpose of T&D programs is to provide employees with the learning experiences necessary to perform their jobs at the highest level possible. But for MOOCs, it’s a different story. Certainly, they can be used for traditional knowledge transfer and skill building. But these are not your traditional training courses, and as massively open digital learning environments, they are proving to have applications way beyond employee training and development.
In his SlideShare presentation “Putting MOOCs to Work,” Josh Bersin identifies seven ways companies are using MOOCs, starting with identifying and training new hires all the way through to customer relations and facilitating innovation. In this article, I’ll explore the first two uses: building talent pipelines and on-boarding new employees.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 17, 2014 NO COMMENTS
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a rising trend in corporate and workplace training. The courses are still fairly new, and many questions remain to be answered. Currently, one of the hottest topics is how to measure the success of a MOOC. Although once everything is up and running, the marginal cost associated with MOOCs can approach zero, they still require significant upfront investments of both time and money. Organizations interested in using MOOCs as part of their training programs need to have a clear idea of the benefits they will realize—preferably reflected in their bottom line.
In the previous post, I outlined the four-level model of evaluation developed by Donald Kirkpatrick. Here, we’ll explore how MOOCs and the data that comes out of them can be used to measure success at each of these four levels.
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.
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.”