EnterpriseOn this blog, we have looked at massive open online courses (MOOCs) from a variety of perspectives. We have explored what MOOCs are and what they can do, the many reasons corporate training departments are ripe for MOOC disruption, and how to use various technology-enabled learning tools to design and run a MOOC.

One issue we have not addressed, and which will be the focus of this next short series, is how to get the support—from executives, managers, and staff—necessary for a MOOC’s success.

Upper-level buy-in is important for all L&D initiatives, but perhaps even more so with MOOCs. Many of the advantages of using this training format, for example the development of personal learning networks, only come when a course is integrated both horizontally and vertically throughout an organization.

The good news is that employers are proving to be highly receptive to using MOOCs for employees’ professional development. A study released earlier this year by Duke University and RTI International found that while only 7% of employers were using MOOCs for training, another 5% were considering doing so, and an additional 71% could see their organization doing so in the future. These numbers suggest that interest in MOOCs is growing and that the vast majority of organizations are starting to recognize the value of this type of training.

The key to obtaining executive and management buy-in is first to help them understand the need for change and then to present a plan for bringing about that change. Change management expert Kirk Sievert recommends following the “Five Bs of Executive Buy-In”:

  • Best practices
  • Business case
  • Be specific
  • Be assertive
  • Bring in an expert

Here are some strategies to help you obtain executive and management buy-in for MOOCs.

Provide education about what MOOCs are and how they can be used

In the Duke/RTI study mentioned above, fewer than one-third of the participants had actually heard of MOOCs. After learning about them, however, most were positive about the possibility of using the courses for recruiting, hiring, and employees’ professional development. Don’t assume that your administrators and managers already know about MOOCs, or that what they do know is correct. Educate them about the format and the technologies, and demonstrate the various ways MOOCs could be incorporated into your current training program, such as in a hybrid environment.

Focus on your organization’s greatest training needs

Whatever industry you are in, your company will likely need to provide a lot more training in the next few years than you have in the past. During the 2008 recession, training budgets were on the chopping block, and within these, entry-level training was often the first to go. However, those companies that cut their training a few years ago are now finding themselves in a tough position as they start to enter a growth phase. Couple this with the fact that nearly 80% of this year’s college graduates expect formal training from their first employer and you have a situation in which companies are not currently equipped to deliver the amount of training they need to in order to remain competitive.

MOOCs provide the ideal digital learning environments to meet the needs of organizations facing this challenge: they can provide training to a lot of people at the same time, and at a lower cost than instructor-led training.

Another great place to introduce MOOCs is for compliance training. Let’s face it, compliance training is the pits. No one—not trainers, not staff—has ever uttered the words, “Boy am I enjoying this compliance training!” However, in a recent survey of more than 400 companies, performed by the Brandon Hall Group, two-thirds of respondents said that compliance training was essential to implementing their business strategies, and nearly 30% rated compliance training as their firm’s most important learning program, followed by leadership development training and then job-specific technical skills.

Many compliance training programs are currently offered as video-based courses, so the content is already online. Moving these programs into a MOOC format can make them more engaging, and while I can’t promise that compliance training will ever be fun, adding the social and interactive elements of MOOCs can at least make it not quite so dull.

Show ‘em the money

The various ways MOOCs can save an organization money will be the focus of a later post in this series, but just for fun, take a stab at estimating the realcost of your current training program. By real cost I mean all of the costs, including not just the training itself, but also travel (airfare, accommodations, meals and entertainment), the cost of employees not being at their desks, the cost of providing retraining, and even the cost associated with mistakes that would not have been made if employees had received the proper training. These items are not always considered in calculating training costs, but they are real and they can be substantial.

Present case studies

Many large, successful companies have already ventured down the MOOC route. For example, Yahoo! offers reimbursement for employees who earn verified certificates from Coursera, and McAfee uses MOOCs to flip its new-hire orientation. Here are some more examples of how MOOCs are used in workplace training. Also check out this description of how medical device maker Ethicon is using MOOCs as part of its content marketing strategy.

I hope this post has given you some ideas about how to frame MOOCs to gain upper-level buy-in. Also, check out the How to MOOC series to learn about best practices. In the next article, we will look at how to obtain buy-in from an equally important group: the employees who will constitute the MOOC learners.

Copyright 2014 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.