entrepreneur-696966_640The buzz around massive open online courses (MOOCs) has finally started to infiltrate the corporate training space. After a couple of years of waiting to see where the online course trajectory was going, companies are starting to embrace MOOCs as a practical, economical, and effective solution to their growing training problems.

Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a post called “What Type of MOOC is Right for You?” At that time, there were only about a handful of different types of MOOCs. Today, the landscape is much larger, and it continues to grow as technology improves and trainers discover (or invent) new ways to use the technologies to the greatest benefit of learners and organizations.

As I’ve tried to get across in this blog, a MOOC is more of a framework than a strict course format. Because of this, a huge variety of online courses fall under the MOOC umbrella. To help organizations identify the best types of MOOCs to use in their training programs, we’ll take it from the perspective of the employees.

We’ll consider three MOOC variables:

  • xMOOC versus cMOOC
  • Public MOOC versus private MOOC
  • Scheduled MOOC versus self-paced MOOC

xMOOC versus cMOOC

This distinction goes back to the early days of MOOCs. The first course that was ever called a MOOC sprang from the theory of connectivism, which is based on the idea of distributed community and emphasizes knowledge sharing and the development of personal learning networks. The xMOOC came later and is today the most common type of MOOC — in structure, content, and activities, it looks very much like a traditional course.

There has been lot of debate about which type is “better,” but the more useful conversation surrounds which one is more appropriate in different contexts. In deciding between an xMOOC and a cMOOC, the key question is: “What do the learners need to learn?”

  • Is the goal for learners to gain introductory knowledge about a concept? Do they need to learn pure content, such as for compliance? Do they need to learn task-related skills, such as how to use a particular software program? → xMOOC
  • On the other hand, do they need to learn more in-depth problem-solving skills? Do they need to work in a team? Do the learning goals cross departmental boundaries? Would learners benefit from meeting SMEs or others in the organization who are working on the same types of projects? → cMOOC

It’s also important to note that these types aren’t mutually exclusive: most courses today fall somewhere between the two extremes, with the basic structure of a traditional course, but with an emphasis on networking. This model can promote the building of learner communities within organizations that can foster knowledge sharing and collaboration long after the course is over. Michael Caulfield of Washington State University puts it well when he says that to build communities that are based not just around the course, but around, “more authentic applications of course content…the xMOOC will have to become the chewy center of the cMOOC.”

Public MOOC versus Private MOOC

MOOCs used in corporate training can be public or private. Public MOOCs can take a couple of forms — you could recommend that employees take a course available on Coursera, edX, or one of the other MOOC providers, or you could run your own MOOC and make it available to the public. Private MOOCs are restricted to the company’s employees and can be either developed in-house or purchased from a vendor.

While there are certainly various factors to consider, such as cost, in terms of learners’ needs, the question to ask here is: “Where is the knowledge located?”

  • Is the knowledge specific to your industry? Is it proprietary to your organization? Do you have SMEs to help develop the course? → Private MOOC
  • Does the knowledge span industries? Is it readily available from other sources? Are you relying on outside SMEs? → Public MOOC

Again, there are many possibilities within these categories. For example, for courses that are general in nature, but for which employees would benefit from collaboration, you could use a publicly available xMOOC, but then create a private cMOOC by using internal tools (i.e., your company intranet) where people can connect.

Scheduled MOOC versus Self-Paced MOOC

Finally, MOOCs can be either scheduled or self-paced. The question here is: “When do employees need to learn the information?”

  • Is it must-have-now information (e.g., compliance, policy changes, new product rollouts)? Does everyone need to be at the same knowledge level? → Scheduled MOOC
  • Is the course optional? Is the goal professional development rather than training? → Self-paced MOOC

As before, these factors can be mix-and-matched to provide the best learning experiences for employees in each situation. Here are a few examples:

  • Public, scheduled cMOOC: Employees from JLT Group took a Coursera course on public speaking. Once a week, they met in person to watch videos and discuss course material.
  • Public, scheduled xMOOC: Just this week, steel manufacturer Tenaris launched an “Introduction to Steel” MOOC on the edX platform. It’s free and open to the public.
  • Private, scheduled or self-paced xMOOC: It’s impossible to know exactly how many organizations are adopting this model, but a good number of companies are either developing or licensing MOOCs to be used solely within their organization.

The fact that organizations are starting to consider MOOCs for their programs is positive — for the organizations, the learners, and the training industry. But it’s important to recognize the amazing variety that is possible so that we don’t fall into the trap of trying to use the same type of course to meet all training needs. A major benefit of MOOCs is their flexibility, and organizations will get the most out of the courses by using them flexibly based on the needs of the learners.

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.