Technology is changing at an exponential rate. Think just about the past year or so: mobile devices now outnumber people, online entertainment is rapidly eclipsing television watching, and you no longer have to leave your house to earn a degree. These changes have an impact on businesses in all sectors, but because of the intense pace, it is not always possible to develop new training courses or schedule employee training days fast enough. Companies that are not able to keep up with the all of the changes quickly find themselves on the sidelines. So, how can organizations help their workforce keep informed of the latest innovations so that they can remain competitive? Enter the “rapid elearning MOOC.”
The idea of rapid elearning has been around since 2004. The concept was developed by Jennifer de Vries of Bersin and Associates in response to a survey whose findings showed that 89% of organizations needed to create elearning in three weeks or less. And that was nearly 10 years ago – the current climate demands even more efficiency in training development. But so far, it doesn’t appear that training has been able to keep up: a 2009 ASTD survey showed that it took anywhere from 93 to 356 hours to develop a single hour of training content depending on the tools used and the level of interactivity. With the current rate of change, 93 to 356 hours is simply too long.
According to de Vries, the main elements of rapid elearning are as follows:
- Elearning can be developed in three weeks or less
- Subject matter experts (SMEs) build the training programs
- Templates and authoring tools make it easy to design courses and incorporate multimedia
- Learning modules are designed to last one hour or less
- Training can be synchronous or asynchronous
Prior to 2004, designing elearning required extensive programming skills. It was usually done by a team of programmers and instructional designers working with material provided by an SME. Since that time, however, elearning authoring tools have proliferated and become much easier to use. Today, instructors and SMEs can use various tools and templates to create modules and courses without first having to learn Flash programming. The advantage of this is obvious: it takes less time and money to develop the same high-quality materials.
Now consider the MOOC format. In some ways, rapid elearning and MOOCs have the same goal: to deliver content in the most efficient manner possible. In fact, MOOCs are built using learning management systems, which are really just collections of the same tools that were developed for rapid elearning. Like rapid elearning, MOOCs also allow SMEs to build training programs, incorporate multimedia using templates and authoring tools, are generally broken into short learning units, and allow both synchronous and asynchronous training. And like MOOCs, rapid elearning is evolving to provide a range of training solutions. Combining the MOOC format with rapid elearning provides a powerful tool for delivering content quickly to everyone all at once.
Currently, rapid elearning MOOCs are most appropriate for courses whose goal is knowledge transfer, rather than higher-level synthesis or analysis. As such, this format is most suitable for content that is time sensitive and training areas where information can change quickly, such as technology and software updates, or where all employees need to learn the content as soon as possible, such as for regulatory or policy changes.
A rapid elearning MOOC can also help organizations benefit from more just-in-time training. The traditional classroom model of training is based on “just in case” learning, but employees often need training in real time, while they are actually doing the work. Rapid elearning MOOCs can facilitate getting information into the hands of the right people at the right time; for example, a rapid elearning MOOC could be used to train sales staff in a new product prior to its launch.
One major benefit of the rapid elearning MOOC format is its flexibility. Remember that a MOOC doesn’t have to be an entire course – it can be a single learning unit or module; it can even be a single video or activity. Using online multimedia resources and a webcam or even just a simple text editor, a trainer or SME can develop a module quickly and disseminate it immediately.
As with the advantages, the potential pitfalls of rapid elearning and MOOCs are similar. Developers in both areas must build courses based on sound pedagogy and best practices. Otherwise, as Ray Jimenez, the Chief Learning Architect at Vignettes Learning, puts it: without creating conditions for learners to actively acquire and use knowledge, “our rapid programs are just busy activities and we may have hangovers from drinking too much Rapid tonic.” To be effective, rapid elearning MOOCs, like all training elements, need to be relevant, address employees’ needs, and have a real impact on job performance.
Rapid elearning and MOOCs can both take advantage of the newest innovations in training, including open educational resources (OER), multimedia resources, and the vast number of tools available for communication and collaboration. How will you use these technologies in your training program?
Copyright 2013 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.
Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. 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