When Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Coursera’s Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, and other education innovators decided to start putting courses from top universities online, for free, their idea was to make education accessible to everyone who wanted it, regardless of socioeconomic status, country, and other barriers to getting a traditional college education. What they may not have anticipated was that MOOCs would be such a huge hit with people who already had that traditional education—those already in the workforce who had gotten their degrees five, ten, or even twenty or more years earlier.
But that’s exactly what has happened. MOOCs have spurred a major trend toward lifelong learning. Companies are now experimenting with ways to harness their employees’ desire to learn to help their organizations succeed.
The lifelong learning trend
There have been several studies of who takes MOOCs, mostly based on student surveys. The biggest one to date has been a
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 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.”
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On September 2, 2013 NO COMMENTS
I have said before that the real innovation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is not technological (after all, we already had online videos, forums, and blogs), but pedagogical – the idea that content is king has been steamrolled by the Internet and the spread of open educational resources. MOOCs have challenged the dominant thinking about how people learn. And guess what? Sitting in a room and listening to someone talk for an hour or three isn’t it – mere exposure to content does not equal learning. People learn by engaging with content, participating in hands-on activities, and teaching and learning from their peers. So why does so much of corporate training still involve an instructor flipping through a seemingly endless PowerPoint slide deck?
The MOOC model involves students watching short videos for content and then performing active learning activities, such as participating in discussions, working through simulations, collaborating on projects, and writing and peer-reviewing essays. The content delivery portion of a MOOC is typically short, with each video lasting no more than 10 to 12 minutes, while the real emphasis is on applying the newly acquired knowledge and skills and connecting and collaborating with others. Content, which thanks to Google is always at our fingertips, takes a backseat to building personal knowledge networks and solving real-world problems.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 19, 2013 NO COMMENTS
So you are ready to design your own massive open online course (MOOC) and you want to incorporate social media. How should you go about it? What tools should you use? When the first MOOCs hit the net, the only real option was blogs. Then Coursera, Udacity, and edX popularized discussion boards, similar to what is used in non-MOOC elearning. Since then, social learning tools have exploded onto the market. At a minimum, most MOOCs today use discussion boards, blogs, and microblogs, and many have some kind of dedicated social network.
Training MOOCs are by nature different than academic MOOCs. One difference that affects the use of social media is the potential audience and the type of content. Organizations need to decide whether to make their MOOCs truly open and host them publicly on the Internet or whether to restrict part or all of the courses to authorized users. The deciding factor may be the amount of proprietary or competitive information included in the course content. For example, a business etiquette course may be hosted on the Internet, while a sales training course may be run on a private intranet. Different social media tools are available depending on whether or not the training will be made public
Another difference is the number of social media tools used in a given course. In some MOOCs (particularly connectivist MOOCs), learners are encouraged to connect with each other over as many platforms as possible. In a course with tens of thousands of students, this can lead to an overwhelming amount of information being posted, so most students pick and choose how they will engage with the content and one another. In a training MOOC, this model may or may not be appropriate. To prevent learners from spending all day surfing social media sites, instructors can limit the tools to a couple of platforms or divide learners into small groups for discussion and collaboration.
The following presents a review of the main types of social media and how they can be used in training MOOCs.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 8, 2013 NO COMMENTS
The proliferation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has prompted many discussions about what education is, what it means, and how best to deliver it in the current digital environment. While the debate continues on whether MOOCs will eventually lead to degrees, the knowledge gained from the first year and a half of these huge online experiments is changing the perceptions and practices of education both online and in the classroom. These lessons are especially valuable for corporate training and continuing professional development programs, which companies are rapidly moving online to lower costs and increase efficiency. Over a series of articles, we will explore what MOOCs have taught us about the best ways to design, deliver, assess, and recognize learning online. This first article highlights MOOC methods for delivering training content in a way that leads to real engagement and mastery, and ultimately to better job performance.
MOOCs have focused the spotlight on how teachers teach and students learn, and many of the assumptions that form the foundations of education and training are being challenged. The first idol to fall has been the lecture. Lectures have been staples practically since the beginning of training programs. The problem is that unless the goal is to put people to sleep, lectures just don’t work. Studies going back to the 1970s have shown that people simply can’t pay attention and retain
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 10, 2013 NO COMMENTS
Web 2.0 and the rapid rise of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other communications platforms have made one thing abundantly clear: Everything is social. And researchers, educators, and trainers have begun to realize that learning is no exception. As the workforce grows to include more Millennials – digital natives who spend nearly four hours per day on social networking sites – the social impact on training cannot be overstated. According to a 2011 ASTD report, social media enables learning by providing platforms for people to exchange information, facilitating communication, personalizing the learning experience, and supporting informal learning.
Social media integration is one of the main advantages of MOOCs over traditional e-learning models, and MOOCs offer many ways to incorporate social media into training programs:
- Discussion boards. Course discussion forums are the most basic type of social platform used in MOOCs, but they are powerful tools and almost all MOOCs have them. Discussion boards provide spaces for learners to ask and answer questions and hold conversations about the course content. Participation in discussions is often one of the requirements for course completion. These forums have an advantage over in-class discussions as participants have more time to reflect on course materials and formulate their ideas and contributions. Discussion forums are most effective as learning tools when they are actively monitored and directed by instructors. Most learning management systems (LMSs) have discussion board modules.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 7, 2013 NO COMMENTS
Just in case you’ve been under a rock lately, here is a news update: the nature of training is changing, and fast! The recent explosion of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in higher education has brought with it a whole new set of technology-enabled learning tools. Education and training are no longer delivered exclusively in closed classrooms by experts, and learning is no longer something people do in isolation surrounded by textbooks. Today, through computers and mobile devices, education can happen anywhere and at any time, and learning involves students not only actively engaging with the content, but also using various tools and platforms to interact with instructors and fellow learners. In the education sector, this is known as Learning 2.0, and the corporate sector needs to be prepared: Training 2.0 is coming.
What exactly does this mean?
There continues to be plenty of controversy surrounding MOOCs, but one thing we can all agree on is they are changing the way we think about education. The main drivers and implications of this change are huge improvements and innovations in learning technologies. Technology-enabled learning tools are not a panacea, but they can go a long way toward solving many of the challenges facing training departments today, including high costs, a lack of qualified employees, the rapidly changing business and technology landscapes, and long training development times coupled with the need to educate employees quickly. Over the course of two articles, we will examine the main “MOOC tools” – online technologies that have made it possible to deliver highly engaging training programs to any number of employees, anywhere, at any time.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 23, 2013 NO COMMENTS
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are currently disrupting higher education and the stage is set for them to be a major force in corporate training as well. Although the mere idea of using MOOCs requires a shift in how organizations think about their training programs, much of the infrastructure already exists: more than 70% of companies have a learning management system (LMS) in place, and as of 2011 77% of corporations were already using online learning in their training programs.
Compared to higher education, where debates about online versus face-to-face content delivery are still quite heated, corporations have been early and fast adopters of elearning and technology-enabled learning tools. The gamble on elearning has largely paid off: studies have shown that elearning takes less time, costs less, and increases retention compared to instructor-led training (ILT). Elearning also has other less measurable benefits; for example, in the 2011 Towards Maturity Benchmark survey, 72% of companies reported that elearning and mobile learning helped them adapt more quickly to change.
But when it comes to MOOCs, corporate training is inexplicably lagging behind. Whereas education systems at all levels are quickly realizing the potential of MOOCs to enhance learning, corporate trainers have not yet embraced the new technology. However, MOOCs have many benefits for companies, and even some of their disadvantages in the education market are less relevant in the corporate sector.
According to Global Industry Analysts, by 2015 more than half of all training dollars will be spent on elearning. Here are several reasons some of this money should be spent on MOOCs.
Access and Scalability
MOOCs offer unprecedented access to training. Employees spread throughout an office building, a region, or even around the world can access training content whenever and wherever, via their computers or mobile devices. Instructors can curate, organize, and revise the material at any time, and trainees and instructors do not need to be in the same room, or even logged in at the same time.
MOOCs are also infinitely scalable. Organizations can provide training to any number of employees, with the only limitation being the capacity of the LMS.
Customization and Adaptive Learning
MOOCs are easily customized. Many MOOCs are built using open educational resources (OER) or a combination of OER and proprietary content. Instructors can remix, revise, reuse, and redistribute the content based on the organization’s changing needs. New research and information can be introduced into a training program and reach all learners in real-time, making the training more relevant and responsive to real-world problems and scenarios.
One major criticism of MOOCs has been that they are a one-size-fits-all solution to a many-sized problem, but this is no longer true. New technologies are available that allow MOOCs to adapt to the needs of the user. Adaptive learning technologies are currently being piloted in a Spanish language MOOC (Instreamia) and a molecular science MOOC (University of Massachusetts Boston). Companies can leverage adaptive learning in their training programs to bring all employees to the same level without some becoming completely frustrated and others totally bored.
Online learning is revolutionary in that it allows instructors to collect data about how their students learn, how long they spend on task, what areas of content are the most engaging, the most challenging, and so on. In the same vein, companies can easily collect data about their training programs and employees. The advantage of MOOCs is that they can provide massive amounts of data, which can help organizations understand how their employees learn and interact with the content so the businesses can improve their training programs. For example, the Learning Analytics Group at Stanford recently analyzed data from three computer science MOOCs and found a relationship between participation in the discussion forums and course completion. This finding suggests that MOOC designers should emphasize social interaction as a way of increasing student engagement. Learning analytics can also help companies predict employee performance and identify potential problems.
One of the big reasons professors want to teach MOOCs is to increase their visibility. According to a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 39% of professors said they taught a MOOC to increase their visibility within their discipline and 34% to increase their visibility with the media and general public. As noted by Robert Sedgewick, a Princeton professor who teaches an algorithms MOOC, “Every single faculty member has the opportunity to extend their reach by one or two or three orders of magnitude.” Companies can take a lesson from academia and use training MOOCs to increase their own visibility, both within their industry and more generally.
Of course, there are also some disadvantages to MOOCs, but these may be less relevant in corporate training than they are in education. The two most notable disadvantages of MOOCs in higher education (and the ones that get the most press) are the high drop-out rate and the difficulty of assessing learning outcomes. For corporate training, these two issues virtually disappear. First, completing the training, whether ILT, traditional elearning, or a MOOC, is part of the job – not completing a MOOC would be equivalent to not showing up for work. Second, in corporate training, learners are not assessed by their ability to take a multiple-choice quiz or write an essay. Standard training metrics, such as increased retention, increased sales, increased efficiency, and improved customer service, are independent of the training platform.
In some sense, MOOCs have all of the advantages for corporate training that they do for education, without the disadvantages. The format provides an effective, cost-efficient, highly flexible, and engaging way for organizations to provide training. The major risk is being beaten to the punch.
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
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 5, 2013 NO COMMENTS
Our workforce today is friendly to new technologies and new innovations. Gone are the days when introducing a new technology was always attempted to be shot down by employees, resulting in companies incurring high costs of change management. Younger employees today are excited to try something new and older ones have gotten used to the fast pace of change in technology in today’s times. Almost everybody uses the internet, social media and instant messaging. Connecting, sharing and collaborating have become the norm. MOOCs fit in perfectly in this environment, making it an extension of people’s natural method of researching and learning.
MOOCs allow companies to provide uniform delivery of content to all its employees at distributed locations. This allows standardization of processes and competencies across all locations using fewer resources. Employees can learn at their own pace as long as they stick to course deadlines and pass course tests. Sharing your training content allows other professionals to learn from your subject matter experts and create a better talent pool for you to choose your next employee from. Using highly trained and experienced trainers and developing rich multimedia content for a MOOC not only engages your trainees, but becomes your intellectual property (IP) that lends to your brand strongly.