Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been around long enough that most people in the training industry have at least a general understanding of what they are. But there is still some confusion about how they differ from more familiar forms of elearning and online courses.
In particular, a question I’m often asked is: “What’s the difference between a MOOC and a learning management system (LMS)?”
The basic answer is that an LMS is a platform for hosting a course, while a MOOC is the course itself. A MOOC can be run on an LMS, but it doesn’t have to be. In the same vein, an LMS can be used to host a course that is not a MOOC. Misunderstanding often creeps in because the major MOOC platforms — Coursera, edX, and so on — involve both an LMS and a MOOC. For example, if you take a course on Coursera, you are taking a Coursera MOOC that is hosted on the Coursera LMS. (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
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 March 15, 2012 No Comments
Now that your e-learning program is up and running, you’ve evaluated it, made changes, and the organization loves it. Can you sit back and relax? Absolutely not. Your e-learning program requires a constant eye on various areas to ensure that nothing goes off track. One tiny flaw can create large problems, and with large problems comes a loss of users. Organizations have made the mistake of letting the e-learning program “ride”, only to find that one day no one is using it. Let’s discuss how you can monitor your program at all times.
First, continue to monitor user data. This data includes the evaluations that you’ve taken the time to create and integrate. But remember to monitor at a deeper level than the evaluations. Are your user numbers up or down? Are the evaluations themselves changing in trend or tone? For example, a course evaluation that was consistently a 5 on a 5-point scale that moves to a consistent 4 is not exactly failing – but is it as good as it once was? You can also see from this type of data if your audience is growing and becoming more (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 14, 2012 No Comments
Your e-learning program has rolled out and has come under constant evaluation. What are you doing with the evaluation data? If you’re filing it away, that’s not quite enough. Every piece of data you receive, whether it seems small or not, can help you modify your e-learning program, keep it fresh, and move it into prominence with your organization. When you consider modifying your program, look at three common areas: system, course design and delivery, and marketing.
Remember that during evaluation you are looking at user data, evaluation data, and even survey data. When you look at modifications to your system, think about that data in system terms. Are users reporting problems with accessibility? If so, you may need to look at the number of users, the organization’s bandwidth, or its overall technical architecture. Any of these characteristics can show you specific and overall problems with the program. In specific areas, you may find that accessibility problems are caused by a slow running system, malfunctions in video streaming or interactivity, or overall system preparedness. If you determine that there are issues with your system, make a list of the problems. But don’t stop there. Make a list of the solution you’d like to see. For example, if the system is functioning slowly, know what the optimum time should be. Once you have a list of requirements and optimum functions, go back to the vendor or in-house IT department and present it. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 27, 2010 No Comments
Before you even begin the selection and implementation process for your LMS, you should first turn your attention to the analysis and assessment of various aspects of your organization, its structure, and its learning needs. We will treat this analysis and assessment as steps one through four of the ten-step LMS implementation process. Plus, you’ll also need to assess your own learning and development organization’s needs in regard to the system, but we will discuss that as a separate step in your process.
To start with, you’ll want to analyze and assess the audience in general. This may seem easy, but some organizations have a diverse population in terms of technical experience, corporate or organizational learning experience, and even willingness to use online or hosted systems in regard to their personal development. In order to assess your audience, you may want to consider a survey that asks the organization’s members about their technical experience, their willingness to register for courses online, their ability to take courses online, and also their perceptions of learning management system tasks, activities, and functions. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 31, 2010 No Comments
A corporate university must have some sort of unified delivery system for scheduling, online courses, classroom course schedules and descriptions, tracking, and instructor and facilities scheduling. It would be difficult to plan so heavily for the roll out of the corporate university only to find out that there is no way to deliver. So the next best practice is to purchase or build a Learning Management System (LMS).
Choosing an LMS is an important step for any Learning and Development organization. In fact, some organizations may already have a functioning LMS when they make the transition from training department to corporate university. But if you do not have an LMS, the setup phase of your corporate university is the time to buy, build, or “freeware” a system. You definitely don’t want to have to backtrack in order to catch up on scheduling, curriculum paths, and course tracking after the university is up and running. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On April 14, 2010 No Comments
When you bring your Learning Management System online, you can say goodbye to hand-written schedule books and inputting class lists in Outlook and Excel. Your LMS manages scheduling and facilities, and provides information and data that is easily accessible, just like reporting and tracking. Let’s look at how you can use the LMS to become efficient in scheduling and facilities management.
First, consider scheduling on the highest level, that is, scheduling classroom training. If your organization only uses a couple of rooms in one location, this may not seem like a great leap forward. But if your organization manages multiple training rooms in more than one location, the scheduling “arm” of an LMS can change the way you manage training and development. The LMS can most likely hold information about each of the training rooms, its equipment, its seating capacity, and even its classroom style, i.e. technical or soft skills / seminar. Anyone in the organization that has access to this feature can see the training room availability and plan accordingly. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 28, 2010 No Comments
Your Learning Management System can be used as a valuable tracking tool, not just for the training and development department but also for employees, managers, and even executives. Most LMS systems provide you with tracking features, but some also include notification and reporting features, so that nothing is lost in the shuffle of a large training initiative or a push to complete required training within a certain time period. Let’s look at some ways you can employ these features.
On the tracking side, your LMS is first a tool for learners. Once they know how to use the system, a learner can log in, determine where he or she is on a career path, an assigned curriculum, or a certification program, and make adjustments for completion. In this way, the LMS data serves as a self-management tool for careers and development. But the employee can also maintain the tracking data to be used as a record when he or she is up for a performance appraisal, merit increase, or promotion. In addition, if your organization employs required training programs on a regular basis, the employee can also use this record to prove that he or she has completed required training. From this standpoint, the LMS and its data is a retention tool. After all, an employee who can manage his or her own development may be more likely to stay with an organization. (more…)