Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are the education and training story of this decade (at least so far). In barely three years, they have expanded from a single course on artificial intelligence taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig in the fall of 2011 to thousands of MOOCs taught by instructors from leading colleges, universities, and companies on various platforms around the world. It’s impressive.
However, while there is growing awareness of the existence of MOOCs, there persists a good deal of confusion about what they actually are and what they can do. This is unsurprising for two reasons:
- MOOCs have changed considerably since they first came out, and they are continuing to evolve as both the pedagogies and the technologies
- Many types of courses fall under the MOOC umbrella. Education insiders have developed an entirely new vocabulary surrounding the courses, but in popular parlance, they are all commonly referred to as MOOCs.
The goal of this article is to clear up some of the confusion by exploring what a MOOC is and, perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t, and clarifying the roles MOOCs can play specifically within the context of corporate training.
A MOOC is a framework, not a platform.
One of the biggest sources of confusion I encounter is the idea that a MOOC is an online learning platform, a learning management system (LMS). This misconception is understandable, since the language we use often equates MOOC providers like Coursera and edX with the courses themselves, but it is a misconception nonetheless.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 28, 2014 NO COMMENTS
How do your employees feel about your organization’s current training program? Are they getting the training they need? Do they find that training valuable? Engaging? Relevant? Does it help them do their jobs better?
Corporate learners today need something different from their training than they did in the past. This article will focus on those needs and on how massive open online courses (MOOCs) can address them.
There are no two ways about it: today’s employees need more training—both more than they have ever needed before and more than they are currently getting. This need takes a variety of forms:
- More new-hire training. A recent Accenture survey revealed that while 80% of 2014 graduates expected formal training at their first job, fewer than half of 2012 and 2013 graduates actually received any training at all. Companies, especially those facing a skills gap, need to provide more training to help new hires be successful on the job.
- More regular training. With the pace of technological change, the half-life of skills is getting shorter. In many cases, knowledge and skills acquired five or 10 years ago are now obsolete. This is especially true in tech industries, where skills that were in hot demand even a few months ago may already be in need of an update. Annual or biannual training isn’t sufficient to keep up with the pace of change. As management consultant Mark Lukens wrote for Fast Company, the traditional once-a-year approach to training often focuses more on filling gaps and fixing weaknesses rather than on developing strengths. It also encourages complacency. Lukens suggests that organizations should “change goals as they become redundant or something better shows up, not just because it’s January.”
- More varied training. According to a new study by IBM, 80% of companies are now looking outside of their IT departments for ideas to bridge technical skills gaps. With boundaries between departments becoming blurrier, today’s employees need more well-rounded training options, including technical training outside of their areas of expertise and soft skills training to improve communication and collaboration.
- Innovation training. Innovation is the key to success in today’s competitive business landscape. Innovation expert Anthony Ferrier recommends training employees at all levels how to be innovative, not just to manage innovation. This training can result in benefits an improved bottom line and more empowered and engaged employees.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 20, 2014 NO COMMENTS
For more than a year now, this blog has focused on massive open online courses (MOOCs). We’ve looked at what they are, the technologies that underlie them, and their place in organizational and employee learning and development. At this point, it feels like a good time to take a step back from the ROIs and the how-tos, and explore the top reason MOOCs are having such a huge impact on corporate training.
MOOCs are not just fancy new technologies to attract and retain Millennials. Nor are they just more efficient methods for companies to save time and money while also delivering high-quality training. Over the past few years, especially as the skills gaps continue to widen and digital technologies pervade every aspect of our personal and professional lives, some of the fundamental ideas that have defined training for decades are shifting. Training is not only moving from in-person to online, but from just-in-case to just-in-time and from knowledge transfer to performance support. MOOCs have become popular largely because their flexible format allows companies to deliver the type of training required in the increasingly ad-hoc, BYOD environment that is the modern workplace.
Training with a purpose
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 12, 2014 NO COMMENTS
Digital learning environments, like e-learning, online training, and massive open online courses (MOOCs), have without a doubt been the biggest influencers on corporate training practice over the past several years. According to recent statistics, 80% of organizations offer online training and companies that have adopted e-learning have realized significant benefits, including 60% reduction in training time.
But while traditional e-learning may offer improvements over instructor-led training, from a learner’s perspective, it still leaves much to be desired. As this Learn Dash infographic shows, e-learners become frustrated by many aspects of their courses, including:
- Finding lists of procedures and regulations tedious (76%)
- Getting bored with the courses (38%)
- Hating it when the pace is too fast or too slow (37%)
In the previous post, we explored how MOOCs can improve on instructor-led training and traditional e-learning in terms of saving organizations both time and money. But of course the ultimate goal of training is have your employees learn something, which requires keeping them engaged.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 24, 2014 NO COMMENTS
On 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.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 17, 2014 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 July 3, 2014 NO COMMENTS
Over the past few months, we have explored the social component of massive open online courses (MOOCs) from several angles. We have examined the role of peer learning in organizations and the importance of creating personal learning networks. We have also reviewed the major technology-enabled learning tools that MOOCs use to support social interaction. In this article and the next, we will put it all together by looking at why businesses should use social media in their training and development programs and various practical ways to implement peer learning through social media in corporate MOOCs.
Many organizations are wary of social media, mainly because of a lack of control and the fear that social networking on the job will quickly devolve into “social notworking.” This fear is probably largely unfounded—companies were also suspicious about email and the Internet, but there is little doubt (and a lot of empirical research) that these innovations have improved, not harmed, productivity. In today’s environment, businesses that do not adopt new technologies are setting themselves up for failure. According to a 2012 Capgemini report, digital leaders—defined as those companies that use new technologies such as social media, mobile technologies, and analytics—are 26 percent more profitable than their competitors and generate both more revenue and higher market valuation ratios.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 26, 2014 NO COMMENTS
Over the course of the past year on this blog, I’ve described several ways MOOCs are already changing training and development. These digital learning environments and the technology-enabled learning tools that power them are making training more engaging, more relevant, and as a result, more effective. In particular, MOOCs have three main advantages over traditional instructor-led training:
- They allow training departments to easily unbundle content so that employees have access to the information they need when they need it.
- They help foster peer learning and the development of personal learning networks within, and even between, organizations.
- They allow organizations to track and mine training data on a large scale to improve training results, discover relationships between variables, customize training programs, and predict training effectiveness.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 12, 2014 NO COMMENTS
The Millennial generation has posed one of the greatest challenges to the business world over the past few years. Millennials have different ideas from the generations that came before them about what jobs should be (i.e., places to learn and then move on), work-life balance (they believe balance is important), and the place of technology (they grew up with technology and much of their educational and social lives is already spent online). Millennials are changing how business is done, and in particular how workforce education is done. They are also the perfect audience for training MOOCs.
What do Millennials want?
What are Millennials? Digital natives who now make up more than one-third of the workforce. Tech-savvy self-directed learners. Young people who have spearheaded the rise of the share economy. Recent college grads who both expect and require extensive formal training to be successful in their jobs.
Their attitudes toward work and training are fundamentally different from those who came before, and it is essential that organizations both recognize and embrace these differences. As the Allen Communications website puts it:
“As learning professionals, we know we have to keep up with our audiences or be left behind. We also hear that Millennials
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 21, 2014 NO COMMENTS
As digital learning environments, MOOCs are incredibly flexible—they can be used for fully online courses, in hybrid courses, as supplementary materials, and more. One of the offshoots of the growth of MOOCs has been an interest in “flipped classes,” which is commonly conceived as a reversal of in-class time and out-of-class time. For example, the typical formula for flipping a class is to assign video lectures as homework and use in-class time for collaborative activities including role play and problem-solving. Here, we’ll look briefly at how to use MOOCs to flip a corporate classroom in this way as well as explore a broader perspective on what it means to flip an online course.
Flipping class time
When people talk about “flipping” a classroom, what they are usually talking about is a way of integrating technology into