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 May 7, 2015 No Comments
Aside from the time savings, the cost savings, and the boost in learner engagement, one of the biggest areas where massive open online courses (MOOCs) provide benefit is education research. MOOCs generate a huge amount of data, which can be collected and analyzed to gain insights into how people learn, what teaching methods are most effective, and many other areas related to learning.
Here we’ll review some of the new research that has come out of MOOCs and other technology-enabled learning environments and explore what the findings mean for corporate training.
Online learning works, so let’s shift the conversation to how to make it successful
Despite a plethora of research that online, blended, and other technology-enabled learning works just as well as face-to-face learning, many companies still hold tight to the belief that there is something special about in-person instructor-led training (ILT). (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On April 30, 2015 No Comments
Moving your corporate training courses to a massive open online course (MOOC) format represents a huge change, especially if you currently offer only instructor-led training (ILT). People at all levels of your company–managers, trainers, trainees–may understandably feel some apprehension about moving to the new format. The more you do at the beginning to address their concerns, the better the chances your first MOOC will be a success.
Here are six steps you can take to prepare your company for a MOOC.
1. Get buy-in from top to bottom
One factor that distinguishes MOOCs from all other forms of training is that their reach can span an entire organization all at the same time.
ILT takes place at the classroom level — interactions around courses are often limited to the employees in the room, or employees and their direct managers. E-learning takes place at the individual level — often no person-to-person interactions take place at all. But the most successful MOOCs take place at the organizational level — individuals throughout your organization participate through taking the course, facilitating the course, commenting on discussion boards, or serving as subject matter experts for certain topics. The best MOOCs have people participating at all of these levels, which means everyone in the organization needs to be committed to this new form of learning. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On April 16, 2015 No Comments
So, you’ve decided to start using technology-enabled learning in your corporate training program. Now what?
Well, just like there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to all of today’s training challenges, there also isn’t just a single way to “do” technology-enabled learning. Your particular implementation depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Whether you’re developing the training in-house or purchasing it from a third-party vendor
- Whether you are using a fully online model or a blended learning model
- The comfort of the instructors and learners with the technologies you will use
- The devices learners will use to access the training
- And much more
However, regardless of the exact details of your implementation, all technology-enabled learning courses have a common set of building blocks. Some of these, like learning objectives, are the same for any type of course, online or off. Others, like analytics and reporting, are really only available in digital environments. This post explores each of these building blocks, and in the next we’ll look at specific tools and technologies in each category. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On April 2, 2015 No Comments
In my talks with the heads of training departments and other company leaders, I have found that many have a high level of interest in massive open online courses (MOOCs), but that they feel there are still too many unknowns. That’s why several of my recent posts have addressed resistance to MOOCs, such as last week’s article on the not insignificant issue of barriers to organizational change.
Here, I propose a solution for training departments that are interested in seeing what MOOCs can do, but aren’t yet totally convinced, or perhaps haven’t been able to get the necessary buy-in: A/B testing. This article explores what A/B testing is, why it is valuable, and how to apply it to your training programs.
What is A/B testing?
Buffer’s Kevan Lee has a great, simple definition for A/B testing: “an A/B test is a way to measure two versions of something to see which is more successful.” Essentially, it is running an experiment with two groups to see which group has the best results. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 25, 2015 No Comments
In the previous post, I examined how much MOOCs cost compared with instructor-led training. What we’ve found is that for a 5-day training course for 500 people, a MOOC can translate into savings of about 65%, and that’s just the price of instruction alone. When you factor in all of the true costs of ILT — such as the cost of employees being away from their desks, not to mention travel — the savings rate can jump to 95% or more.
That’s a significant number. Other than eliminating your training programs entirely, what other action could you take that would reduce your training budget by 95%? Nothing.
However, despite the incredible potential for savings, many companies are still hesitant to adopt MOOCs. So, the question we need to be asking isn’t “How much do MOOCs cost?” Because obviously that isn’t the problem. The real question is “Why is 65%, or even 95%, savings not enough to convince more companies to give MOOCs a try?”
The answer in many firms is that MOOCs require a fundamental change in attitudes toward training — at the executive level, the manager level, the trainer level, and the employee level. And change is hard. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 19, 2015 No Comments
This is a simple question, but the answer is complex. I could say, “A MOOC equivalent to five days of instructor-led training (ILT) costs roughly $160,000, or a bit more than $30,000 a day.” But without any context, it’s difficult to determine what that number means. And anyway, what most people want to know isn’t what MOOCs cost in absolute terms, but what they cost compared to ILT. And that’s where things start to get complicated.
The problem isn’t on the MOOC side, where the costs are straightforward, but on the ILT side, where far to many of the true costs are hidden. MOOCs are infinitely scalable–the 5-day course would cost about $160,000, whether it was delivered to 50 people or 500 or 5,000 (slightly more). Not only is this not true of ILT, but the cost of an ILT course itself isn’t the full cost of running the training. In fact, it doesn’t come anywhere close. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 27, 2015 No Comments
To wrap up our series exploring arguments against massive open online courses (MOOCs) and potential risks associated with the courses, in this final post we’ll turn the tables and look at some risks of NOT adopting MOOCs and other technology-enabled learning initiatives in corporate training programs.
MOOCs and other forms of technology-enabled learning signal a shift in our thinking about training. Today, learning isn’t just something we do in class; it’s something we do all of the time.
Companies that choose not to move their training programs into the 21st century using technology face three main risks:
- Not being able to provide enough training
- Not providing training that is as effective as it could be
- Being perceived as out of touch
The Association for Talent Development defines the term skills gap as “a significant gap between an organization’s skills needs and the current capabilities of its workforce that occurs at the point at which an organization can no longer grow or remain competitive because they don’t have the right skills to drive business results and support the firm’s strategies and goals.” (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 26, 2015 No Comments
For the past month, this blog has focused on common objections to using massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other technology-enabled learning tools in corporate training programs. We’ve explored the arguments that MOOCs aren’t interactive, that they are a one-size-fits-all solution to a many-sided problem, and that people don’t learn very well in them.
This article finishes up the series by addressing the idea that MOOCs are simply too risky on which to bank something as important as corporate training success.
What are the risks of MOOCs?
In addition to the issues explored earlier in this series, here are some perceived risks of using MOOCs in particular and technology-enabled learning in general.
The technology could break down or become obsolete.
Well, yes it could. But so could any other technology your company uses, whether it be an iPad or a cloud-based software application. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 12, 2015 No Comments
This is the fifth in a series of articles that tackle common objections to and arguments against using massive open online courses (MOOCs) for training. Read the previous article: MOOCs Aren’t Interactive, So There’s No Real Learning Taking Place.
I understand the benefits of digital learning environments, but the problem remains that MOOCs are not very well controlled. How will we know what learners are doing? They could say they are taking the course, but really just be watching YouTube. And what about our intellectual property and other proprietary information? We can’t have employees holding Twitter chats about our business.
Retaining control over employees’ training is a very real concern for many organizations. Not only is training time paid time, but training often involves the communication of sensitive business information that companies do not want publicly disseminated. In addition, many courses are mandatory and training departments are often held responsible for tying training efforts to performance metrics, so the idea that learners could engage with their courses according to their own schedule and using their own devices can be a bit scary.
I have two major responses to this objection:
- MOOCs used for corporate training don’t need to take place publicly.
- The lack of tight control found in MOOCs can actually be an advantage for organizations.
Let’s look at both of these in more detail. (more…)