Massive open online courses (MOOCs) like the ones offered by Coursera, edX, and Udacity have been around for about two years now, and over the past year or so, I have written about how they have evolved and the impact they have had on corporate training. Now, after several ups and downs, MOOCs are starting to find their place, and it turns out that place is much larger than could have been anticipated: MOOCs aren’t just disrupting how training is delivered; they are changing how companies interact with their employees and others on a much grander scale.
As organizations continue to expand their use of new digital learning environments, we can identify some MOOC megatrends that are starting to shape up. I’ve touched on many of these trends before, but over the course of the next several weeks, we’ll look at each of these trends in turn, defining them, describing where we are in the process, and identifying challenges in their adoption. The goal for this series is to provide a complete picture of the place of MOOCs in training departments and in organizations as a whole.
Here are the top 13 megatrends we are seeing in MOOCs:
1. Adoption at Corporate Universities
MOOCs are starting to be adopted in corporate universities from tech companies to the manufacturing industry to the financial sector. This is part of an even larger trend in which online, connected digital learning environments are replacing traditional instructor-based and computer-based training formats.
2. Facilitating Learning Organizations
In education, MOOCs have moved education out of formal classrooms and expanded the definition of “student” to include anyone with a computer, an Internet connection, and a desire to learn. In the same vein, MOOCs are redefining what training means to companies—training is no longer something that takes place just in seminars and workshops, but rather something that happens constantly, in many different ways, throughout entire organizations.
3. Updating the Competency-Based Training Model
Companies in many industries are facing a skills gap, and they need a more efficient way to prepare employees for the workforce. This, along with digital learning environments, are driving a trend toward competency-based training, where the knowledge and skills an employee learns are being decoupled from the time that employee spends learning. In higher education, this has been referred to as the “unbundling of time.”
4. Microlearning Paths
At the same time as MOOCs are making the training world much bigger, they are in some sense making the scope of that training much smaller. Bite-sized learning and on-demand, employee-driven microlearning are facilitating the integration of training into on-the-job activities.
5. Lifelong Learning
One of the biggest impacts MOOCs have had is to make education available to people of all ages. As a result, lifelong learning has become one of the biggest trends in recent years: in their spare time, people who once might have flipped on the television are now booting up their computers to learn and accessing learning resources on their mobile devices whenever they have a few minutes of downtime. Companies can capitalize on this lifelong learning trend both by offering engaging courses to the public and by recognizing their employees’ independent learning endeavors.
6. More Social, More Collaborative
One of the biggest criticisms of MOOCs has been that learner-instructor interaction is completely absent and learner-learner interaction is inefficient at best. But this is starting to change. New learning platforms and models are being tested to enhance learning in MOOCs by making the courses more social and more collaborative.
Gamification and MOOCs started to become buzzwords in corporate training at about the same time. Gamification has revolutionized training in general by making it more engaging and more effective. As MOOCs and gamification converge, they will have an immense impact on workplace learning.
8. Mobile Learning
As more people are using different types of mobile devices, mobile learning and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) training are being experimented with in many organizations. MOOCs are just starting to go mobile, and this likely represents the next big phase in their development.
9. Flipping the MOOC
MOOCs are being used more and more often in flipped blended learning environments. Rather than all training taking place in-person or online, employees watch videos and do some activities online and then come together for practice, role play, problem-solving sessions, and other types of collaborative activities.
10. The Changing Role of the Instructor
In training, as in education, the instructor is no longer just a human content-delivery system. With almost all of the world’s knowledge available at our fingertips, instructors are moving from being conveyors of knowledge to being curators and learning guides. This transition is redefining what it means to be a trainer in today’s learning organizations.
11. Alternative Credentials
MOOCs and other digital learning environments are causing us to rethink our current model of credentialing, both for traditional students who are prospective employees and for employees participating in training. Verified certificates, digital badges, digital portfolios, knowledge graphs—these and other forms of alternative credentials are being tested in the job market and the workplace.
12. Training for Millennials
Millennials and the generations that will come after them are digital natives whose educational, social, and professional lives take place largely online. These younger employees expect their training to be just as digitally connected as the rest of their lives. MOOCs provide one part of the answer for companies looking to attract and retain tomorrow’s top talent.
13. MOOCs as Relationship Builders
MOOCs have not just moved training out of the classroom, but out of the company entirely. Today, organizations are experimenting with using MOOCs to build relationships with current employees, prospective employees, customers, and business partners alike. In this way, MOOCs are serving as a new form of educational social media.
MOOCs are more than just new digital learning environments. As we work through this list, we will explore how MOOCs are redefining our entire cultural understanding of what education means and how companies can use this new understanding to inform and optimize their training and development programs, now and into the future.
Copyright 2014 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.
Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management helping executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. 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
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