Corporate MOOCsIf you’ve been following the MOOC news, you’ll know that massive open online courses have had their ups and downs. In 2012, which the New York Times dubbed “the year of the MOOC,” traditional higher education found itself truly threatened by new forces. Hopes for the courses were high and so was the pushback, but the conversation had begun. Then, in 2013, MOOCs started to really take off and evolve—millions of people participated in the free online courses, and new formats began to emerge, some of which I’ve explored in this blog.

Also in 2013, companies started to sit up and take notice. More organizations became faced with skills gaps, which came in two major flavors. First, companies were having even more difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill job openings—recent college and university graduates simply didn’t have the skills the companies required. And second, with technology changing so quickly, even current employees were falling behind. Traditional higher education was becoming inadequate for preparing people to enter the workforce, and traditional instructor-led training was becoming inadequate for keeping employees’ skills relevant and up to date. Faced with these challenges, a few pioneer companies started to turn to MOOCs as a way to train large numbers of learners in a short time and at a relatively low cost.

But many companies remained skeptical about MOOCs, perhaps waiting to see their results in higher education before overhauling their own training programs. Well, the results are starting to come in—MOOCs continue to be hugely popular (more than 10 million students have enrolled worldwide), there are now more than 1200 courses available, and all three major MOOC providers (Coursera, edX, and Udacity) are working toward developing alternative credentials that may end up competing with the traditional degree when it comes to organizations’ hiring decisions. With these developments, more companies are seeing MOOCs as promising models of training and development, and 2014 will quite possibly be the year the massive courses really start to make waves in corporate training.

Bersin by Deloitte, which analyzes trends in human resources, talent, and learning, recently released its 2014 Corporate Learning Factbook, and for training in general, and technology-based training in particular, the future looks very bright. As Josh Bersin put in a recent Forbes article: “The economic recovery is clearly here: spending on corporate training is soaring.” Here are some highlights from his assessment:

  • In the United States, spending on corporate training increased 15 percent last year, representing the highest rate of growth over the past 7 years.
  • More than 7 in 10 organizations say “capability gaps” is one of their top five challenges, and many report that it takes between 3 and 5 years for employees to become “fully productive.”
  • High-performing companies spend more than average on training, suggesting that the increased investment pays off.
  • Technology is changing how training is done. Less than half of total training time is spent in a classroom, with nearly 20 percent being delivered via mobile devices. Companies are using digital learning environments to expand the reach of their training programs.
  • The learning management system (LMS) market is also expanding rapidly, and MOOCs are set “to radically impact corporate training, as branded universities put more and more courses online.”

In 2014, these trends are expected to continue: organizations will pour even more money into their training programs and increase their use of technology. How will that happen?

Well, in a SlideShare presentation posted last December, Bersin suggests that more and more companies will likely start using MOOCs. According to the presentation, 70 percent of Bersin by Deloitte members are interested in exploring MOOCs for corporate training, and while only about 7 percent of organizations are currently using them, nearly one-third have plans to start doing so. But MOOCs are more than just new training formats—they are more like all-in-one vehicles for recruitment, training and development, and even advertising and customer relations. Bersin identifies seven main ways companies are using MOOCs:

  • Building talent pipelines
  • Onboarding new employees
  • Self-directed development
  • Workforce training
  • Educating partners and customers
  • Brand marketing
  • Collaboration and innovation

MOOCs can be powerful training tools for corporations partly because many employees are already using them to upgrade their skills. And while much is made of the low completion rates associated with most MOOCs, this limitation doesn’t really apply to the corporate training environment. According to Alan Ruby, a MOOC researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, “when people are using a MOOC to upgrade their knowledge on something specific for their industry, the completion rate is much better.” In fact, when learners pay the nominal fee (starting at $39) for a verified certificate on Coursera, the completion rate approaches 90 percent, which is probably more than can be said for most non-mandatory, non-compliance-related training and development programs available through either instructor-led training or traditional online courses.

Over the next few articles, we’ll explore the new ways MOOCs allow companies to train and interact with their employees as well as communicate with customers, focusing on the seven ways companies are using MOOCs identified by Josh Bersin. By the end of the series, you will hopefully be convinced to give these new digital learning environments a try.

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.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.

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