Often when we talk about the ROIs of any type of training, we focus on things that can be easily monetized. There is good reason for this—L&D, like every other department, must usually justify its existence by showing how its courses and programs are having a positive financial impact on the company. However, not all ROIs of training can easily be boiled down to dollars and cents.

The intangible benefits of training in general are many. In an article for Training Journal earlier this year, Martin-Christian Kent identified six intangible benefits that are common to all types of training programs:

  • Increased employee satisfaction
  • Increased organizational commitment
  • Improved teamwork
  • Improved customer service and reduced complaints
  • Reduced conflicts
  • Reduced stress

Even though these training results range from difficult to near-impossible to measure in monetary terms (at least immediately), they can have significant impacts on the success of a company. As training solutions, MOOCs can provide these benefits just as well as instructor-led training (ILT) or traditional eLearning. But as flexible, collaborative digital learning environments, MOOCs have the potential to provide even more intangible assets to an organization.

Here are five non-financial ROIs of using MOOCs for your corporate training and development.

Creating a sense of community

ILT courses that involve group activities can result in improved teamwork, but the ability of MOOCs to create connections among people goes far beyond that. In ILT, group activities can foster better collaboration and communication for the people in the room, which is usually a small group at best. In a MOOC, collaboration and communication take place over an entire organization, even if that organization has 10,000 employees in different locations around the world. MOOCs are inclusive, not exclusive, and because of this they can create a sense of community across an entire organization. Learn more about MOOCs as relationship builders.

Fostering a culture of learning

In 2010, Bersin by Deloitte released a report representing more than six years of research into best practices in corporate training. Their main finding? “The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of the organization’s learning culture.”

The report identified seven elements of a learning culture: “building trust, encouraging reflection, demonstrating the value of learning, enabling knowledge sharing, empowering employees, and formalizing learning.” While all types of training may be capable of fostering these seven elements, MOOCs stand out particularly for encouraging reflection (courses are taken over a period of time, allowing for more reflection and discussion than time-limited ILT), enabling knowledge sharing (easy knowledge sharing and the building of personal learning networks are two main advantages of the MOOC format), and empowering employees (MOOCs encourage employees to take control of their own training and development, which can lead to increased motivation and participation).

Encouraging skill development outside of employees’ defined roles

Once you start empowering employees to take control of their own professional development, you might be surprised at what they do, for example, taking courses to develop new skills that are outside of their current job descriptions. Most traditional corporate training is focused on helping employees perform their present jobs better. Financially, this makes perfect sense: with ILT, the cost of training additional people can be very high. But for MOOCs, the marginal cost of adding learners is essentially zero, which means that opening up courses to more employees can only benefit the organization. Employees can acquire a wide range of knowledge and skills, increasing their chances of mobility within the company and providing internal candidates for job openings. MOOCs allow businesses to provide vastly more training for all employees, which results in a winning situation all around.

Forging a leadership role in employee training and development

MOOCs are still relatively cutting-edge in education and training. They have been moving their way through the Gartner Hype Cycle, and it has just been over the past few months that they have started moving up the slope of enlightenment. We have seen significant advances in MOOC technologies—from enhanced video production technology to better tools for course discussions and collaborations. Many companies are watching these developments with a keen interest, but MOOCs have yet to go mainstream. Organizations that adopt MOOCs now have the opportunity not only to be seen as innovative, but also to play a leadership role in how digital training technologies will develop over the coming months and years.

Appealing to the newest entrants into the workforce

As I’ve touched on before on this blog, the new entrants into the workforce (Millennials and the generations that will follow them) are different from those previous. They are digitally minded and have likely already taken a couple of online courses, perhaps even a few MOOCs. According to survey data, more than half of Millennials say they would be more likely to apply for and remain at a company that uses training MOOCs. These new members of the workforce want to work for companies that are innovative, companies that are exploring new directions and new technologies, not companies that are stuck doing things the old way.

Training of any kind is beneficial for businesses—it helps companies operate better, increases employee job performance and satisfaction, and can help organizations recruit and hold onto top talent. MOOCs, however, provide advantages above and beyond these basics in terms of employee relationships, enhanced skill development, and even business image. These ROIs may not be easily calculated with equations and formulas, but they are still investments you can take to the bank.

Copyright  Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

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