Training Reboot: Assessing Your Company’s MOOC Readiness

Your training programs need a reboot. You need to train more learners and get them up to speed faster, and you need to do it on what seems like an ever-tightening budget. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are potentially an excellent solution to help you meet your training goals. But is your company ready?

Rolling out new training initiatives is always challenging, and it’s important to assess the climate in your organization to ensure it is up to the challenge. Below are several questions to ask yourself to help you decide whether your company is ready for a MOOC.

Do you have a large number of employees who need to learn the same things?

If your organization’s training needs can be satisfied by a series of one-time seminars each delivered to a different small group of people, a MOOC is probably not the best option. But, if you have a large number of geographically diverse learners who need consistent, standardized training, MOOCs can provide huge benefits. According to Bersin’s 2013 Corporate Learning Factbook, companies spend anywhere from $100 to $500 per employee per year teaching core business skills like basic management, office productivity, and Microsoft Office. MOOCs can teach these skills just as effectively and at a significantly reduced cost.

Do all of your potential trainees have access to computers and/or mobile devices?

MOOCs particularly excel at providing performance support and just-in-time training for learners on the go. Thus, a major assumption of the courses is that all learners will have access to them as needed. In many corporate environments, such as in the financial industry, this is a non-issue: a recent Forrester study found that 61% of information workers work outside of the office and most use at least three different devices every day. However, in environments like manufacturing, not all employees may have on-the-job access to devices. Problems with technology and not being able to use one’s device(s) of choice are two of the biggest sources of frustration with digital learning in general. In a MOOC, which may or may not be moderated, these issues can potentially be compounded.

Are your employees willing and able to learn independently?

MOOCs come in many varieties. They may be scheduled and closely moderated, or they may be self-paced and not moderated at all. In either case, they usually involve less instructor-student interaction than is present in most instructor-led trainings, and often less than is typical of traditional e-learning. For a MOOC to work, your employees need to be willing and able to learn on their own, which requires both motivation and effective time management. As a test, consider running a short introductory MOOC, or even just a single module, and soliciting feedback from learners before transferring your entire training program into a new format.

Do you have a way to access or produce effective online learning content?

The content for MOOCs can come from a variety of places, including (but certainly not limited to) open educational resources, vendors, and your own in-house training content. They key is that that content needs to be in a format that is conducive to being accessed online and from different devices. Video is the most common and most easily accessible content format for MOOCs.

Do you have the technology and the technological expertise to support a MOOC?

This question is a bit difficult to frame precisely because there is no one single MOOC technology. Many learning management systems (LMSs) now offer MOOC support, and if you are already using an online LMS, there may be no additional modules or know-how necessary to get your first MOOC up and running. On the other hand, MOOCs can be and are run outside of formal LMSs all of the time, and if you decide to purchase a MOOC from a third-party vendor, that vendor may bear the technology responsibility. The important thing is to ensure that you have the technology and expertise required to support the type of MOOC you want to run.

Do you have protocols and systems in place to facilitate collaboration and communication?

MOOCs can be siloed, but they are used to their best advantage when they enable collaboration and communication among learners. If you don’t already have methods and standards in place for cross-location and cross-departmental communication, now is the time. This is particularly important if you plan to use any social media tools, via either a local intranet or the wider Internet.

Have you clearly defined the goals of the training and how employees will be assessed?

The success of instructor-led training is often (albeit erroneously) assessed based on attendance; in traditional e-learning, basic measures include time on task and final test scores. Using activities like real-world problem solving, MOOCs have the potential to greatly increase the scope of course assessments, allowing success to be based on more relevant factors like improved productivity and increased sales. In order to get make sure the learners, trainers, and managers are all on the same page, the goals of the training and the metrics you will use to evaluate it should be articulated in advance.

Do you have buy-in at all levels of your organization?

If your responses to the previous seven questions were positive, then you are already in pretty good position, but a MOOC is an organizational endeavor and thus obtaining buy-in from all levels of the organization is key. For ideas on how to get to “yes,” see my previous articles on getting buy-in from managers, executives, and employees.

Hopefully you are able to answer most of these questions in the affirmative. If not, these questions can help you identify areas where you may need to put in some thought. Contact me for more information and strategies for how to boost your company’s MOOC readiness.

Copyright 2014 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– 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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