How MOOCs Address the Needs of Today’s Corporate Learners

How do your employees feel about your organization’s current training program? Are they getting the training they need? Do they find that training valuable? Engaging? Relevant? Does it help them do their jobs better?

Corporate learners today need something different from their training than they did in the past. This article will focus on those needs and on how massive open online courses (MOOCs) can address them.

More training

There are no two ways about it: today’s employees need more training—both more than they have ever needed before and more than they are currently getting. This need takes a variety of forms:

  • More new-hire training. A recent Accenture survey revealed that while 80% of 2014 graduates expected formal training at their first job, fewer than half of 2012 and 2013 graduates actually received any training at all. Companies, especially those facing a skills gap, need to provide more training to help new hires be successful on the job.
  • More regular training. With the pace of technological change, the half-life of skills is getting shorter. In many cases, knowledge and skills acquired five or 10 years ago are now obsolete. This is especially true in tech industries, where skills that were in hot demand even a few months ago may already be in need of an update. Annual or biannual training isn’t sufficient to keep up with the pace of change. As management consultant Mark Lukens wrote for Fast Company, the traditional once-a-year approach to training often focuses more on filling gaps and fixing weaknesses rather than on developing strengths. It also encourages complacency. Lukens suggests that organizations should “change goals as they become redundant or something better shows up, not just because it’s January.”
  • More varied training. According to a new study by IBM, 80% of companies are now looking outside of their IT departments for ideas to bridge technical skills gaps. With boundaries between departments becoming blurrier, today’s employees need more well-rounded training options, including technical training outside of their areas of expertise and soft skills training to improve communication and collaboration.
  • Innovation training. Innovation is the key to success in today’s competitive business landscape. Innovation expert Anthony Ferrier recommends training employees at all levels how to be innovative, not just to manage innovation. This training can result in benefits an improved bottom line and more empowered and engaged employees.

MOOCs can help companies provide the increased training their employees require without significantly expanding their training staff. The courses can be offered to an unlimited number of learners, an unlimited number of times, whenever they are needed. In addition, there are already MOOCs available for topics such as innovation, which may represent new training areas for many firms.

Efficiency, immediacy, and relevance

Today’s corporate learners want training that meets their needs quickly, efficiently, and right at the moment those needs arise. These are ideas we’ve explored before. One of the biggest problems of both ILT and traditional e-learning is that the skills they teach are often not immediately applicable to the job, which results in inefficiencies due to forgetting and the need for retraining. MOOCs help companies deliver training that is efficient, timely, and most importantly relevant to learners’ needs.


We’ve covered the trend toward mobile learning, but the idea of mobility goes beyond just being able to learn while sitting on the subway. Mobile users interact with technology in ways that are leading to a whole new style of learning.

On Sh!ft’s eLearning blog, Karla Gutierrez highlights five “mobile usage habits of today’s corporate learner.” Mobile users:

  • Quickly move from one device to another,
  • Are not willing to wait,
  • Love to engage with online videos,
  • Engage in short bursts of activity, and
  • Are always switched on wherever they are.

ILT doesn’t cater to any of these. Even traditional e-learning is limited to providing online videos in short burst of activity. Because of their flexibility, MOOCs are the only training format that can currently address all five of these learner habits.

Social and experiential learning

To say that social learning is the primary means by which employees learn is understating the fact…by a long shot. Social learning makes up such a huge portion of corporate training that in 2012 large companies tripled their spending on it, compared to two years earlier. This trend is only growing as informal social learning experiences, like peer learning and personal learning networks, are getting more attention.

As MOOC technologies improve, the courses are becoming even more social, leading to increased opportunities for collaborative, project-based, experiential learning that echoes what employees are expected to do on the job.

Training and development

I alluded to this in the section on more training, but it is important enough to merit its own discussion. Today’s corporate learners require both training to meet their current needs and development to meet their needs (and the organization’s needs) in the future. Using MOOCs is likely the only way that many companies can even begin to provide this scope of training.

Together, these learner needs are a tall order, especially as, as Marcia Conner puts it, “the L&D footprint continues to shrink,” by which she means that the ratio of training staff to learners is declining. Meeting all of these needs via ILT or even traditional e-learning is beyond the ability of most, if not all, organizations.

But it isn’t beyond the ability of MOOCs. In order to meet the growing needs of today’s corporate learners, it’s time for training departments to start thinking big.

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.

Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn:

Bryant Nielson - EzineArticles Expert Author

Comments are closed.