How MOOCs Are Improving Traditional ILT


For almost two years now, massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been remaking the educational and training landscape. Whether you love MOOCs or hate them, it is impossible to deny that they have changed (and are still changing) how we think about education. One of the biggest impacts MOOCs have had is not in the massive online arena at all; it is in more traditional forms of education, namely, instructor-led training (ILT). The game has changed and ILT, whether delivered face-to-face or online, is fundamentally different today from what it was before MOOCs came on the scene. This is particularly true for corporate training and personal and professional development, as these fields have been quick to adopt the new technologies and strategies.

Here are some ways MOOCs are improving ILT for all forms of delivery:

Higher Expectations

Let’s face it: training and development hasn’t exactly been the star of the corporate show. Despite spending billions of dollars on training programs, many companies have not been realizing significant ROIs, mainly because within a year employees forget 90 percent of what they learn. Why do people forget? Well, as Eric Skilling wrote for the Elearning Industry blog, “It’s the training!” Employees forget because “they simply weren’t that engaged to begin with. If we trace that back to the source it always leads to the online training.”

But MOOCs are changing all of that and today the expectations of T&D are higher, for both employees and organizations. Now, with interactive content and social and mobile technologies (discussed below), employees walk into training sessions expecting to be engaged—they want to participate in their own education (this is why more than 10 million people have taken MOOCs) and they thrive when they have the tools to do so. On the other side, companies are expecting to realize a return on their T&D investments, and they are using both better training methods and better analytics to ensure that they do.

Better Content

MOOCs and a plethora of new technology-enabled learning tools have improved training content in all environments. The videos, screencasts, simulations, and other deliver methods that have becoming popular with MOOCs can also be used in face-to-face (F2F) training and non-massive digital learning environments. MOOCs have also shifted the focus from “teaching” to “learning”; for example, it is now widely acknowledged that splitting content into bite-sized chunks leads to much better learning than can be achieved through long lectures and endless PowerPoint presentations.

Finally, many organizations are starting to break away from the idea that all training content must be developed in-house. Today many standard types of trainings (from Office skills to sexual harassment training) are available in MOOC-like formats and through elearning marketplaces. These trainings can be enhanced with proprietary content if necessary, but they no longer need to be developed from scratch. Even courses that will be built from the ground up can be based on YouTube videos and other available resources, making courses more interactive as well as saving organizations both time and money.

Better Learning Formats

Although online training is nothing new, MOOCs have broadened our ideas about what it can look like. Training professionals no longer need to pick just one format for delivery—they can match the format to the content in the way that best facilitates learning. Today, with the many training formats available, it is rare to have a course that is not blended in some fashion. For example, a single course can combine synchronous and asynchronous learning, F2F meetings and virtual interactions, instructor-assigned content and learner-contributed materials. One major advantage of using digital tools even for traditional ILT is that online conversations and other user-contributed resources can easily be translated into an organizational knowledge base. In this way, training sessions can also provide performance support.

Social and Mobile Learning

Social and mobile learning have been two of the major hallmarks of MOOCs, but they have found homes in more traditional classrooms as well. Although learners in online courses have been interacting on discussion boards for a long time, MOOCs have enhanced engagement by moving the conversations onto new platforms. Using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools for training is a way to bring training to employees rather than trying to drag employees into the training. Social learning tools also assist employees in developing personal learning networks, both within and outside of the company.

Mobile technologies provide ways for learners even in F2F environments to interact with the content and with one another outside of the classroom. This not only provides performance support, but also helps foster a “learning mindset”—because learning resources and personal learning networks can be accessed anytime, from anywhere, learning is becoming something we do every day, not just for four hours once a month. This increases engagement and retention in all types of courses, which can help organizations realize the ROIs they’ve been missing.

Credentials and Informal Learning

MOOCs have definitely changed the way we think about credentials and informal learning, with informal learning finally being given the credit it deserves. This evolution is ongoing, but MOOCs and other informal learning environments (like coding boot camps) are shifting the focus away from certificates and degrees and toward demonstrable knowledge and skills. In training environments, this shift is manifesting as a reduced emphasis on seat time (i.e., attending a half-day seminar) and a greater emphasis on application (i.e., solving real-world problems). This renewed focus on what employees are actually learning, rather than on how long they spend in the classroom, is helping organizations realize immediate benefits from their training investments.

There is still a lot of debate surrounding the utility of MOOCs in general. But even organizations that decide not to go the massive route can greatly benefit from using MOOC tools and strategies in their traditional training programs. As the format continues to evolve, and the tools become even better, training—regardless of how it is delivered—will become more engaging and more effective, which will lead to a more positive impact on the bottom line.

Copyright 2013 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.