New MOOC Environments: Distributed Open Collaborative Courses

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have lately been moving in different directions. Instructors at various institutions have taken the fundamental parts of MOOCs (video lectures, interactive elements, etc.) and reworked them to meet the needs of their particular schools and students. This reworking has given rise to a variety of new MOOC-like courses, including big open online courses (BOOCs), synchronous massive online courses (SMOCs), and small private online courses (SPOCs). Although they all take different forms, these new courses share a common foundation of MOOC principles and components. With these new instructional formats, we are starting to see real innovation in the way instruction is delivered.

These new models can also provide solutions for businesses looking for new ways to deliver more efficient and more effective training. One of the more interesting models to emerge is the distributed open collaborative course, aka the DOCC.

Though billed as an “anti-MOOC,” a DOCC is a model that combines MOOC elements with personalized tools to meet the needs of individual learners and learning groups. Instead of using a single complete set of learning resources (videos, readings, forums, assignments, tests, and so on) to automatically deliver instruction to all learners, a DOCC consists of individual “nodal” courses built around a central theme. The core learning materials for each nodal course are the same, but the approach to those materials is different.

The first DOCC, “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology,” is taking place this semester at fifteen colleges and universities across the country. The core resources consist of a set of video lectures and a variety of learning activities, and instructors at each institution have built a unique course around these core resources. There is also an online section of the course which, in true MOOC style, is open to anyone at no cost. Aside from being centered on a common theme each week, the different nodal courses operate independently. Faculty and students across all institutions have opportunities to collaborate and share ideas and resources via social networking activities like blogging and Tweeting. In addition, some course projects require students to engage in cooperative learning activities. By using MOOC principles and elements in a format that also addresses the needs of individual learners and learner groups, DOCCs respond to one of the main criticisms that has been leveled against MOOCs: that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in education.

How can corporate trainers use the DOCC model to improve organizational training outcomes?

One of the well-recognized challenges of developing training programs (and one of the major reasons many training programs don’t succeed) is that often a single approach is used regardless of learners’ needs. Industrial skills training firm ITC Learning names “the failure to modify training to bridge identifiable knowledge gaps” as one of the top two reasons corporate training fails.

Amanda Thompson over at game-based learning company mLevel identifies the one-size-fits-all approach as the overall reason “corporate training can be terrible.” She breaks down the problems with this approach as follows:

  • Format: Too much content is delivered in too short a time and in a single format (e.g., a PowerPoint deck).
  • Non-personalized instruction: Everyone receives the same instruction at the same time and pace.
  • Learners’ needs: Little attention is paid to what learners already know and what their training needs really are. This lack of understanding about learners’ levels makes it nearly impossible to effectively assess what (if anything) they learn during the training.
  • Little interaction: In typical training sessions, there is little interaction between learners, which results in low engagement and low retention.

Corporate training doesn’t need to be terrible, and it certainly shouldn’t fail. So what can we do about it? How can we leverage the power of MOOCs and technology while at the same time providing meaningful training to individuals?

We can start by recognizing that within an organization, employees at different levels may have diverse training needs even for the same overall topic. For example, although leadership training at all levels is based on the same general principles and theories, managers have different training needs depending on whether they are in charge of a team, a unit, or an entire department. Those who manage Millennials require different training from those who manage Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. And in multinational corporations, departmental managers may require different training based on the country in which they are based. These are just a few examples of individual needs that must be addressed if training programs are to be of any real value.

Using the DOCC format, corporate trainers can benefit from all of the advantages of MOOCs, such as cost savings, accessibility, and analytics, while still providing trainings appropriate for the needs of different learners. The basic curriculum and learning materials only need to be designed once, but they can be used in combination with instructor-led training (either virtual or classroom-based) that is tailored to the learners’ needs. Like in the DOCC, this training can be delivered to an entire company simultaneously and virtual spaces like discussion forums, Twitter feeds, and wikis can be utilized to encourage collaboration and sharing across learner groups.

In many ways, the DOCC is able to respond simultaneously to criticisms of corporate training, MOOCs, and elearning in general. This is a technology-based approach that is at the same time customizable and infinitely scalable, and allows training to be delivered to an unlimited number of employees while also providing opportunities for interaction. It represents an excellent solution for organizations looking to deliver highly quality training to employees at all levels.

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.