MOOCs, mobile, and Millennials—these three ideas often elicit some measure of discomfort in training and development departments, because while these three forces are greatly affecting businesses in general and workplace education in particular, they remain relatively poorly understood. This lack of understanding means that while Millennials are increasingly adopting a mobile mindset and seeing MOOCs as not only a viable method of training but their preferred one, many companies are still slow about moving in these new directions. The result is a model of corporate training that is not well suited to its target audience.

Let’s look at some data highlighting the disconnect between corporate training and these various factors.

Here is what Millennials think about MOOCs:

  • In a Software Advice study earlier this year, almost three-quarters of 18 to 24 year-olds, and nearly as many 25 to 34 year-olds said they would participate in a company training MOOC. The same study found that more than half of Millennials would be more likely to apply for and stay with a company that used MOOCs for training. (Learn more about the study.)
  • A recent study by QuestionPro found not only that respondents believed that MOOCs offer a high quality of education, but that 78% rated them as being a better experience than a traditional classroom. Millennials, in particular, are so positive about this learning format that almost 80% of 25 to 34 year-olds expect that in the future MOOCs will replace some parts of traditional education entirely.

Now let’s see what employers think about MOOCs:

Recap: Nearly 75% of Millennials want MOOCs for training; less than 10% of employers are using them.

What about mobile? Again, Millennials love it:

  • A recent study by Zogby Analytics found that 90% of Millennials have their phones with them at all times. Eight in 10 check their phone first thing every morning, and almost the same number spend about two hours a day on their phones.
  • Various studies have shown that mobile learners in general, and those in the Millennial generation in particular are both more collaborative and more motivated.

And again, businesses are a bit slow on the uptake:

Recap: 90% of Millennials are pair-bonded with their phones; only 10% of employers are using mobile learning.

Taking these data together, we are left with a picture of corporate training that looks something like this:















The biggest barrier to using MOOCs and mobile learning appears to be a lack of knowledge about how to implement them. In the Duke/RTI study, once employers learned about MOOCs, they were generally positive about the courses’ potential for training, but there is a large distance between feeling positive about something and having the knowledge and skills to implement it. Similarly, the Brandon Hall Group Benchmarking study found that “most companies recognize that mobile learning solutions can improve adoption, expand global reach, and engage users better, but do not understand how to execute a mobile strategy.”

Now is the time for these organizations—who may have heard of MOOCs and mobile learning but are hesitant due to a lack of knowledge—to gain the knowledge and skills they need to move in new directions. James DeBello, CEO of Mitek, the company that commissioned the Zogby Analytics study, commented that companies need to go mobile because “if you don’t have it, you’re considered old-fashioned, out of date and not a company [Millennials] want to do business with.” He was talking about Millennials as consumers, but his point is equally applicable to Millennials as employees. The first rule of successful training is to know your audience, and that audience is becoming more interested in mobile and other alternative learning methods all of the time.

MOOCs themselves are not entirely mobile yet. Some are, but most of the courses available from the major providers (Coursera, edX, etc.) are only partially mobile (i.e., students can do certain activities, like watch videos, but they can’t participate in discussion forums or take assessments). But this is changing.

As MOOCs become more mobile, and as companies start to adopt both MOOCs and mobile learning on a broader scale, the corporate training landscape will slowly shift from the picture above to one that looks more like this:


And for those of you who may still need a nudge toward exploring these new learning formats, consider this: Millennials will soon give way to the next generation (what Scott Hess refers to as the “lost generation”), which is even more diverse, more digital, and more ready to ditch the traditional for the new.



Copyright  Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

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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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