To wrap up our series exploring arguments against massive open online courses (MOOCs) and potential risks associated with the courses, in this final post we’ll turn the tables and look at some risks of NOT adopting MOOCs and other technology-enabled learning initiatives in corporate training programs.
MOOCs and other forms of technology-enabled learning signal a shift in our thinking about training. Today, learning isn’t just something we do in class; it’s something we do all of the time.
Companies that choose not to move their training programs into the 21st century using technology face three main risks:
- Not being able to provide enough training
- Not providing training that is as effective as it could be
- Being perceived as out of touch
The Association for Talent Development defines the term skills gap as “a significant gap between an organization’s skills needs and the current capabilities of its workforce that occurs at the point at which an organization can no longer grow or remain competitive because they don’t have the right skills to drive business results and support the firm’s strategies and goals.”
Though there is a lot of debate surrounding the nature of the current skills gaps (and particularly over who to blame), companies in many areas are reporting trouble finding employees with the skills they need. In this environment, the only way for companies to ensure their workforce is able to “drive business results and support [their] strategies and goals” is to provide more training. A defining feature of MOOCs is that they are infinitely scalable, enabling companies to provide all of the training required to develop their workforce.
Big problems require big solutions. Organizations that limit their training programs to small instructor-led courses risk facing a much more pressing problem down the road.
I’ve written extensively about the failure of ILT as a training format. While there may be theoretical benefits to in-person interactions with the instructor and other learners, in reality this doesn’t happen very often in corporate training. Most ILT is still based on the extended lecture format, where learners are expected to listen attentively to someone speaking for four or eight (or forty) hours and then go back to their desks and do their jobs better. Is that realistic? Not really.
This post on The Rapid E-Learning Blog identifies four ways e-learning supports learner development. These benefits do a good job of summarizing the main reasons MOOCs are so effective:
- Real-time access. ILT is just-in-case; MOOCs are just-in-time. While a course may follow a schedule, learners have access to the resources long after the course is over, which means they can review the content anytime they need to. In this way, MOOCs provide both the initial training and continuing performance support.
- Freedom to fail. No one likes to mess up, but that is how we learn best. Digital learning environments, especially interactive ones like simulations, provide learners with the ability to practice by working through real-life problems and scenarios. This allows learners to fail, and to learn from their failures, in low-stakes situations before they find themselves in high-stakes ones.
- Improved retention. Bite-sized learning, multimedia, interactivity, the ability to rewind and review—these factors all contribute to increased retention in digital learning environments.
- Personalized learning. Unlike ILT and traditional elearning, MOOCs are not linear. Learners can work at their own pace and move back and forth between modules, designing their own personalized training program based on their individual needs.
U.S. companies spend billions of dollars on training every year. Do you want to risk that kind of investment on ineffective training methods?
How a company is perceived can affect its ability to attract and retain talent, especially workers in younger generations. Increasingly, the willingness to embrace technology plays a large role in that perception: companies that use new technologies are seen as innovative and forward-thinking, while companies that resist technology are seen as out of touch.
In a study last year, Millennials reported being more likely to apply to a company that offered MOOCs, more likely to participate in MOOC-based training, and more likely to stay at a company that used MOOCs for professional development. These findings signal an overall trend in how the younger generations view the importance of technology in the workplace. As technology becomes even more woven into the fabric of our lives, any company that doesn’t embrace trends such as BYOD, mobile learning, and MOOCs risks being perceived as out of touch.
The perceptual risks aren’t limited to potential employees. Many companies run external MOOCs to connect with potential customers. In fact, brand awareness is one of the top reasons many colleges and universities have started offering the courses. As a result, local and regional schools have been able to attract a much wider range of students than they previously could. If your competitors are running MOOCs, but you aren’t, your company risks losing out on the brand awareness and positive perceptions that come along with being seen as an innovative and forward-thinking organization.
These three risks are not small. The ability to attract top talent and to have access to a qualified workforce are the cornerstones of any company’s success. Don’t just roll the dice. Embracing technology-enabled learning today so you can mitigate these risks in the future.
Copyright 2015 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: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson