Wednesday, September 10, 2014

MOOCs & Corporate Training?

MOOCs have the capacity to
change the way we look at eLearning
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are beginning to make a splash in the corporate training world as organizations begin to adopt this technology for internal training and customer service and customer relationship building.  For those who may not be familiar with the term a MOOC is “massive “in that it allows thousands of learners to participate at any one time in a course or program, “open,” because anyone with an Internet connection can enroll in a course; and they are “courses” because they have a start and end date, learner testing and benchmark achievement levels and /or proctored exams.

The term free and verification are often used when describing MOOCs but again this is a misnomer. As with anything in the real world, you rarely get anything for free (courses often cost between $30 - $100) and few of the courses offer verification …especially the free ones. Forbes magazine suggests that only about 14% of the courses at one of the largest MOOCs in North America  are verified in some way.   

A MOOC is a concept that incorporates lateral learning and thinking process.  Typically a syllabus is created with the content such as online articles, web links, blogs, wikis, videos, etc., that offer important information on the topic being discovered during a given time frame of the program or course. The learners explore the content and engage in dialogue with other learners and external subject matter experts. Gradually the learning group establishes its own understanding and focuses of the content and can assess their progress against the entire group of learners. Dave Cormier the originator ofthe term MOOC ( no relation that I know of) offers a short and concise explanation.
Now that we have established the idea of a MOOC (which originated from the academic world) we need to gain some insight into how it is implemented at the corporate world. The difference between academic and corporate may seem subtle but nothing could be further from the truth. Academic settings are ideal in that funding for content is already in place and the learning can be extended to an audience outside of the paid program allowing them to learn along with program participants.  In a corporate setting there are three basic learning paths governed by the demands of business, compliance training to which the employer is legally bound, productivity & skills training and customer service learning. In these cases there is no corporate funding so the planning and strategy of a MOOC remains similar to a standard corporate training environment except that the training can be allowed to cross pollinate within the business and the same knowledge and format can be extended to customers outside the business.

While MOOCs are touted as a new and advanced frontier in learning – if there are to be effective they demand planning and lots of it. The “Garbage In…Garbage Out” rule applies here perhaps more than in traditional learning systems simply because of the increasingly sophisticated approach.  Multiple audiences lateral learning, expanded content, social networks all add to the effectiveness of learning and extend learning throughout the organization but they do demand increased strategic planning. Large organizations can employ this approach much more readily because of their already considerable investment in learning, the poor existing track record of learning within organizations and the benefits that can be harvested when they extend product and service learning opportunities to their customers. 

Smaller organizations can benefit from the unique learning opportunities of MOOCs but it is important to carefully consider a strategy and implementation plan that benefits them every step of the way.

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