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Do MOOCs have a place in your Corporate Learning & Development strategy?

I’ve worked on the business side of Learning & Development for over 10 years and in that time have witnessed ever-tightening training budgets and increasingly strict rationalisation of any spend, yet  there seems very little discussion on the cost-saving potential of using Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) within corporate L&D strategies.

MOOCs, open access courses delivered via the web to unlimited numbers of participants, started to gain prominence in 2011 when Stanford University launched three courses.  The first “An Introduction to AI” by Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun, who later founded Udacity, quickly reached 160,000 enrolments worldwide. 

Since then, hundreds of universities across the globe have released their own offerings, and companies such as Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy and edX have sprung up.

Initially jumped on by Academic Institutions, there are now hundreds of free courses available, delivered by world-class instructors on subjects from public speaking to business strategy, emotional intelligence to financial accounting.

Given the quality of the organisations and instructors delivering these courses, I do have to question why they’re not more popular.

My personal opinion is that it centres on two factors:

  • Reluctance to trial a delivery medium without it being a proven success elsewhere
  • Low completion rates

There is some justification in the fear of early adoption and MOOCs have also been blighted with low completion stats, with data from Coursera suggesting that only 7-9% of people who enrol on a course, go on to complete it.

However, I would contend that online learning has been around since 1998, and MOOCs are an extension of that.  The corporate world is beginning to explore and incorporate MOOCs into their L&D strategies with organisations such as Bank of America, SAP and JLT group all early adopters.

Jeffrey Pomeranz from the University of North Carolina has some interesting data on the back of a course he is delivering via Coursera which suggests that completion rates can differ massively depending on how you define course enrolment.

He experienced a 5% completion rate for people who only hit the enrol button compared to a 48% completion rate for those who completed the first assignment.

With the above in mind, what can L&D departments do to see if MOOCs have a place within their organisation?

  • Investigate
    Take to time to find out what MOOCs are.  Enrol in a course that is relevant to your role.  Complete it.  Think about how a MOOC can fit within your L&D strategy.
  • MOOCs are not for everybody
    Adoption levels will depend upon a person’s preferred learning style.  Understand your employees’ preferred learning style; are they a Theorist or a Pragmatist, an Activist or a Reflector?  Have your employees complete a learning styles questionnaire which will help guide you to find the most effective development for that person.   Use them as another piece of the L&D toolkit. 
  • Curation
    Research the market; understand who the established providers are.  Are the courses provided relevant to your employees’ roles/development needs?
  • What other strategies can you use alongside them to ensure engagement?
    Weekly Action learning sets/1-1’s – discuss how the learning can be applied to their role.
  • Have a visible “someone that cares”
    A feeling of isolation can be an issue with any remote/virtual learning - identify a mentor, subject-matter expert, L&D professional etc.., available to support the group/individual through their course.
  • Accountability
    MOOCs require a high level of autonomy - empower employees to take responsibility for their development.
  • Establish reporting process
    Monitor progress against agreed outcomes, receive on-going feedback.

What is your organisation doing to incorporate MOOCs into your Learning & Development strategy? What do you see as the main challenges?  Follow me on Twitter and let’s continue the discussion.


Copyright © 2013 Bray Leino Learning

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