March 25, 2017 reinierh

Let’s get personal: how Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can transform learning and development at corporates


Want high quality/low cost training for your firm? MOOCs may have the answer, but they are no quick fix.

Hailed as the next revolution in education, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are set to democratize access to learning, but the model still misses the personal touch needed to succeed in corporations.

In 2016, 58 million students will have taken an MOOC, and probably paid 1/100th what they would have at a local University for a certificate. Corporates are also keen on MOOCs to reduce training costs, build capabilities and engage their workforce. But adoption rates amongst corporates are low (~8%) One reason is the format doesn’t match the highly social and interactive work context. Learning management skills is about developing soft skills, not just acquiring knowledge. Corporate courses that abandon personalized training methods and leave students to ‘go it alone’ are doomed to fail.

The office as a classroom

Imagine if employees could do their sales course or management training from the sofa. Sounds idyllic? It would be pointless. Statistically they would be more likely to tune into the TV after 30 min and forget all about it by morning. Conversely taking out 3 hours of their busy week to sit through a physical class with colleagues would cause scheduling conflicts, loss of productivity, and involve costly trainers. The sweet spot is down the middle. Cherry-picking the best of both worlds will make trainings more effective for students and less costly for employers.

MOOCs for business – some statistics:

  • 79% of learning & Development professionals see it as a cost effective way to deliver trainings to a broader spectrum of staff
  • Custom designed MOOCs that are made public are expected to attract talent and build brand awareness
  • About 45% of employees with degrees are keen to advance themselves with on-the-job training, rather than go back to school
  • HR professionals would like to see more MOOCs focus offerings on the workplace context, with shorter courses, and a focus on leadership issues says a Future Workplace
  • Low appeal for SME’s – seen as expensive if investment in training per employee is <1000$

The concept of a ‘MOOC’ doesn’t fit the average corporate’s need for personalized learning:

  • Massive Mid sized: Generally <100,000 students), so content is preferably tailored for individual personal development goals, or organizational goals for teams, disciplines, and BU’s.
  • Open Internal network: learning is accelerated through social interaction, but company’s prefer to keep content discussions on an internal network so as to safeguard IP sensitive information and entice talent acquisition.
  • Online Dual mode learning: beyond just online learning, it’s about integration with real-time on-the-job learning.
  • Courses Informal training: it’s about acquiring skills and improved performance, not just formal certifications.

Cherry picking the best of both worlds

MOOCs can complement a strong team leader, coach, and trainer. MOOCs can do this by offering self-guided learning, discussion rooms for multiple perspectives on content, standardized content to align with certifications, and gamification of results to keep motivation high. Personalization of the content to the organizational and individual goals makes it deeply relevant to on-the-job challenges. Structured online content and forums would be great support to learning soft skills in high-context situations. Imagine leaders closing learning feedback loops in real time – with both coaches and online learning materials. Learning tools that consider emotions and actions in real situations. Tools with both theoretical structure and coaching support. So what needs to change is the format. MOOCs need tools to integrate with existing (human) training networks. Vice versa, human networks can benefit from technologies which structure content and facilitate social interaction beyond 1 on 1 training. And while we are at it, make the courses fit into a work day. Integrate learning with daily work, one day at a time.

The office as ultimate learning environment

If you are considering using MOOCs to train staff, or already are, consider the increased effectiveness of integrating them with personalized training tools. The office is already a classroom, maybe if we tweak MOOCs format employees can skip University all together?

The classroom is changing, and so should learning in the boardroom.

 Subscribe to future posts