MOOCs: Hype or a Revolution for Corporate Trainers?


MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) became popular around 2011 – 2012. New York Times columnist and best-selling author, Thomas Friedman, described them as an educational “revolution.” The Washington Post praised them as a way to provide “elite education for the masses.” Even our own Stephanie Ivec, published in eLearning Industry, cited the opportunity to reduce costs on courses and better take advantage of certifications by integrating MOOC content.

Today, we’re seeing that the growth of MOOCs has slowed from the rapid pace at the beginning of the MOOC craze, according to TechCrunch writer Danny Crichton. In the Google Trends graphs below, he shows stalled search traffic for two well-known MOOCs.


(Source: Danny Crichton, TechCrunch)

Crichton explains, “We failed to ensure that motivation and primacy were built-in to these new products, and in the process, failed to get adults to engage with education in the way that universities traditionally can.” This issue mainly applies to the higher education use of MOOCs. When learners aren’t students on a physical campus, they don’t have social incentives that motivate learners. They don’t have the influence of friends encouraging them to attend classes or a need to avoid the shame of poor performance. If students stop participating in a free MOOC, no one will know. If students stop putting effort into a MOOC, they won’t lose money—which means quitting doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

Are MOOCs better suited for corporate training?

But these examples are largely from higher education. What about corporate training? One UK-based company that helps people plan vacations, Much Better Adventures, spends the lull during Friday afternoons learning about sustainability. Its employees use MOOCs to drive business benefits, says TechRepublic writer Erin Carson. “For the team at Much Better Adventures, ‘productive’ is an apt description for how they’re using what they’re learning in sustainability.”

Some workplace learning experts like Jeanne Meister argue that the larger goal is to “use the MOOC movement as the impetus to re-think and re-imagine how your organization designs, develops and delivers learning.”

So where can MOOCs fit into your company’s training program? Maybe you’d rather create your own training courses that are specifically customized for your employees, simply using MOOCs as a source of content or to supplement their custom training programs. In a world where companies spend millions of dollars to build or buy all types of training, companies can save a great deal of money by leveraging MOOCs or accepting their certifications.

Want to get started? Try using the authoring tool Lectora® Inspire to create custom training courses that are interactive, motivating, and engaging. Trivantis CTO John Blackmon suggests using Lectora to create “a course high on video content that has a comprehension test at the end, and gives the user a badge or certificate for their accomplishment.” Video-based, MOOC-style content like this is easily supported within Lectora’s authoring tools (sign up for a free trial.) And you can use a system like CourseMill® and CourseMill® Wave to create a knowledge-sharing hub around the content of your MOOC.

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