How Employees Learn

Educational Playbook: What Corporate America Could Learn from MOOCs

Perhaps one of the most disruptive education strategies of all time, MOOC’s bring learning to the masses. Massive open online courses do what no other institution or method can promise: Allowing literally hundreds of thousands access to education and training once reserved for the post-secondary elite. But they’re not just restricted to Engineering 101 and Introduction to Spanish: MOOCs mean greater access to education in any number of topics.

Unfortunately, corporate America has yet to hop on fast-moving MOOC train just yet – even though it makes perfect sense. Wondering what your training is lacking right now? Learn from the massive success of MOOCs to put a casual spin on your L&D and watch your learners engage on a massive level.

The MOOC Revolution

Despite the fact that they were borderline non-existent just two years ago, MOOC’s have completely changed the educational game. Gone are the days where you’d need be accepted to Harvard to take advantage of Harvard ed: Today, the esteemed school is spending $60 million to develop courses with MIT for MOOC site edX.

It works like this: An institution supplies a MOOC: The curriculum, grading and topics for a specific course. Learners can register for classes – sometimes on a schedule basis, sometimes at their own leisure – and then reap the benefits of a share and share alike learning culture. The result is a less-strict learning environment, where students collaborate in a more casual, lower-pressure setting.

What MOOCs Got Right

While it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to education, MOOCs are knocking it out of the park in a number of ways. First and foremost, MOOC’s respect the learner: Because students dictate the courses for which they register, they’re not being pelted with unnecessary or “been there, done that” information. Instead of years of training and education, they pick and choose what they need to further their education and knowledge base.

MOOC’s are also highly collaborative. Whether discussing topics in a MOOC forum or taking a course from an industry expert (instead of a professor), there’s a sense of community and peer-to-peer learning opportunities that more formal education can’t really match.

Finally, above all, MOOC’s are low-pressure, casual environments. From making your own schedule to mobile apps and working solo, MOOC’s take the best part of learning without the pomp and circumstance that can turn some students off of formal education and training. The possibilities for mLearning are tremendous, and the mobile capability of MOOC’s is what makes it so appealing to students.

Implementing Change

It’s pretty clear that corporate training has a lot to learn from the smashing success of MOOC’s as a whole. A MOOC-like philosophy can reach a new generation of learners, tapping into three main motivators:

  • A casual learning environment
  • Peer-to-peer experiences
  • Autonomy

What if, instead of a mandatory course, organizations allowed employees to choose from a menu of course options for training? Or, instead of formal conference room training sessions, learners could log onto a module from home, or share what they’ve learned with other students via forums. MOOC’s have managed to make a difference in how education is delivered and experienced and based on the huge demand, course designers are definitely on to something.

Will L&D ever catch up to MOOC’s in availability, experience and learner autonomy? Probably. New developments mean training is becoming more learner-centric, which can only mean good things for talent management and training. If current efforts seem to be striking out, taking a page from the MOOC playbook might mean setting up for a serious winning streak for any eLearning companyor corporate training program.