Posted tagged ‘ethics’

7 big opportunities that MOOCs offer corporates

29 July 2013

Hot on the heels of my 5 benefits of open badges for corporates, I now present my 7 big opportunities that MOOCs offer corporates.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m quite the MOOC fan. While I realise massive open online courses are not a panacea, I believe they have much to offer learners and learning professionals alike.

More specifically, I recognise the following opportunities to leverage them in the workplace. If you can think of any others, please let me know…

Businesswoman on computer in office

1. Sourcing content

Quality content, for free, from some of the world’s most respected educational institutions? That’s a no-brainer.

While Coursera and others offer MOOCs covering business and management topics that are relevant across the enterprise, it’s important to realise that other topics (such as statistics, law and IT) may also be relevant to particular teams. Having said that, I believe there is much more scope for MOOC providers to cover corporate-relevant topics.

I envisage L&D professionals playing important roles in both curating and supporting MOOCs for their colleagues. In terms of the former, it’s important that the right MOOC be connected to the right employee so that it’s relevant to their performance on the job. This will involve an analysis of the curriculum pre-study, and an evaluation of the learning experience post-study.

In terms of supporting the moocers in the organisation, I envisage L&D pro’s undertaking activities such as facilitating communities of practice, setting up buddy programs, and organising external meetups.

2. Networking

Participating in a MOOC forms connections with people outside of your organisation. Whether it be via the online discussion forum, on one of the associated social media groups, or at a local meetup, suddenly you are introduced to a world of people who are passionate and knowledgeable about the topic.

And it’s not just people outside of the organisation you will connect to. You may also connect with fellow participants inside the organisation, whom you otherwise might never have met.

A MOOC can therefore facilitate the kind of cross-functional collaboration and diversity of thinking that many corporates talk about, but few ever do anything about.

3. Blending content

Depending on the licensing policy of the content owner, a MOOC (or parts thereof) may be incorporated into an in-house offering.

Content sourced from a respected university can make the offering more engaging and lend it an air of credibility.

4. Flipping classrooms

While corporates are increasingly realising that classroom delivery is not necessarily the most effective pedagogy for employee development, neither is delivering the training in exactly the same way via a webinar or converting the PowerPoint slides into an online module.

Instead, corporates should consider making their offerings “MOOC like” by creating an online space in which the content can be consumed and discussed by the employees (with SME support) over the course of several weeks.

This approach reduces the burden of managing classroom sessions (timetables, room bookings, flights, accommodation), and frees up face-to-face time for value added activities such as such as storytelling, Q&A and role plays.

I also suggest mimicking the flexibility of a MOOC, whereby signing up to the course, participating in it and even completing it is optional. However, only those who pass the assessment will have their completion status recorded in the LMS.

5. Brand marketing

Just like a university, a corporate has expertise in a particular domain that it can share with the public. Perhaps after experimenting with internal “MOOC like” courses, the organisation can deliver a bona fide external MOOC either on their own server or via an established platform like Coursera.

Notwithstanding the fact that managing a MOOC is a lot of work, I would argue the investment is worth it. Think about it: you can access tens of thousands of customers and prospective customers who are becoming increasingly immune to traditional advertising. By educating them, you build up your goodwill and engender a sense of trust in your brand.

Then there’s CSR to consider. Does the company have an ethical responsibility to help the community through MOOCs? Not to mention the kudos that goes with it.

So while the financial viability of MOOCs has come under heavy fire in the blogosphere, the ROI might be more complicated than the profit-and-loss statement suggests.

6. Becoming involved

If running a MOOC is a bridge too far for the organisation, there are other opportunities to become involved.

For example, the University of Virginia’s Foundations of Business Strategy MOOC invites real companies to supply real business problems for the (tens of thousands) of students to solve collaboratively.

As Foldit can attest, problem solving through crowdsourcing really works – and sometimes the results are spectacular.

7. Mining big data

This wades into the murky waters of privacy and ethics, but theoretically at least, a company could purchase access to a particular MOOC’s analytics.

Why would it want to do that? Perhaps to:

  • Offer internships to the participants who achieve the highest results.
  • Uncover trends in the online discussions, and hence forecast consumer behaviour.
  • Target the students, who self-evidently have an interest in the domain, with direct marketing for related products and services.

And if the organisation were to run its own MOOC, it wouldn’t need to pay anyone for the data.

Take the law out of compliance training

8 October 2012

Compliance training is everyone’s favourite punching bag.

I deduce two main reasons for this:

  1. It’s usually drop-dead boring, and
  2. People don’t like being told what to do.

So we in the L&D department are put in the unenviable position of selling the unsellable to our colleagues. To do so, we typically resort to a couple of irreproachable messages:

  1. It’s the law (so we have to do it), and
  2. If we break the law, we could be fined, we could lose our licence to practise, and someone could even go to jail.

Both are valid reasons to do compliance training, but they shouldn’t be our primary drivers.

Confused? Let me explain by urging you to adopt a different perspective:

Take the law out of it.

Cute police officer doll

Imagine for a moment there was no such thing as compliance legislation; no regulatory agencies scrutinising your every move; no auditors to appease; no obligation whatsoever to do any compliance training of any kind. Would you still support it?

If your answer is “no”, I am astounded.

I can only infer that you don’t really care about:

  • the health and safety of your employees
  • the fair and equitable treatment of your colleagues
  • the privacy and security of your customers

Even if you are devoid of ethics, another compelling argument exists in favour of compliance training:

It makes business sense.

Stack of cash

For example, what would happen if:

  • your star performer slips on spilt coffee in the kitchen and breaks his collarbone?
  • a perfectly qualified and experienced job applicant is rejected on the basis of her skin colour?
  • absenteeism goes through the roof because the young ladies in the office are avoiding a sleazy manager?
  • a fraudster in your admin team re-routes payments to his personal bank account?
  • your contact centre provides a customer’s new phone number to her abusive ex-husband?
  • a competitor finds a USB stick containing your company’s 5-year marketing plan?

I’ll tell you for free: your business will suffer.

Boxing gloves

So our gripe shouldn’t be about doing compliance training – it should be about doing it better.

Start by taking the law out of it. Then put it back in.

Shades of green

22 June 2010

Environmental sustainability.

It’s a term that seems to be bandied around a lot lately.

Many companies have it stated as one of their “core values” – but do they really mean it?

Businessman holding crystal globe

It’s easy to display the words on your website, print them on a pretty brochure, and even rattle them off during an induction.

But it’s a whole different kettle of fish to integrate their meaning and intent into your strategic plan.

In other words, to walk the talk.

Academic insight

In the second part of my 2-part interview with Dr David Bubna-Litic, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management at the University of Technology, Sydney, I posed the following questions.

Again I have recorded his answers for you to review:

PlayDoes the L&D department have an obligation to facilitate the learning of the corporation’s values among its employees?

PlaySo if an insurance company defines environmental sustainability as a core value, should its L&D department organise workshops on green issues?

PlayHow about controversial issues such as climate change and nuclear energy – should the company adopt one political agenda over another?

If you have trouble playing the files, right-click each link and “Save Target As…”.

My take

It’s clear to me that a company that claims a corporate value such as environmental sustainability has an ethical obligation to translate it into action. Values are more than words; they represent behaviour.

Green piggy bankThe irony of pretenders like Enron is that, if the corporation is true to its values, it can reap significant financial rewards.

For example, a manufacturing company that reduces its electricity consumption will no doubt enjoy a corresponding cost saving; a finance company that offers socially responsible investments may attract a new demographic of customer; a multinational that installs a web conferencing system instead of criss-crossing the globe by airliner will no longer need to fund relentless air fares, hotel bills and meal allowances.

The role of the L&D Department

It is also clear to me that the L&D Department has a professional obligation to facilitate the learning of the corporation’s values among its employees.

Since those values provide the context for how the company operates in the marketplace, any ignorance of them is – at best – unprofessional, but probably more accurately, incompetent.

The thin green line

In dealing with politically contentious issues such as climate change, the organisation must be wary of straying into partisanship.

No matter how much we wish it wasn’t so, some of our colleagues just don’t agree with our point of view. So if the corporation were to adopt one political agenda over another, I for one would consider it ethically unacceptable.

I suggest that instead of taking sides, the company errs on the side of caution. For example, it doesn’t need to say things like:

Acme Corporation knows that climate change is real.

That is almost intentionally divisive.

Chess pieces opposing each other

Instead, why not go for:

Acme Corporation is committed to an environmentally sustainable future. While we are unsure as to whether human activity contributes to climate change, we are taking the precaution of reducing our carbon emissions and expanding our portfolio in the renewable energy sector.

That is much more inclusive!

Chess pieces mingling

As the elephant in the room will tell you, there’s no point in disengaging some of your employees.

That would be to the detriment of everyone.

Noise pollution

18 December 2009

COP15 was a fiasco.

At the eleventh hour, the world’s governments cobbled together a half‑baked “accord”, after 2 weeks of posturing, grandstanding and generally faffing about.

Why bother? At the next summit, they’ll realise they’ve got no hope of meeting the target, however vague, so they’ll try to weasel out of the agreement just like they weaseled out of Kyoto.

The fact is: Governments can’t govern very well. All they really can do is tax. And do we want a bunch of taxmen managing our environment?

No – I see real environmental management in the hands of corporations and individuals.

Business man holding the EarthCorporate citizenship

These days, every company has an environmental policy.

However, it’s just a collection of words.

To be a good corporate citizen, the firm must use that policy to inform action.

And that’s typically where the wheels fall off.

Education is the key

The foundation of corporate citizenship is education. If the L&D team (and others) aren’t active in this space, then there’s a disconnect between what the company allegedly stands for and what it manifestly stands for.

I happen to believe that the company I work for is indeed a good corporate citizen.

For example, today we screened The Burning Season in-house, which we followed up with a talk by the protagonist, Dorjee Sun – CEO of Carbon Conservation.

The Burning Season Ryan Tracey with top bloke, Dorjee Sun.

Regardless of your political and philosophical views of climate change, I’m sure we all agree that the relentless destruction of Indonesia’s rainforest is an unmitigated disaster.

Achmadi the farmer

Given the socio-economic dimensions of the problem, the Indonesian government is simply incapable of governing it.

Action makes the difference

Now that my colleagues and I have watched the film, we’ve heard Dorjee talk and our awareness has been raised a few thousand notches, what can we actually do about it?

For a start, I suggest we ignore the Copenhagen Clowns.

As a financial services company, something we already do is offer Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) options to our customers. These options typically embargo investments in the likes of arms dealers and tobacco manufacturers; dare I suggest that palm oilers should also be on the blacklist?

It’s also important to keep in mind that a corporation is a collection of individuals. Not only could we select SRI options in our own investment plans, but we could make the personal decision to donate to a relevant charity. In this case we chose Borneo Orangutan Survival, and the corporation dollar-matched our individual contributions.

I’m sure there’s hundreds of other things we could do, both as corporations and as individuals. And yet more could be done in other industry sectors. All we need is some imagination.

The thin green line

In essence, corporate citizenship is a political concept. So we must be wary of straying into partisanship.

For example, I would be uncomfortable with screening Obama’s speeches as an L&D activity. (If you disagree, how would you feel if I screened Bush’s speeches instead?)

The Earth with a stethoscopeNone-the-less, corporate citizenship transcends partisanship. The world has plenty of massive problems that we all acknowledge, regardless of our political persuasions.

As L&D professionals in socially responsible corporations, we arguably have a duty to raise our colleagues’ awareness of the issues that matter, then translate that knowledge into something practical.

In doing so, we must avoid ATNA at all costs.

Otherwise it’s just noise pollution.
 


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