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…
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.
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.