How are Companies Using MOOCs Today?

How are Companies Using MOOCs Today?

Two weeks ago, I wrote my first blog post on corporate “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs. I described their origins in higher education and the value that corporations are beginning to achieve by using MOOCs to meet specific business objectives.

Over the past few months, my colleagues and I have had dozens of conversations with business and learning leaders, seeking to understand how they are using MOOCs today, what applications they envision for their diverse audiences, and what ideas they have for using them in the future. We’ve learned a lot about MOOC applications in the corporate world, and we’ve identified some key themes:

1. Organizations are leveraging select higher education MOOCs “out of the box,” seeking to link MOOC learning experiences to company-specific purposes.

Some companies are selectively integrating existing higher education MOOCs into their career paths for particular job roles. The companies avoid the unnecessary costs of creating expensive, customized programs by leveraging best-in-class educational resources that are freely available.

One technology company is directing employees interested in becoming software engineers to take particular MOOCs as part of their career path. Other companies are exploring ways to link MOOC learning experiences back to the employee work environment, through specific “quests” that ask employees to apply MOOC learning to solve practical challenges at work. Still others are contemplating how to bundle MOOCs in order to target sets of related skills, for example, with a “mini-MBA” bundle for business skills.

2. Companies are building their own MOOCs to train customers and partners.

MOOC learning models offer a powerful means of educating and influencing global audiences about products, services, best practices, and company-specific points of view. Many organizations with this objective, notably technology companies and NGOs, are rapidly launching MOOCs to evangelize their offerings and enable their customers and partners.

For example, MongoDB, Inc., the developer of the open-source database MongoDB, wanted to educate a global community of developers on its product, so it created two courses—one for developers and one for database administrators (DBAs). The company built the courses as seven-week programs with two hours of content per week. The instructional approach included video segments followed by quizzes, as well as weekly homework assignments and a final exam. Thousands of developers and DBAs have been trained through MongoDB’s free MOOCs thus far. The company has also expanded its courses and now offers certifications as well.

3. To address serious skill gap challenges, companies are utilizing MOOCs to identify, develop, and source scarce talent.

Companies are creating or sponsoring MOOCs focused on specific high-demand skills that are difficult to find in today’s labor market. Sponsoring companies provide valuable skill-development opportunities for learners, and in turn, they are often able to recruit students.

For example, the higher education MOOC provider Udacity recently launched its Open Education Alliance to provide access to relevant post-secondary education that enables individuals to pursue successful careers in technology. High-tech staffing firms such as Aquent have launched MOOCs to attract and develop specialized talent that they can place with their clients.

4. Companies are building “MOOC-like” learning solutions that offer superior scalability, flexible synchronicity, cohort-driven learning, and peer-to-peer collaboration.

While none of these particular components is new to corporate learning, in the MOOC (and its derivative formats) these elements are uniquely integrated. In addition, companies are focusing intensely on skill application through a project or challenge embedded in the MOOC, and upon successful completion, learners often receive a badge or credential. This special combination of attributes is attracting companies to utilize MOOCs to address a variety of business challenges.

Some companies are utilizing MOOCs to educate diverse stakeholders regarding new products and solutions, even shortening product launches by releasing must-have product training as a “minimum viable product” (e.g., launching a course with just the first few modules and developing the remainder as the MOOC experience rolls out). Others are using MOOC-like formats to develop managers and leaders around the globe on fundamental management skills, extending program reach and consistency and enhancing peer-to-peer connections worldwide—all while decreasing training costs.

What do you think?

Are you using MOOCs in your organization today? If so, what is your experience thus far? If you aren’t, what might you be considering, and why? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Be sure to check out our next MOOC blog post where we’ll share our own perspective on the critical components of a corporate MOOC solution. We’ll reveal our answer to the question we hear in every client meeting: “What exactly makes a MOOC a MOOC?”

If you’d like to understand how MOOCs can effectively serve your business needs, get in touch with us. Intrepid Learning is a corporate learning market leader and the first corporate MOOC solution provider focused purely on the needs of the enterprise client. Contact us to learn more about our corporate MOOC services.

Sam Herring is co-founder and CEO of Intrepid Learning.

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