For some time now, Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs have given the opportunity for huge numbers of learners across the globe to gain formal qualifications in a multitude of subjects – without the need for costly tuition, accommodation, and living expenses which they would otherwise incur at formal institutions of education. All of this without the need to leave their homes, by accessing course materials over the Internet.
In the corporate sphere, companies are becoming increasingly aware of the value contained in the MOOC phenomenon, and its potential to boost their training, skills acquisition, orientation and other activities – either through the curation of existing online content, or the creation of specialist MOOCs specific to an organisation or industry.
In this article, we’ll be considering some of the ways in which enterprises may use MOOCs to assist their workers and enhance their own productivity.
Why Opt for a MOOC?
In the first instance, developing training materials for highly specialised skill sets or industry-specific applications takes time, expertise, and money that might be better invested elsewhere – especially if the courses will involve only small sets of participants, or the content needs to be accessed only very occasionally. Giving access to existing online content that addresses these same subject areas makes economic sense.
As MOOCs are an eLearning resource, workers will have “any time, anywhere” access to the material, and can pace their learning to suit their individual learning styles, work schedules, and personal circumstances. Courses are constantly being updated, so workers can keep pace with changes in regulatory compliance regimes, company policy, new techniques and product specifications. Formal qualifications, professional certification and industry standards are offered by many MOOCs, and these may add to the career prospects and skill sets of trainees.
By addressing real-world issues and training scenarios directly relevant to their jobs, MOOCs can help boost worker productivity, confidence and efficiency. This in turn will benefit the organisation for which they work.
It’s clearly beneficial to give your employees access to the best and most comprehensive training materials and performance support resources. MOOCs can be a part of this. The recommendations that follow should help ensure that you achieve the maximum benefit, from doing so.
Give Them A List
Be prepared to spend some time looking into the MOOCs that are currently available, with an eye to those addressing issues relevant to your industry or enterprise, and providing knowledge or skills that may augment those of your workforce, and are likely to be of interest to them. You’ll probably have to make some reference to your performance records, employee assessments, and recruitment records.
Having done this, you’ll be in a position to provide your workers with a list of recommended / approved courses that they can get access to. This not only displays an interest in their professional development and well-being on your part, but also helps weed out courses that could potentially distract employees from developing or improving core competencies.
Keep Them Updated
As new processes and technologies emerge and changes are made to industry standards and compliance regimes, new learning and refresher courses may be required. Your internal communications systems can then play a role in keeping workers informed about the latest requirements – and in publishing updates to your list of recommended MOOCs and online resources.
Give Them Incentives
Aside from their own enthusiasm for self-improvement and career advancement, workers will benefit from knowing that their participation in online training is appreciated by the organisation.
Incentives might include special privileges, bonuses, or assignment to projects directly related to MOOCs that an employee is currently taking, or has completed. Gamification is another option, with points and prizes on offer for course modules completed or new enrolments in preferred MOOCs. Within a MOOC curriculum, candidates may be able to organise in-person meetings with their peers, and time off for this might be another potential reward.
Customise the Medium
You don’t have to stick with an existing MOOC, as is. Content may be customised to reflect scenarios and conditions that workers will meet during the course of their working day at your particular organisation. This helps create a sense of immediacy and relevance to what’s being learned, and is beneficial for skills acquisition and performance support.
Give Some Guidance
Ultimately, the choice of which course to take (and how much energy and enthusiasm to invest in it) is down to the individual worker. But there’s a lot of MOOC content out there, and not all of it may be appropriate to your particular circumstances – or of a high enough standard to meet the requirements of your market sector.
So in making recommendations, you’ll need to exercise some quality control to ensure that the list you suggest to your employees meets your business needs and their learning requirements.
Monitor the Results
Keep a close eye on performance assessments, test results, and feedback from the courses being taken. On the one hand, this monitoring can throw up potential problem areas that need to be addressed. On the other, exceptional results may reveal hidden gems within your organisation; individuals whose skills may be better deployed in other departments or on higher profile projects than they’re currently involved with.
By extending your monitoring more widely, results from MOOCs related to your industry may reveal candidates who do particularly well, but aren’t currently in your employ. This can be a tremendous aid, in recruiting new talent.
Get Creative with the Funding
Creating your own MOOCs is an attractive idea, but it does take time and money – funds that might arguably be used elsewhere. So course development needs to be justified intelligently.
Courses may be authored to meet internal needs, but designed so as to appeal to a wider audience. When released online, they may serve as an attractor for fresh and previously hidden talent, within your industry. And MOOC design may lead to the development of specialist units within your organisation – skills that may be marketed to third parties on a consultancy basis, for example.
Continue to Invest in Your People
Education is a lifelong process. As staff turnovers, shake-ups in the industry, and demographic shifts occur, you’ll need to keep providing orientation and “onboarding” for fresh hires, and refining the training materials that support your day to day operations, compliance audits, and other vital business functions.