Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are relatively new yet already a rage, so much so that the New York Times named 2012 as the ‘Year of the MOOC’. What started as an initiative by the Stanford University in 2011 has quickly found its applications as a learning medium in educational institutions and corporates alike.
MOOCs are massive, open and online – i.e. they are freely delivered over the internet to anyone who wants to enroll. In fact, the first MOOC started by the Stanford University reached out to 160,000 students.
Organizations from across the world are already using MOOCs for different reasons. McAfee which revamped its new-recruit training strategy by “flipping the classroom” using MOOCs has reported not just quantifiable savings of time (their initial training was over 80 hours long with 40 hours of pre-work and 5 days of onsite training), but also of increased sales revenue of about USD 500,000 per year. Similarly, Yahoo! partnered with Coursera to train and certify its software engineers for workplace training.
Here’s why MOOCs work well for e-learning in these organizations –
- Flexible synchronization – MOOCs offer the benefit of courses to be synchronized among different learners taking a particular course, yet give them enough freedom to steer through the course as their schedules allow. The assignments, lectures and readings given to each learner are the same, but the learner has to complete them at his/her own pace within the given amount of time. This semi-synchronized nature of MOOCs strikes just the right amount of balance between the formal and informal, and creates a healthy, non-imposing learning environment.
- Continuity of learning – One of the biggest advantages of MOOCs is that they make the learning process continuous. Employees are constantly exposed to relevant professional knowledge which ultimately translates into better revenues for the organization.
- Easy monitoring of learning metrics – MOOCs offer real-time analytics that can be used to track learners’ preferences, progress and enhance the learning process from the insights thus gained.
- Reduced executive education budget – Companies spend a LOT on employee training and certifications. With MOOCs this expenditure can be minimized as most of the courses are free and even those which aren’t, have minimal subscription fees. Moreover, organizations save heavily on resources that must be necessarily spent in other, more traditional forms of training.
- Greater collaboration – As part of MOOCs, all employees receive the same course ware and assignments which they have to complete in their own time. While it sets the outer boundaries in terms of course structure and overall time limit, it makes space for internal flexibility. This naturally creates a shared, social learning environment where employees collaborate, discuss and engage in peer-reviews.
As per 2014 data* 41.7% Fortune 500 companies use some form of educational technology to instruct employees, and report about 50% savings compared with instructor-based training. The productivity boost potential for companies who use eLearning is also reported to be 50%. The benefits offered by MOOCs can certainly not be ignored when designing a corporate e-learning strategy.
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