Training should be available for everyone, yet not everything is close at hand and it is a good thing to notice in time.
Awareness was first risen dates back to years of university studies. American students taught us this when in 2013 they witnessed an increase in the cost of education by 4,000 dollars per year: access to certain prestigious courses can be limited also for those who are well-off. Master’s degree courses and post-degree diplomas are often considered top-of-the range programs reserved for an elite group of extremely fortunate people, the educational pathway of whom has been paved in a family line by professional figures working within this sector. If the mother and father are actively employed, if the social network is the right one, if there is no lack of money… then things are relatively simple. Not even state colleges guarantee cut-price education and so, at the end of a course of studies, student debt rates in America is sky high.
In Italy, it is possible to gain access to certain kinds of subsidies on the basis of both merit and income, which partially cover education costs.
Once the student has cut his/her teeth from a training point of view, he/she ventures into the world of work. And so the drudgery starts.
Yet again, each detailed study course, specialist master’s degree, further professional qualification is a financial burden and now also in terms of time. After spending 8/9 hours a day within the workplace, it becomes difficult to find time to improve one’s own professional skills.
A possible solution arrived from America, timidly in 2008, then sensationally in 2012: the Mooc’s Online Courses, massive training courses available for everyone, available on-line at any time, everywhere and free of charge. They were initially carried out at universities, and then they arrived in the world of company training.
Why should we support the diffusion of MOOCs in a company context?
MOOCs have been an innovation within the field of remote training courses. They allow everyone (open), anywhere (massive) to take part in a virtual classroom (on-line courses). The element of (synchronous or asynchronous) interaction remains the same as in the physical classroom: conversations, groups work, collaborative activities, seminars, discussions, debates on themes dealt with, videos and readings are put at the centre of the training experience, complying with the traditional performance of the frontal lessons. The global and social dimension is expressed in the dialogue between teacher and learners as well as in the interaction between participants through public channels such as Twitter, blogs, online chats and forums.
On the topic of the MOOCs so much has been written coming from all types of sources, both in favour as well as against. The supporters of the innovations sustain their diffusion, by underlining the relative advantages and possible variations. The detractors minimise the innovative and interactive capacities of the same, considering them no more than a tool among the many available to support remote training activities. According to the Hype Cycle theorised by Gartner, in every innovative process, a peak of interest is followed by a stage of disillusionment, until the new technology establishes itself and reaches the productive stage.
The format of the MOOCs often does not help in their being considered as a really innovative tool: in standard mode, the teacher is recorded while he/she is teaching the lesson and offers a series of tests and discussion topics which the students will tackle in an interactive way either in a forum or a live-chat. To this end, the real innovation comes from the “o” in “open”: anyone can access the course free of charge and from anywhere.
What happens when the MOOCs are introduced into the company?
Some Companies have marketed the concept through an approach based on unlimited access subscription plans: Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, Udacity, Lynda, Udemy propose freemium solutions or monthly access models to an entire range of courses.
Many companies use them for talent selection, induction training and the constant updating of employees as regards continuous education: the senior employees create videos dealing with specific critical points of their own reference core-business, the training and development department will take charge of them, add its own feedback and encourage discussion on the matter. In this sense, the MOOCs would become an integral part of the company personnel’s performance indicators.
The professional updating becomes just as useful as the Company is branched out and extended: the trainers can produce contents in an e-learning mode and share them on a MOOC platform to update the collaborators in the dislocated branches in any part of the world, potentially involving an unlimited number of people with no added costs and therefore improving the company profit margin.
The MOOCs improve the employees loyalty degree: the possibility to grow professionally, be informed and involved in the company decisions creates the best possible conditions to carry out one’s work and to dedicate oneself for the good of the company.
By means of certain tools, each employee can share the secrets of his/her own role and reveal tricks of the trade and effective methods in order to conclude a particular task.
The MOOCs have their own Analytics: it is possible to identify who has completed a course, who has completed an internal teaching cycle and offer attendance certificates.
The MOOCs are capable of creating bonds between individuals both within and outside an organisation, therefore extending the potential interactive contribution to the discussion of the theme dealt with.
Some limits have been encountered during the course of time
1. Interaction dynamics are not predictable and often they are made difficult by the large number of participants and by the fact that they don’t know each other and that they share different objectives (this causes a high course non-completion rate: it is estimated that only 10% of the course participants complete the training course).
2. The course contents often do not satisfy specific company requirements, resulting as being too academic and not inherent to daily problems encountered. The value of the MOOCs for the company lies in the fact that these should capture the extremely specific training requirements and needs.
3. The courses are often long and disorganised, making it difficult to attend and complete.
4. Frequently, an unfulfilled demand for contents regarding leadership development is recorded, alongside those relating to specific sector know-how.
5. Quite often real moments of experimentation are lacking (e.g. in the form of gamification).
Increasingly more often, MOOCs are considered as a useful tool to outline preliminary considerations on a theme subsequently detailed studied in the classroom.
Some examples of value
The University of Virginia has introduced an on-line course on “Foundations of Business Strategy”, inviting organisations to submit real problems encountered in a business contexts to thousands of students, so that they could resolve them in a collaborative approach. In this sense, MOOCs will have the status of a problem solving and crowdsourcing tool. Over 90,000 participants came from 143 different countries, including some important professional figures coming from organisations such as General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung and Walmart. 72% of the Companies declared that it would seek assistance for medium-high priority issues (e.g. Coursera described the experience gained from the strategy context as product innovation thanks to the involvement of foreign entities guaranteed by the MOOCs).
A fruitful partnership between the Khan Academy and the Bank of America has inaugurated a series of on-line courses made available to the customers of the banking organisation in order to support and help them in their expenditure and saving habits. The MOOCs outward-oriented connection has contributed to significantly strengthening employer branding, serving as an example of value of how an organisation can venture outside its own boundaries and share its expertise with a wider audience.
Only if the MOOCs knowledge is shared, connected, negotiated and of an interactive nature can we speak of real innovation within the field of remote training.
Different types of MOOC
1. Cloud MOOCs: the company wishing to adopt MOOCs often requires the availability to use it from all workstations or devices.
2. SaaS MOOCs: this represents the possibility for companies to make use of an IT platform without having to worry about the maintenance of solutions in continuous evolutions.
3. LaaS MOOCs: also the host infrastructure is of fundamental importance. Involving thousands of users could cause the overloading of the hardware structure that could get out of control.
4. On-line MOOCs: allow access at any time from any location whatsoever
5. On-site MOOCs: guarantee the versatility of installation methods.
Films do not replace the theatre, just as MOOCs will not substitute classroom training
The two dimensions co-exist and they vitalise each other thanks to their mutual support.
In How MOOCs Will Revolutionize Corporate Learning And Development, Forbes states:
“As MOOCs storm the academic world, the public discussion of their impact is ignoring what could become their most valuable application. Far from being limited to higher education reform, the new learning style’s most important legacy could be its impact on the world of corporate training – which is a $150 billion industry.
The following three MOOC elements are particularly well-suited to corporate learning & development:
• Semi-synchronicity: Most MOOCs allow students to go through the course as a ‘semi-synchronous’ cohort of learners. That means each week the group receives the same assignment of video lectures, readings, quizzes and/or threaded discussions, but each member completes that course work on his or her own time. The design of semi-synchronous cohorts provides learners the opportunity to motivate each other as they go through the program.
• Course design: “Flipping the classroom,” or swapping classwork with homework, was first made popular by Khan Academy, and is one of the defining features of MOOCs. This way, the most of the learning happens not through a professor lecturing but by giving students access to course materials and having them study and explore them at home. Then in class, they put their new knowledge to work with role-plays, use cases, and exercises.
• Credentials: Many MOOCs offer college credit or certificates of completion, which help to legitimize and formalize the learning. At leading MOOC provider Coursera, 14 percent of courses offer verified certificates, for which registration costs between $30 and $100 depending on the course’s length and content. Seventy-five different Coursera courses offer verified certificates, through what the company calls its ‘Signature Track,’ and five of those offer college credit eligibility – they include Pre-Calculus and Algebra from UC Irvine, Calculus from UPenn, and from Duke one class on genetics and evolution and another on bioelectricity. In the workplace, certificates function as an incentive for employees to complete optional training or skill development courses, because they’ll have something to show for all their work.”
1. MOOCs represent an integration not a substitution of traditional, classroom-based education.
2. They can represent the core of the training process if they are identified with real company needs.
3. The participants’ skills must be tested, just as in any other learning process.
4. They show the willingness of both the company and the employee to improve their skills.
5. They improve company ROI, therefore avoiding the transport and transfer costs of thousands of teachers and employees.
6. They follow a democratic, accessible principle in terms of the timescale and fruition costs.
Together supports innovation, attempting to make the most out of the opportunities provided by digital technologies. It designs and provides applicative solutions and software for remote training, being aware of the importance of making the scope of the training development processes effective and to overcome physical training barriers. It believes in the real improvement brought about by the digital world and in the value of technological progress if supported by an actual paradigm shift which exceeds the simple on-line transposition of classroom dynamics, in the constant desire to concretely design and create innovative solutions.