How MOOCs are used in workplace training

Over the past few months I’ve written about the many benefits of using MOOCs in training programs and made suggestions on how L&D departments can most effectively integrate this new training format. In this article, we take a look at some of the MOOCs developed specifically for training purposes and business audiences, and how some companies are already using these courses as part of their workplace training and development programs.

MOOCs for Business and Training

Some entrepreneurial startups have recently developed training MOOCs. For the time being, these are mainly in the technology areas, but the scope is expanding rapidly. In addition, the major MOOC providers now offer several MOOCs aimed at a business audience.

  • Aquent Gymnasium. Aquent, a staffing agency for the marketing and creative industries, recently launched Aquent Gymnasium, a MOOC provider that offers technology courses for creative professionals. The first course, “Coding for Designers”, is a basic programming course for professional designers to help them collaborate more effectively with software developers. The next two courses offered focus on web design technologies.
  • The Muse. Job site The Muse has been expanded with MOOCs. While the target audience is job seekers, the available courses focus on soft skills that can be used for training, such as ‘Becoming a Networking Master’ and ‘Management 101’.
  • openSAP. Business management software company SAP offers several MOOCs for developers, including “Introduction to Software Development on SAP HANA,” “Introduction to Mobile Solution Development,” and “In-Memory Data Management.”
  • MongoDB. Database company MongoDB offers training MOOCs on its database products.
  • Alliance Open Education. Open Education Alliance is a recently announced collaboration between MOOC provider Udacity and companies such as Google, Autodesk, AT&T and NVidia. The participating companies have each pledged $250,000 to develop MOOCs to bridge the gap between what students learn at traditional universities and the skills employers are looking for. The alliance is also working on an alternative reference system for the free online courses.
  • Academic MOOCs. As part of their ongoing search for a viable business model, Coursera and edX are also catering to the enterprise market. This fall, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School launched its first-year MBA courses on Coursera. All courses are eligible for verified certificates through the Signature Track program. MIT also recently announced a plan to develop an XSeries on supply chain management on the edX platform. Students who complete all three courses earn a verified certificate from MITx. Finally, Stanford’s NovoED platform offers several entrepreneurship MOOCs, including courses on leadership, finance, and decision-making. The Stanford Graduate School of Business launched its first MOOC, “The Finance of Retirement and Pensions,” on the platform this fall.

Examples of how companies use MOOCs

Exactly how many organizations already use MOOCs and MOOC elements in their training and development programs is difficult to say, but we can name a few high-profile examples.

  • McAfee. According to an Forbes report, computer security firm McAfee recently used a MOOC model to solve one of its biggest training problems: The new hire orientation process used to take more than 80 hours, and many employees didn’t complete the process. To address this issue, McAfee has flipped the classroom so that students can access content on their own time and use time in class for discussions and activities. McAfee told Forbes that the change resulted in both reduced training time and increased sales.
  • Yahoo! Yahoo! sponsors its employees to earn verified certificates through Coursera’s Signature Track program. According to Patricia Brogan, the manager of Yahoo!’s Developer Academy, the company partnered with Coursera to encourage employees to continue developing their technical skills so they can apply them to the design and creation of innovative new products.
  • JLT group. Insurance company JLT uses MOOCs as part of the training and development of its employees at various levels. According to an interview with training manager Sunder Ramachandran, the initiative is aimed at meeting the training needs of a diverse, young and changing workforce. To date, JLT employees have participated in Coursera’s ‘Introduction to Public Speaking’, ‘Introduction to Operations Management’ and a number of introductory finance courses. According to Ramachandran, JLT has had “moderate success” with the program and is experimenting with the use of MOOCs in combination with small in-person study groups.
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The use of MOOCs in business and vocational education has advantages on all sides. For MOOC providers, training courses are a potential source of income, while for organizations they are a way to deliver more effective training faster and at a lower cost. With major corporate-funded initiatives like the Open Education Alliance, we can expect to see more MOOCs developed specifically for training purposes in the near future. And as organizations continue to look for new ways to improve their L&D programs, more companies will no doubt choose the MOOC model. For companies looking for new ways to deliver training, engage employees more meaningfully, or offer more flexible and accessible training solutions, now is a great time to try a MOOC.