How effective are MOOCs for corporate training?

In an effort to cut costs and speed delivery of corporate training, many human resources professionals are recommending the use of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

These date back to about five years ago when some prestigious educators like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford professors started to put their courses online.

Since then, the trend has ballooned. Huge educational companies have embraced this market and offer hundreds of courses covering an extensive range of subjects online. Large companies offering MOOCs include Udemy, Coursera, and UdaCity.

Many of the courses are free and others are low-cost, especially compared to customized training programs from traditional sources. A lot of the courses are delivered through a series of lessons on videos.

MOOCs even offer ways to test participants, grade them and bring higher learning to a level that is accessible to everyone.

It is little wonder that budget-strapped and innovative human resources departments are taking a serious look at MOOCs as a means of helping their employees gather new skills and knowledge.

Besides being easy on the budget, MOOCs are wonderfully flexible. You can select specific courses that are channeled to certain employees to provide them with a menu from which they can select a designated number each year. Or you can encourage employees to grow their skills especially in the areas they find interesting, and offer a pool of money from which they can draw to take courses of their own choosing.

When you are suggesting the courses, it is easier to get employee buy-in since the training can be accessed from the comfort of their own homes and is available 24/7. Whether they are early risers wanting to schedule their learning before work, or they want to study late at night when the children are asleep, employees can customize their own learning schedule.

You can also have training professionals customize new e-learning courses for your staff around the globe and have them delivered with MOOCs. When speed of training is paramount, you can also have large numbers of employees accessing the course simultaneously from many different locations.

It is a very cost-conscious way to deliver training because there are no instructors to pay, no rooms to rent, no travel expenses to cover and no textbooks or printed training materials to buy.

As well, companies who sponsor their employees to study on their own with MOOCs report that their staff is more engaged and more willing to continually enhance their skill sets. It is a democratic way to learn, especially when employees are given some say in which course they will take at what time.

Employees feel more valued and happier when they can see that their employer supports their personal development. Learning with MOOCs provides them with the means to grow professionally and personally and that becomes a defining factor in their decision to stay longer with the firm. With this knowledge comes self-confidence and an increased ability to deal with the challenges of the workplace, and still feel good about things at the end of the day.

MOOCs are also a way to prevent the development of capability gaps, which is that non-productive space between what a job was when the employee started doing it, and what it is morphed into with new challenges and changing technology. Employees who voluntarily keep their skills and knowledge up to date are less apt to fall between the cracks when inevitable changes occur.

Observing employees who take full advantage of MOOCs learning in your organization is also a useful exercise to pinpoint those who are most motivated and ready to tackle new challenges. A number of reporting and tracking systems can keep you informed about which employees are studying which courses, how long it takes them to complete the course successfully and how they stacked up in their results.

Employees who sign up for MOOCs that are not mandatory send a clear message that they are interested in learning and are making an effort to become better at what they do.


Roz Bahrami
Roz Bahrami
Roz Bahrami is a blogger for SkyPrep, an online training software for companies to train employees and measure results. Roz is a regular contributor to blogs related to corporate training, L&D, and HR technology. Visit my personal blog at

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