While Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have entered our lexicon, the approach is neither as widespread nor as successful as the hype would lead you to believe. In fact, recent data from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education reveals that MOOCs have few active users, only a minority of students get past the first lesson, and less than four percent complete a course. The data shows that there may have been, at most, a million academic MOOC courses completed over the past five years. Without the promise of credits or diplomas, there's just not enough incentive to get through these courses.

At the same time, digitally-enabled learning has seen rapid adoption by corporations and acceptance by employees worldwide. The Learning Management Systems (LMS) market is well over $2.5 billion and growing at an impressive 21 percent. At Mindflash alone, we deliver more than a million courses each year, with a 93 percent average course completion rate. Why so high? Seventy percent of employees in our 2014 survey who said they'd received training in the past year said it's been helpful to their success on the job. Now that's motivation.

Why are companies leading the revolution in online learning? Because it gives them competitive advantages in speed, cost and business results-- fairly strong motivators for for-profit entities. One timely example: U.S. companies will hire more than 800,000 seasonal workers within the next 60 days for the upcoming holiday season according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Several major players, including UPS, Walmart, Macy's and Amazon, will each add nearly 100,000 temporary employees during this short window. You'd better believe they are all deploying as much training online as they can to ensure that these seasonal workers become quickly versed in their job requirements and in their brand, product or service.

Obviously, with $150 billion in annual spending on corporate training in the U.S., this corporate revolution extends well beyond MOOCs for holiday workers. In a recent Future Workplace survey, 70 percent of the 195 corporate learning and HR professionals surveyed indicated they saw opportunities to integrate MOOCs into their own company's learning programs.

Now, even though universities have not been the most successful adopters of MOOCs, they were the first. And there are lessons from their early experience that companies should heed. Here are the top five:

Accept that content is king. The few university MOOCs achieving double-digit completion rates are tapping leading minds in Ivy-League academia. That's why at Mindflash we're passionate about companies creating proprietary and interactive content with internal Subject Matter Experts. Is Dyson's training on how to sell vacuum cleaners an off-the-shelf curriculum? You bet not.

Flip the workplace. What the "flipped classroom" model has revealed is the powerful impact of intelligently blending live interaction with digitally-enabled learning in student success. So, take your basic onboarding training online--but be sure there is face-to-face coaching when it comes to career planning.

Build in feedback and accountability. Learning should be actionable and measurable on both sides. C-suite executives should know which managers are developing high-engagement, highly-rated courses as well as the correlation between employee course completion rates and productivity gains across the enterprise.

Fully exploit digital and mobile. The successful academic MOOCs take full advantage of the unique capabilities of the digital medium, seamlessly blending video, audio and text content. And leveraging internet, webcam and mobile access to support real-time communication between teachers and students.

Be social. Many academic MOOCs have done a great job of supporting peer-to-peer engagement at scale, a key engagement factor in workplaces where employees can share best practices and learn from their peers. Mindflash customers can integrate their courses with their enterprise social networks like Yammer, for example.

If your company is not already adopting MOOC-style online leaning, here's the last word on how critical it may be: in a recent Mindflash/Harris poll, more than 25 percent of employees--and even unemployed Americans--said they'd be willing to spend up to $1,000 of their own money each year for skills training.

Companies wanting to attract and retain today's training-seeking workers should take a page from academia and create quality, on-demand education. MOOCs work when the student has "skin in the game," but apparently not when there's no "sheepskin" diploma on the line.

Published on: Sep 29, 2014
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