Each summer at Goldman Sachs, we welcome some 2,000 new analysts and associates to the firm from hundreds of colleges and universities around the world. These junior hires arrive at our offices across the globe, with varied backgrounds and training for what their jobs ultimately will entail. They hail from different cultures and educational systems. Some are MBAs versed in finance or business, while others may be coming from a liberal arts or math and sciences undergraduate program.

Traditionally, the way Goldman Sachs--and most other financial firms--have integrated these new hires to our culture and business is to put them all together in a big room and bombard them with information. They hear from our senior leaders. They watch videos about the firm's history and culture. They network with each other and new colleagues from across the firm's regions and divisions.

And then, when the training is over, we send them off into their jobs with their heads filled to the brim.

Technology offers us reach, flexibility and customization to complement this process--and, potentially down the road, other necessary corporate training at Goldman Sachs. With our most recent orientation class, through the help of our partner Udemy, we introduced a new, interactive online curriculum that helped new hires get up and running in their careers before ever stepping foot on one of our campuses.

Massive Open Online Courses--MOOCs--have been around since the late 2000s. As the name suggests, MOOCs offer a new learning model, in which unlimited numbers of students can access materials, interact online with fellow students and instructors and complete courses on a vast range of topics on their own time, in the place--and device--of their choosing.

More recently, MOOC platforms like Udemy are adapting their technology for use in corporate settings. Our Human Capital Management, Legal and Technology Risk professionals worked with Udemy to build a voluntary pilot program we tested with new hires in all of our revenue, technology and operations businesses, called "Jumpstart Your Learning," which allowed new hires to watch short videos, complete practice exercises and assessments and interact with instructors prior to arriving at the firm. Close to 1,000 new joiners visited the platform, where they enrolled in over 4,000 course components and watched 3,000 hours of video content.

The advantages of this new approach are many. Participants can spend time absorbing materials at their own pace, in the comfort of their own homes--or on the go, via tablets or smartphones. From the firm's perspective, we can customize content based on what they already know and measure their progress, as well as the program's impact. And when they finally do arrive on campus for orientation, participants are better prepared, and thus start on a more level playing field.

Recently, I hosted Udemy co-founder Eren Bali for a "fireside chat" in front of a room of Goldman Sachs Tech Risk engineers, to discuss corporate MOOCs and our recent introduction of the technology at the firm. We discussed the challenges that still stand in the way of fully unlocking the more dynamic aspects of MOOCs. For instance, the financial industry faces many compliance requirements that have left us cautious about fully unlocking some functions of traditional MOOCs, such as the ability for learners to interact with peers via a social media-type function while taking the course.

But there was palpable enthusiasm in the room about the possibilities MOOCs offer for a variety of other training opportunities for our people, our clients and other stakeholders.

"Jobs are changing faster than ever before," Eren told us, pointing to the iPhone and Facebook's impact on marketing over the past decade as an example. A more nimble, more dynamic learning platform can help companies more quickly adapt to evolving technologies and industries, at a fraction of the cost of traditional efforts.

The financial industry is no different. Our bankers, traders, salespeople and other professionals are constantly required to learn about new products, regulations and other changes, while continuing to perform at a high level in a demanding industry. MOOCs can help provide these workers with flexibility in their jobs and their lives.

In the meantime, if MOOCs can continue to help orientation-bound new analysts and associates hit the ground running, we're already making progress.

Published on: Dec 17, 2014