Moocs Are About to Shake up the Corporate and Non-Profit World




In just a few years’ time, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have sky rocketed in importance in the higher education world. Now, MOOCs are set to shake up the corporate and non-profit training worlds.

The massive and open courses not only teach people, they bring learners together, provide networking opportunities and get a buzz going.

Moocs Benefit Corporate and Non-Profit Training Strategies

Massive Open Online Courses can be a blessing for corporate and non-profit organizations. They can attract new customer flows and raise awareness, keep volunteers or employees from divergent regions up to date, ensure your experts stay on top of their field, and all the while provide a lean and mean training machine.

There are two main challenges: getting the change supported in-house and integrating a meaningful, durable MOOC system within your existing training strategy.

MOOCs increased the speed of change in higher education, and rattled scholars so much that many of them rethought how they were teaching. These instructors introduced new teaching formats such as the flipped classroom or trusting peer-to-peer learning.

With change happening on all fronts of learning and development—developers, strategists, innovators, teachers, learners and subject experts—MOOCs have become an online training option to be reckoned with.

As teachers, trainers and peers become more accustomed with the potential of MOOCs, a wave of new insights will occur and educational change becomes inevitable for all professional areas.

Three Immediate Options

What can a MOOC do for the corporate and non-profit world? There are three easy-to-implement options:

  • Expert learning. Bring together field experts from around the globe to strengthen the knowledge of your workers.
  • Knowledge marketing. Share knowledge with the wider public to give them a higher level of understanding of your products or goals
  • Professional knowledge strengthening. Provide high quality, peer strengthened learning for workers located in different parts of the country or even the world.

If any of these three options are rolled out, they will enhance the knowledge flow within a company or institution.

Expert Learning

A MOOC is ideal to get a knowledge exchange going between experts. Although many of the top experts in a field might have their own network of trusted peers to learn from (an online learning network), in this vast moving world, every knowledge worker knows the challenges of keeping in touch with what is happening in their field.

Additionally, the constant introduction of new technology—a theory outlined in Moore's law—means that individuals cannot possibly keep up with everything occuring in the knowledge and information cycle. Curated knowledge from trusted experts becomes crucial.

A MOOC can enable experts to share their own latest insights, doubts and reflections. Such a MOOC would probably be closed due to intellectual property or company privacy reasons.

The challenge for this type of MOOC is that most experts must be willing to invest some time in setting up the exchange. In this type of MOOC, the leader rotates, which enables each expert to share his or her knowledge, after which everyone can discuss to get a deeper understanding or to exchange similar experiences and test them out.

This also means that timing is of the essence. No expert will be willing to put in extra hours if they do not get something out of it. Similarly, learning and training leaders can’t ask experts to be learning and debating intensely 52 weeks a year. It’s necessary to designate focused time for optimal learning.

Knowledge Marketing

Any MOOC that is set up to generate internal knowledge and disseminate that knowledge to a wider public falls under this category. Companies can attract new customers by sharing their experiences with their products or services. As this is a customer-facing project, learning and training leaders want to pilot test these knowledge marketing courses to ensure a polished and professional learning environmet.

Let me give you an easy example to illustrate this MOOC option. If you are an online vegetable and fruit delivering company, you can start a cooking course to show what can be done with your produce and rally people to start sharing what they do as well.

This allows you to add extra publicity to your products, and you can even send out gift vouchers to the learners who share the online recipe that attracts the most viewers in a month. In the non-profit sector, these MOOCs could provide people with ideas connected to a group's particular cause or mission.

A great example is the Leadership for Real MOOC offered by the Center for Creative Leadership, an institution ranked as one of the Top 10 providers of executive education by Bloomberg Businessweek and the Financial Times.

Professional Knowledge Strengthening

This option closely resembles the MOOCs we see in higher education. You can set up a MOOC for each new product or service roll out. This short MOOC details what is new in a certain field, what is expected, and how it benefits the end user.

Multi-platform training environments are important here, ensuring access for all devices. Today’s employees are more mobile than ever before, so training options must fit this mobility. The best way to do this is to provide mobile training options.

This means learning strategies need to take into account the way users consume the learning (taking screen size into consideration, bite size chunks of content or longer learning modules, offline and online options). This type of MOOC allows a central trainer to take the lead and share what is new. This could, however, be set up as a collaborative effort, bringing peers together that work on similar topics.

Challenges in Setting up a MOOC

Of course, there are some challenges that learning leaders need to keep in mind while developing new additions to the training environment.

  1. Is the knowledge you will be sharing considered intellectual property? In that case, some disclosures might be in order.
  2. Is there a support for building a sustainable MOOC over time? Will you get time to fine-tune the options, while building on the first pilots?
  3. Are you using learning technology that allows you to add a MOOC-type course?
  4. Can every new member navigate his or her way across the new training environment?
  5. And more than anything else: Is there a knowledge need that can be answered with setting up one or more MOOCs?

All of these considerations will ensure an improved roll out of your first MOOC. No matter what type of MOOC is chosen, by embedding MOOCs in an overall business strategy, you spread out and optimize training. This will help keep everyone afloat in this knowledge era.


Inge de Waard is a PhD candidate at the Open University in the United Kingdom researching self-directed learning processes in ubiquitous MOOCs. She is also the author of the e-book MOOC YourSelf: Set up your own MOOC for Business, Non-Profits, and Informal Communities

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