The first massive open online courses (MOOC) were launched in 2012 by professors at prestigious universities - marking a monumental shift in education. The courses leveraged the newly arrived ubiquity of online video to change the way learning could happen.
Those early classes integrated simple videos of lectures and basic group interaction to allow students to discuss the topics covered and ask questions of each other. The most advanced of these might also include a multiple choice test to determine competency with the material.
Despite high hopes that these free online courses would revolutionize the way people learned, the courses proved to be less successful than their creators might have wished. Students were not engaged by the classes, and many of those who signed up did not even complete them, according to the Association for Talent Development.
Saving the MOOC
The entire concept of the MOOC might have faded into history if not for corporate trainers who saw its value and took the concept for their own ends. These trainers saw the MOOC as a way to disseminate information to a wide variety of people around the world at minimum cost. That ability is the basis of the eLearning revolution currently changing the corporate training landscape. Now 42 percent of governmental agencies use MOOCs to educate their workforce, according to an infographic from Training Zone.
"Ninety-eight percent of companies used some form of eLearning to train their employees."
It's not just governmental workers who are being educated by these online courses. All corporate training has incorporated some elements of the MOOC, now referred to under the umbrella of eLearning. In 2015, 98 percent of companies used some form of eLearning to train their employees, Training Zone noted.
Entrepreneurs have also stepped in to form companies that specialize in creating these massive online courses. These businesses generate courses based on projected training needs of companies, and in turn, corporations can buy access to these courses for their employees as they need to train on specific topics.
Benefits of MOOCs
The advantages of using electronic methods to train employees are myriad. First, they tend to be taught by the very best people in the field. When designing a course, they seek out the biggest name they can to teach it. This means lessons in Photoshop are taught by an employee at Adobe, and ones in search engine optimization are taught by an engineer at Google, ATD reported.
MOOCs are also adaptive. Companies can mix and match the courses they select in order to train only on the specific pieces of information that they need. Many online course providers will actually allow a business to create their own courses as well.
"I think there's a huge future in non-degree credentials that impart practical job skills for the independent, self-directed learner. Credentials can be either 'unbundled' from traditional degrees to meet a particular market or company need, or created anew to meet demands for emerging skills," Sam Herrick CEO of Intrepid Learning, a company that sells these types of courses, told ATD.
These types of courses are much easier to generate than traditional classes. Many MOOCs are broken down into small modules that cover one topic at a time. This means that changing or adding to a course is as simple as designing a few more 10 minute bites, not reconfiguring the entire class from scratch.