The MOOC Revolution and Corporate L&D

The New York Times dubbed 2012 ‘The Year of the MOOC,’[i] and it has since become one of the hottest topics in education.

An idea pioneered by the higher education sector in the US, MOOCs take open learning to a new level. There are several providers associated with top universities who are paving the way, such as Udacity, Coursera, and edX.

What is a MOOC?

  • Stands for a Massive Open Online Course
  • An online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the internet
  • Similar to university courses, but do not tend to offer academic credit
  • There are no entry requirements and courses are free
  • MOOCs are delivered via a number of web-based platforms in a wide range of subjects
  • Learners interact with instructors and fellow participants in online forums

Key benefits of MOOCs

Like any form of elearning, a key advantage of MOOCs over traditional classroom-based learning is their convenience. MOOCs offer self-paced learning with interactive instructor and peer support through online social platforms.

Rather than an instructor led class, which may be too fast for some, too slow for others and is finished once the delegates leave the classroom, MOOCs are different. They deliver the majority of learning by giving students access to course materials which they can probe, discuss and debate with fellow students and the instructor.

MOOCs are making high-quality education available to the masses. However, there is concern that they are too open to maintain rigorous standards, or that they may undermine the traditional university qualifications and may replace traditional universities.  There are also questions around whether these platforms’ business models are sustainable given that for now, MOOCs are free.

Professor Andrew Ng, MOOC innovator and co-founder of Coursera has said, “The technology that allows one professor to teach not just one student but 100,000 really changes the economics of higher education”.

So far few MOOCs offer formal qualifications or academic credits so they are unlikely to replace university degrees any time soon However, Professor Ng says that employers are increasingly favouring candidates with completed MOOCs on their CVs.

Not only do MOOCs provide more opportunity for individuals to further their knowledge and skills, making them more attractive in the employment market, there are potentially far reaching benefits in the corporate world.

Like any good elearning programme, MOOCs can free up time, resource and overheads as both instructors and delegates are more in control of when they learn and when they focus on their core job.

In a recent Future Workplace survey[ii], completed by 195 corporate learning and HR professionals, 70% of respondents said they saw opportunities to integrate MOOCs into their own company’s learning programs.

Many organisations draw on third party elearning and enable their employees to learn at their own pace so they concept of online delivery is not new.  To gain traction in corporate learning MOOCs will have to evolve from academia.  They will need to:

  • be workplace relevant, rather than academically focused
  • be available as shorter courses
  • offer leadership and management courses
  • include assessments and certificates relevant to workplace roles

In Britain the pioneer of distance learning, the Open University (OU), is leading a consortium of 21 other universities as well as big cultural players like the British Museum and the British Council to form Futurelearn. The consortium will begin providing MOOCs in the autumn.  FutureLearn claims to be ‘reinventing learning so that you can enjoy free online courses from top universities, whenever and wherever you like.’

Higher education costs are rising fast. Students wary of debt may welcome a cut price alternative to the standard £9,000 a year in tuition fees.[iii] Opening access to good quality educational content may certainly change the way organisations consider skills and knowledge, in both the recruitment process and ongoing development of staff.

It will be interesting to see how MOOCs play out in the next few years in the UK.

Have you participated in the MOOC revolution yet? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


[i] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2013/08/13/how-moocs-will-revolutionize-corporate-learning-development/

[iii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23069542

Posted by Eight Interactive on August 15 2013, 1:48pm