Published on 2012/09/21

The Potential for MOOCs in the Training and Development World

Chris Farrell wrote in Bloomberg Businessweek that the Massive Open Online Course wave was rolling up on the shores of the corporate training and development world.

Looking back over the past few decades, he points out that the solution to the corporate world’s griping about the under-preparedness of employees has been K-12 and higher education reforms. However, Farrell points out, more attention should focused on expanding workplace training and learning.

Using statistics from the recent recession, Farrell indicates that employers are not doing enough to support employee learning and development; noting that only 21 percent of respondents to a 2011 survey by Accenture said they had developed additional skills through company-provided corporate training since 2006.

Farrell quotes Peter Capelli, the author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs and the director of the Wharton Center for Human Resources;

“A huge part of the so-called skills gap actually springs from the weak employer efforts to promote international training for their current employees or future hires,” Capelli wrote.

As MOOCs begin to grow, Farrell writes, more should be done to investigate how they could impact employee skill development and lifelong learning at work.

“It will be transformational,” Josh Bersin, chief executive officer of Bersin and Associates, told Farrell.

While early iterations of online learning, adopted by employers in the mid-to-late 1990s, were dry, Farrell writes that the advances in technology allow for more innovative, exciting and appealing programming today. Their popularity is certainly indicated by the millions of individuals worldwide who have enrolled in a MOOC over the past few years.

“The technology wasn’t reliable enough a decade ago,” Peter McAteer, former chief executive officer of CorpU, told Farrell. “It has now come of age and it allows for a variety of price points.”

Especially given the fear from employers that paying for employee development will simply lead that employee to find a better-paying job with another company, Farrell writes that the free aspect of MOOCs is appealing. This will allow companies to better embrace the idea that they are offering employees the opportunity to manage their careers, rather than immediately improve their job performance.

Farrell also writes that moving to MOOCs would allow training and development providers to step away from the accreditation problem that they have been hounded with. This is not the same accreditation problem facing higher education institutions when it comes to MOOCs—in terms of whether course completion should translate into credits that count towards degrees. In the training and development world, there are questions as to whether a certificate of completion earned from a training program in one state will help an employee’s job search in any other state. MOOCs, Farrell writes, allows training and development providers the opportunity to transcend that problem by focusing on the expertise of the institution delivering the MOOC.

With the need for educated workers growing, Farrell writes that the model of low-cost, high-quality education offered by MOOCs could transform corporate training and allow lifelong learning to become a reality for more people.

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Readers Comments

dthomas 2013/10/10 at 1:13 pm

I’m glad that more people are addressing the issue that it’s not a lack of skilled employees that is holding companies back, it is a lack of willingness on the part of hiring companies to do any sort of on-the-job training that’s at the heart of the issue.

It used to be that students graduated with solid basic skills and the ability to learn, then honed specific skills from company training. Of course, employees used to more loyal to their employers and benefited from staying with a company longer.

Once the “employees who don’t move up the ladder by jumping jobs are lazy” mentality came into vogue, employers stopped investing in training entry-level employees and now we are in the spot that we are in.

I think MOOCs are a great way for people to learn new skills. I have used them myself for that purpose which has led me to my new position at . For a great database of MOOCs, please check out our MOOCAdvisor website at

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