Enter MOOCs – Leveraging Innovation in Learning

shutterstock_84395047MOOCs.  For anyone involved in learning and development, whether in the academic or corporate realm, the explosive growth of these Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) should be attracting much discussion and considerable excitement.

Imagine this…in your organization, you’ve been focused on finding ways to provide high-quality, highly interactive leadership development for years.  What’s been the most common hurdle to accomplishing this?  Of course, it’s typically the cost.  After all, to send your leaders to the best programs in the leading educational institutions can cost upwards of five figures, and that’s often just for one course!  Or, you can find less expensive options, but the value (measured in both learner engagement and applied knowledge gained) is frequently negligible.

Enter MOOCs….

I’m frequently brought into an organization under the pretense that there exists a recognized need to revamp a leadership development program, a knowledge management approach, or to help the leaders gain new perspectives on a particular business problem.  What I often find is most often a training department characterized by low-level, canned “soft skill” programs that pulled off the shelf by similarly low-level “trainers” once a year and paraded through the organization.  And they wonder why little changes?

It’s tough to manage training programs.  I know.  I did it for years, often searching out innovative (and too often free) ways to both develop and engage emerging leaders and executives.  In fact, I built and ran a very comprehensive and effective multi-tiered leadership development program for a mid-sized insurance company for several years on a whopping annual budget of $0.  It was incredibly challenging to do so (but also incredibly rewarding to see it all work!).

Enter MOOCs….

Yep, suddenly free isn’t such a bad thing.  What I mean is that with the surge in MOOCs, it’s becoming possible for organizations to gain access to hundreds of very high quality educational programs for NOTHING!

success-vs-failureBe warned, however….if you think simply having your leaders watch a bunch of MIT, Harvard, or Stanford lectures on management, leadership, economics, or whatever the topic will suffice, you’ll miss the boat again!  Nope, MOOCs simply provide the knowledge content around which you can then create and sustain incredibly interactive and dynamic learning environments.

Let’s look at what that could mean….

Imagine you’re looking to create a development program centered around the topic of change leadership.  Understanding that an androgogical learning environment, i.e., a learner-center, not a instructor-centered model would be most effective, you’re undertake a multiplexed approach:

  1. Determine what behavioral outcomes you’re seeking in your leaders (more than likely having an independent third party do this is the best way to avoid sidestepping “elephants in the room.”).
  2. Create a learning framework that includes applied exercises, reflective learning opportunities, and interactive discussions.
  3. Locate and utilize the content available through MOOCs for the initial transfer of knowledge.
  4. Implement applied exercises, facilitated discussions, and in-depth analysis of participant experiences.
  5. Analyze the impact of training, NOT simply mere satisfaction with the learning process (although that is also important, in that it provides for engaged learners).

What MOOCs allow you to do is to leverage true experts in the field (an in the academic/research realm) as the cornerstone of development opportunities that go beyond simply the asynchronous interactions typical of most current MOOCs.

moocs_small_0Organizations that grasp this concept the quickest will position themselves to be innovators in learning and developing their workforces and their leadership corps.  MOOCs aren’t simply about higher education.  Understand that and leverage them for all they have to offer your organization!  Look anywhere and MOOCs are trending….are you?

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