Corporate MOOCs – What’s my incentive?

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In the past two months, a trend is showing up at am amazing rate – MOOC platforms within a LMS.  For the most part, those that have been adding them, have done so on the education side of the house.  In fact, one vendor offered me an opportunity to create a MOOC and they would stick on their platform – an honor, but not something of interest.

If you think MOOC platforms are just for education – you are in for quite a surprise – they are making an appearance in the corporate platforms too.  A couple of vendors are already in the process of adding them – and if you know this industry – and hopefully you are gaining more knowledge – you would know that the industry screams lemmings – so expect more to come in 2014.  But, I digress.

The question or questions must be why?  Why on the LMS corporate side of the house are MOOC platforms making an appearance?

Here is my take on the matter:

a. Vendors’ corporate current clients are interested in having it, and thus speak loud enough and whalla it shows up

b. Magazine, newspaper and blog articles on the idea that Corporate MOOCs are not only doable but of interest/beneficial

c. The amount of MOOCs out there with masses of humans using it indicates a need for them in corporate world (and I include associations, non-profits, etc.)

d. Since education systems are adding it – it only makes sense for the biz side to follow

e. A belief that the poor completion rates of MOOCs are an aberration which can be solved with them in a biz side LMS

Part 1- Reality

I have discussed in the past regarding the issues of MOOCs and the challenges that await them – at the minimum on the corporate side, but with this new trend, it makes sense to analyze it a bit further.

What’s In it For Me?

Grab a book on training, read a L&D magazine, surf the net on training adults and you will surely read about WIFM (What’s in it for me?).  It is a key component and IMO crucial when creating training/learning for adults, especially in the business setting (again, inc. non-profit, association, etc.).

In all my years of developing training – whether it be via F2F or online, I have found the most success in creating real life scenarios for my learners. Real life means it applies to them – to what they are doing, what they are trying to do and lastly, the real world.

They have to see a benefit, a gain.

Perhaps when they complete X number of courses, they receive a certificate which will move up towards a salary increase.  Or they have it as part of their annual review – on the plus side – a raise, a promotion, etc.

Maybe, they acquire points toward some form of professional or personal certification.  Maybe, they have their own goals and completing the courses work towards achieving those goals/learning objectives.

The point to all this – is they – the learner (you know the person who is receiving the training) see a benefit to it.  Not you, the training director, nor you the L&D director, but the learner.  Something some LMSs constantly miss when it comes to their own systems (an issue for another time).

MOOCs and Corporate

You know I often write in a very lighthearted tone, but there is nothing light or humorous about the premise of putting MOOC platforms, let alone MOOCs into the corporate world, just because they are popular on the web, regardless of the completion rates (reportedly between 5% and 7%).

Once a system goes down the path of adding MOOCs or MOOC platforms, there is no going back.  There is not a “oops” button that can pull it or turn it off.  It is done and that is what is worrisome to me.


Because many vendors on the biz side that will go down this path, do not understand the whole WIFM approach, nor have researched the MOOC phenomenon and its inherent weaknesses. 

What they see and IMO those corporate entities – clients seeking it out – are the high numbers of people taking MOOCs and those newspaper/magazine articles offering validation of them.

The same newspapers and magazines (not all) (and even some blogs) who fail to understand e-learning and its nuances but have no problem presenting it in an interesting fashion to the masses.

Hence the consternation of going down the MOOC platform path on the corporate side.

Countering the arguments

Talk to anyone who is thinking Corporate and MOOCs and they love to counter the current challenges of MOOCs

  • You state the low completion rates – THEY state that it will be higher because it will be in corporate (as if there is some magical wand)
  • You state the current approach that MOOCs use -i.e. synchronous based format, THEY respond with silence or state it will be successful because – again, it is corporate – and oh, SBL will work in corporate (it hasn’t in the past)
  • You state the current flaws in general – THEY respond with surprise as if those flaws will be gone once it shows up on the biz side
  • You state the concerns, THEY listen and either respond professionally or ignore (and they have a right to do so)

Can MOOCs in Corporate Work?

I believe it is possible, but it will depend on a few factors

  • What is the benefit to the learner taking the course – besides the privilege of taking it – there has to be intent of value, otherwise it will not succeed – and I say it in terms of the learner and not the completion rate (which can be higher, with the “do this by X date” or “gaming points”, which should not be way to go)
  • What strategy will the end user (the client) create and implement before using MOOCs on their side of the house – either within a LMS or on their own?
  • What processes and approach has the LMS vendor considered and applied to having the MOOC platform?  I surmise that those who enter will do so because they see the demand in the MOOC current state and ignore everything else.  I mean if they land more clients by having a MOOC platform, many will do it – regardless of its outcome – which BTW will be the client’s fault if it fails.

If success is defined as those who complete the MOOCs by a certain date – which would need to exist – because of the structure of the SBL and MOOCs using syllabuses- the question then must be asked – will the learner really be learning or will they be forced to learn? 

I have always believed that the reason there are major issues in online learning in education is the SBL format, which ironically enough there are LMSs in the education field now offering asynchronous based learning as the format over SBL. 

Another challenge of MOOCs at the corporate side is location.  The whole point of online learning is that you can take it anywhere, at anytime and as often as you want.

 With a MOOC you must follow a linear path – is that really achieving online learning? What if you – the client – decide to have a live presentation and you have learners in other time zones – how is that going to work?

That is why – and it refers back to my earlier point – their has to be a process, a strategy in place before any corporate customer decides to use MOOCs, whether it is via a LMS or some other platform.

And for LMS vendors who are entering the MOOC platform (as a component), just sticking it in there without any cause besides it is popular, shouldn’t be the only reason.

A lesson to be learned – The Facebook Like Implosion

A few years back, remember when everyone was talking about social learning and how awesome it was going to be?  Remember how many vendors decided to create a Facebook like page – because everyone was using Facebook? (oh and some vendors who are now entering the space are still using Facebook like)

How did that work out?

Let’s see:

  • Numerous vendors have tweaked their social pages away from the Facebook look to something slightly different – and in some cases quite different
  • Social learning as a whole has never reached its potential, in fact it has become static – I would argue that the FB like page and similar functionality like FB, along with those lame outdated discussion boards and forums had something to do with it
  • A real failure to understand that if I the learner currently use FB, why in the heck would I want to regularly use a FB like page within a LMS?
  • That having a FB like page is not enough to retain learners – there has to be other things for social to succeed – remember most people in the corporate space (inc. associations) tend to access out of the workplace (excluding hourly or seasonal folks)

Sure there are new trends and successes (to be noted in my report – hey it is plug!), but as a whole social learning has yet to reach its full potential, despite its continued success on the internet.

Which gets back to my initial thoughts on whether or not MOOCs on the Corporate side could work and achieve real success (listed earlier in this article on how it is doable).

Bottom Line

Corporate MOOCs are coming and MOOC platforms in LMSs geared towards business are coming too.

You will repeatedly hear about are the successes. The high completion rates. The increase in sales or X or Y.

LMS vendors who have added MOOC platforms will showcase that information in numerous case studies – because we all love a good case study.

What you won’t hear are those clients/customers who did not succeed, by whatever standards were devised. 

You definitely won’t be reading a case study of a client who had low completion rates.

Because no one wants to read that story.

Which is somewhat identical to the current world of MOOCs.

That is to say – the failures.

E-Learning 24/7


  1. Good article. Simply, the one size fits all approach (MOOC, et.a, Education, Corporate) delivered to the masses still, teaches to the middle and misses everyone else. Solid learning research (how individuals learn, apply and advance sustained performance,long term), routinely gets passed over for the fad of the moment. We continue to jam a square peg in a round hole, hoping for different results, because we are afraid and or blind to better ways.insanity prevals at the expense of bettered learning and long term sustained, advanced performance

  2. So many great insight you have here, there’s so much to learn by reading your opinion on this matter, thanks.

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