Monday, April 7, 2014

3 Benefits of MOOCs in the Workplace

I believe MOOCs, especially when referred to in the context of the workplace, are increasingly going to become a catch-all term for any online, large scale, learning intervention at the workplace. The MOOC is a dissemination model that has the three components – formal, informal and social – popularized by the Pervasive Learning model and the 70:20:10 built in. While the cMOOC or the Connectivist MOOC started out with the vision of leveraging the power of networks in learning, xMOOCs took the more conventional classroom-learning format and brought it online. From the amalgamation of these two is emerging a new breed of MOOCs—the corporate MOOCs. 
What are likely to be some of the defining features of corporate MOOCs? Honestly, we don’t really know, and all of us are waiting to see the emergence. But I am willing to hazard a few guesses.
1. Corporate MOOCs will be a pathway to social and informal learning into the workplace. 
2. Corporate MOOCs are likely to produce a breed of community managers who will be a cross between enterprise community managers and learning experience designers.
3. Corporate MOOCs – if done right – have the potential to bridge many of the currently existing organizational silos
I have briefly explained each of my points:
A. Corporate MOOCs will be a pathway to social and informal learning into the workplace.
Because of the nature of the MOOC-model, it has built in social collaboration features via forums and chats. For organizations still skeptical of the value of social networking within the workplace, a MOOC-like course with embedded social features may feel like a safer and a more useful option of exploring workplace collaboration. The content of the course(s) can be the trigger for discussions, exchange of opinions, and sharing of knowledge. This helps to keep the course content alive while also capturing the tacit knowledge of the workforce. The focused discussions that take place around specific courses could have some of the following advantages:
i. Facilitating a culture of “working aloud”
ii. Initiating new and emergent practices from the amalgamation of shared experiences
iii. Enabling the learners’ experience to become front and center while keeping the course as a trigger and source of the foundation knowledge required
iv. Beginning the practice of peeragogy (peer-to-peer learning) 
v. Facilitating the building of communities around topics and areas of interest which can potentially become centers of excellence 

B. Corporate MOOCs are likely to produce a breed of community managers who will be a cross between enterprise community managers and learning experience designers.
The communities that are likely to grow around specific courses will require support and facilitation. There are likely to be three kinds of learners in a corporate MOOC:
i. Those who have voluntarily joined the course because the topic interests them and they want to know more
ii. Those who have enrolled because it is a part of their professional development 
iii. Those who are new the organization and the course is a part of their initial training 
For any organization, this can be a dynamic and interesting crucible for not only knowledge sharing but knowledge creation. Thus, it is critically important that organizations – if deciding to embark the MOOC way – also think of the roles that community facilitators will play. Some other questions that organizations may need to consider are:
o Who are the people who can don this mantle?
o What kinds of skills are required – subject matter expertise, social media skills, community facilitation skills, learning experience design creation skills? 

C. Corporate MOOCs – if done right – have the potential to bridge many of the existing organizational silos. 
Given a situation where an organization decides to implement the MOOC-model of disseminating online courses, and keeps all the courses open within the organization, this can lead to a very interesting outcome, IMHO. Potentially, many learners/workers could join courses that are cross-functional, even if it is with an intent to just browse through the modules. Joining the course in MOOC also implies access to discussion threads and forums pertaining to that course. Even lurking on discussion forums outside of one’s immediate teams and functional areas can lead to bridging many of the silos that exist today – especially in distributed organizations. 
But the same could happen even without a course on any enterprise collaboration platform, you may argue. And yes, indeed it can. However, with organizations still unused to open collaboration and interaction, the interaction on such forums are usually low. A course can act as a trigger for discussions amongst participants for whom that course is essential learning and a thriving forum usually draws more participation.
At the moment, what I have written may sound really idealistic and far from reality, but my bet is workplace learning will change. It may not become exactly as envisioned here, but some of these transformations will need to happen for organizations to survive and thrive. 

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