Moocs - 2013 September 26

MOOCs—massive open online courses—have shaken up the higher education world in the past few years.

Essentially, a MOOC is a free online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings and problem sets, MOOCs often include interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors and teaching assistants.

The concept of MOOCs has been around for decades, but Dave Cormier is credited with coining the term “MOOC” to describe the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course delivered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2008. Over 2000 people around the world participated in this course online, for free.

The top MOOC platforms today include:

These platforms collectively have dozens of university partners and millions of users, but little revenue. Furthermore, of the around 20,000 learners who register for a MOOC, only about 5-10 percent of that number ever reach the end point of a class.

As Fast Company notes, “The fact that lectures from the world’s top professors are now a commodity available over the Internet for free is shaking up higher education from top to bottom, but the ultimate purpose is still hazy: Are MOOCs best viewed as a supplement for traditional college students, continuing education credits for adult learners, or a full degree program for learners in the developing world?”

The ability of MOOCs to provide educational access to all continues to generate significant interest. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman described them as an educational “revolution”; The Washington Post praised them as a way to provide “elite education for the masses.” Many businesses see MOOCs as an opportunity to bridge the skills gap between workers and employers and bolster corporate training efforts.

There’s been a lot of talk about the effect MOOCs will have on the e-Learning industry. “It will be transformational,” said Josh Bersin, chief executive officer of his eponymous consulting firm, in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. Pat Galagan, editor-at-large for the American Society for Training & Development, also believes in the power of MOOCs for training: “The possibilities seem tremendous, just thinking about it and what I know about the industry.”

The blending of corporate training and MOOCs could lead to employees receiving certification for on-the-job training. A corporate-sponsored, MOOC-like learning program associated with a brand-name educational institution would provide employees with corporate training that carries weight outside of their organization. Walter Shill, global senior director for Accenture’s management consulting practice, believes that the day is coming when certification from MOOCs or MOOC-like training is listed—and respected—on résumés.

Companies may want to consider offering their own MOOC courses as a recruiting tool to attract the best candidates with the most potential. With a powerful learning management system like CourseMill®, and a robust e-Learning authoring tool like Lectora® Inspire, your organization can get started creating your own MOOC today. And then you can be at the forefront of this exciting trend!

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Stephanie Ivec graduated from Creighton University with a bachelor’s degree in Advertising. When she’s not writing about e-Learning, Stephanie can be found perfecting cheesecake recipes and going to zumba or dance class.