The MOOC — massive open online course — marketplace is one of the most disruptive, confusing and potentially transformational changes taking place in corporate training. Now that we are a few years into it, I’d like to discuss what’s going on and how learning leaders should deal with the changes.
Initially viewed as branded university content — MIT, Harvard and Stanford were among the pioneers — now MOOC content and concepts are being applied to online learning in almost every domain. Today there are three segments of the MOOC marketplace.
Content providers: Organizations like Udacity, EdX, NovoEd, eCornell, Khan Academy and universities have banded together to develop content. These organizations provide courses, assessments, platforms and online experiences to deliver a compelling learning experience. Each has slightly different platforms and offerings. Udacity, for example, now specializes in technical education and certification. NovoEd specializes in business curricula.
More and more of these organizations offer open enrollment fee-based courses, which you can offer to employees in bulk. The business model for many is “free course” with a fee associated with accreditation, but more now offer traditional fee-for-course models. Since many of these courses are authored by universities and well-known authors, the content is typically high-quality, but it is often long and uses “flipped learning.” The term used to be called “blended learning” and simply means you do self-study before attending a lecture.
Some vendors, Udemy in particular — which adds almost 1,000 courses per month — and OpenSesame, have built tools and marketplaces for self-authored content. While companies like Lynda.com and most courseware providers continue to sell “all you can eat” training licenses, more high-quality content is appearing in MOOC platforms. These content providers tend to fall into two groups: academic and skills-based.
Technology providers: Many LMS companies, including new vendors like Intrepid, Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn and even SAP, sell open platforms that host MOOC content. Most have authoring systems. The value of these platforms is they extend your corporate LMS and let your team build its own content for internal distribution. One of the biggest impacts MOOCs are having is not only availability of content, but also a new excitement about marketplaces for experts in all fields of business to build and sell content.
In the early 2000s, when I was in the original e-learning market, companies like DigitalThink and Smartforce pioneered fee-based online learning. Today this market is enormous, and there are thousands of companies and individuals building great new content. In some ways even YouTube could be considered a MOOC platform. Content is not tracked or easy to buy, but there are thousands of instructional videos available, and you can easily link them to your LMS. Another interesting provider is Degreed.com, which provides a database of accreditation for people who take courses in these heterogeneous systems.
MOOC directories and consultants: As with any new market, lots of bloggers and consultants are setting themselves up as curators and directories for MOOC content. These include OpenSesame, MOOC Research and dozens of others. It will be nearly impossible to keep up with all the new products, so more corporate learning conferences now feature talks about MOOC offerings and how they play.
While this marketplace has the potential to transform corporate learning, providers have been slow to directly serve the corporate market. With the exception of technology providers and marketplaces like Udemy, most publishers focus on individuals and are just starting to build corporate products and corporate sales teams.
While the number of transformation success stories is still limited, more corporate learning teams tell me they are experimenting with MOOCs and offering MOOC courses to their employees. Companies like Udacity are setting the stage with new forms of accreditation, and the trend is clear: more content, lower cost and greater integration with corporate learning technology every day.
Once a market to monitor, today every major company should have a MOOC strategy. You should decide what content you want to offer, how you will deliver it and how you will leverage MOOC technology for internal content development. Our job as learning leaders is to make online learning useful, productive and integrated for our employees and customers.