The idea of open online courses appeared as a form of online learning primarily for higher education institutions in the late 1990s, early 2000s. According to Wikipedia, the MOOC concept stems from the open educational resources movement—“freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, educational, assessment and research purposes.” The term itself stands for “massive open online course.” It originated in Canada, in 2008, where an online course given at University of Manitoba—“Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”—was labeled as such by the individuals who were assessing its role in education. The course was taken by 25 tuition-paying students at the University of Manitoba, as well as more than 2,200 non-paying online students from the general public. The course materials as well as the discussions were delivered via a number of social media channels—i.e., RSS feeds, blog posts, and threaded discussions.
MOOCs' Long-Standing Impact on Enterprise Learning
There has been much debate about MOOCs and their relationship with enterprise learning. Many people see the impact of MOOCs on enterprise learning as follows:
Delivering training/learning programs
Enrolling employees in courses for quick skills development
Searching for talent (viewing the top performers in a certain course to promote them into available positions)
Screening job candidates (viewing records, level of participation, etc., of candidates who took certain courses that employers may monitor)
Enterprise Learning Now Impacts Development of MOOCs
While this is an interesting topic, I believe that MOOCs making their way into enterprise leaning was a predictable development. What I find interesting to point out is the reverse: the impact of enterprise learning on MOOCs. That is, how enterprise learning will affect the development and re-purposing of MOOCs. Let me explain.
MOOCs began with the enthusiasm of providing free education to individuals across the world—who for various reasons could not or had limited access to traditional/brick-and-mortar education facilities. Under these auspices, the MOOC technology would have been modeled according to the needs of the learners and instructors involved in taking or delivering MOOCs. This technology consists of content delivery platforms combined with other types of applications such as course enrollment, testing and assessment, collaboration, and social media. These two groups—the learners and the instructors—would have been the main feedback providers for companies developing these platforms.
But now MOOC providers are heading toward enterprise learning, as it represents a better source of revenue, thus changing its initial stakeholders from learner/teacher to employee/employers. What this means is that learning and teaching will not be its main drivers. What will dominate instead will be employees’ and employers’ need to develop certain work-specific skills.
A Word of Caution
I stated in another blog discussing context engines, that I strongly believe that people need working skills and that education should keep up with the job market to a certain extent. However, if education becomes only about shaping thinkers that can perform certain jobs or certain tasks at work, I would like to raise a flag about the future development of MOOCs.
As MOOCs represent an emerging technology/service and it is likely that they will become a strong presence in the learning arena, perhaps allowing debates and negotiations between enterprise learning and educational (K12, higher education, etc.) administrators would result in a better overall product for both parties. Such a product would take valid and necessary qualities folded within education and forward them to the enterprise community. And, vice versa, certain features from enterprise learning can be deemed as useful in our educational systems. Which ones? Well, that remains to be explored.
In the spring of 2014, I will be writing a human capital management (HCM) buyer’s guide (to be available here), where I intend to shed light on MOOCs and their role in human resources and learning, among other topics. Stay tuned for more on this topic.