Can online courses substitute classroom training in the corporate world?

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You can sit in your cosy living room and learn JavaScript on Codeacademy or take Intro to Physics course on Udacity. You choose the topic, the time and the place – what’s there not to like? Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are great! They are great in the same way as books are great - fantastic collections of information that you can obtain whenever it’s suitable for you. However, they have been criticized a lot because of the low completion rate, which is around 10% on average. It might seem very low, though in many cases an online course is taken just to check out the new possibilities of online learning, without the intention of actually finishing it. On the other hand, there are online courses that have more than 40-50% completion rate. Then again, Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun has admitted, “we have a lousy product“, and now Udacity has taken on corporate training.

Coursera, Udacity and several others grew out of recordings of lectures that some universities shared freely online. University courses have been the focus of online course programs. Instead of a filming from the back of the classroom, videos are purposely designed into small pieces of information and are entwined with tests. Furthermore, the participants can also discuss with their fellow classmates through forums.

Technical skills are more prominent in online education generally. Yet looking how some of the recent topics included The Future Of Storytelling, Foundations of Teaching, and Leadership in Action, then it is clear that MOOCs are not only for programming, computer science, or technical skills.

However, giving away free content is not bringing in any money and online courses for higher education confirmed that. Based on this, it is expected that in order to succeed in corporate training, quite some changes or additions are needed.

So how would a MOOC, for corporate training, look like? Current approaches are:

  • Udacity currently focuses on developing professional IT skills and has projects with ongoing feedback, code review, personal guidance from coaches, and verified certificates.
  • Coursera’s “Specializations” combines different related courses into a longer complete learning experience. For example, Foundations of Teaching for Learning has 8 courses that run for almost a year altogether. Although you can take all the courses separately for free as well, Specializations adds a Verified Certificate and a Capstone Project – an assignment that serves as a way for students to demonstrate the knowledge they have acquired in a Specialization to an applied project.
  • Udemy for Business offers Learning Management System, course creation for internal use, access to existing Udemy content, and analytics to track progress of employees.

Tracking, management, and certifications are all important, however are they enough for corporate needs?

Online courses are a valuable source of content and can be beneficial for many areas. Yet content alone is not enough – it’s lacking live practice, sharing of experiences, real-life social interaction and the charisma of the trainer, which are all important elements of learning, impossible to fake with current technology. Maybe things will change with better video conferencing, virtual reality, or holograms. Although, even then, choice will have to be made between the quality of interaction and massive participation.

All in all, already popular online training will get even more traction, especially with Generation Y, used to consuming digital media, rapidly joining the workforce. Nevertheless we believe that corporate trainers don’t have to worry – classroom training won’t disappear anytime soon. Both forms of education co-exist and complement each other, and they can go forward hand-in-hand in the future.

1 Comment

  1. Lukasz Galecki May 13, 2014 as 9:32 am

    Online courses have already partly substitued classroom training in the corporate world. Most of the huge companies have developed their ilearning platforms ;)

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