Friday, March 7, 2014

From Micro-Learning to Corporate MOOCs

I have recently been exploring micro-learning in some detail. And wrote about it in my previous post. Particularly interesting for me is the relation between micro-learning and learning flows as described by Jane Hart. As an extension, I have also been wondering how micro-learning and learning flows could map to MOOCs.

I see MOOC as a dissemination model that offer a unique opportunity to integrate both—micro-learning and learning flows. It is an approach that – if done right – can integrate all aspects of the Pervasive Learning model – Formal, Informal and Social – popularized by Dan Pontefract in the book, Flat Army. I will discuss this in a later post. In this post, I am going to focus my attention on how micro-learning and learning flows can be an integral part of a MOOC and how this may benefit the corporate world. As is evident, I am referring to xMOOCs here and not the original Connectivist cMOOCs that fired our imagination a few years back. Since then, with the advent of the elite academia into the MOOC world, and platforms like EdX, Coursera and Udacity, we have seen a surge in what has come to be known as xMOOCs—the online, semi-synchronous version of classroom lectures and face-to-face group discussions. And lately this has been morphing into another avatar – the corporate MOOCs. The infographic here indicates that 2014 could well be the year of corporate MOOCs. The infographic further delves into types/use cases for corporate MOOCs, namely: 
  1. On-board new employees
  2. Self-directed development
  3. Build talent pipeline
  4. Workplace and on-the-job training
  5. Brand marketing
  6. Collaboration and innovation
  7. Train channel partners and customers
I will skip the use cases for now and stick to a more generic discussion of how MOOCs can be designed to facilitate workplace performance, just-in-time learning, and collaboration. 

    While many organizations are still hesitant about this MOOC phenomenon and are not quite sure how this will impact their training and performance outcome, some of the bold and brave have tentatively ventured into this realm. With declining training budgets, complex work situations, and an exponentially rising need to be on the cutting edge in their domain, organizations are desperately seeking solutions. Training the way we knew it is no longer working. A distributed workforce, constantly changing ecosystem and automation have put an end to that. However, organizations are not yet ready – and perhaps with good reason – to completely let go of training and let people learn as they work. Training is still seen as a necessity but is in desperate need of a makeover. 

Enter micro-learning, learning flows and MOOCs…
At present, the video lectures that have become such a ubiquitous aspect of xMOOCs represent micro-learning being no more than 15 mins on average in most cases. Now, it is not difficult to imagine a world where the video lectures are replaced by various forms of micro-learning. Refer to the diagram below for some examples.

Click on the image to see an enlarged version


These micro-components could be part of a formal course (so to speak) that an individual could go through – not necessarily in a linear manner although that can always be an option. A learner can dip in and out of a course taking whichever micro-module fits their need at the moment. They can come to the course throughout all the Five Moments of Learning Needs as described by Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher. 

                                              Click on the image to see an enlarged version

The micro-modules should also lend themselves well to mobile access thereby adding convenience, flexibility and learner control.

The learning path through the micro-modules will be unique to each learner and their role, performance needs and prior knowledge, skills and experience. This should ideally be left up to the learner to decide. This takes care of the formal part and organizational need.

There could potentially be learning flows supporting the course – especially the Themed Flow and the Circular Flow that Jane Hart describes. This, IMHO, will offer the following advantages:

  1. Facilitate a social learning experience 
  2. Facilitate capture of tacit knowledge through experience sharing and discussions 
  3. Enable communication within cohorts and connect learners to relevant content and expertise 
  4. Help to add context to the existing content – thus taking care of relevancy
  5. Initiate a “working out aloud” habit where Working out loud = Narrating your work + Observable work
For more on Narrate Your Work and why it matters, here are a couple of posts I recommend you read: 
  1. Dave Winer: Narrate Your Work
  2. Harold Jarche: Narration of Work
However, I digress! Let me get back to the topic in hand. With the formal and social component taken care of through the micro-modules and learning flows respectively, the next big consideration would be the learner – the motivation they feel, the autonomy they perceive and the purpose behind the MOOC. If these aspects are designed into the course, corporate MOOCs could well deliver value for money.

It is perhaps also important to remember that the roles of the L&D team must change to facilitate this shift from linear training – whether ILT or WBT – to a more networked and connected learning model. Trainers will now have to don the hat of facilitators and connectors. Instructional designers will have to think in terms of micro-modules, learning paths and the course as a journey rather than a defined and structured path.

I have created a diagram to represent both the virtual and real world components of MOOC – as we all know what we learn online doesn’t stay online but comes back to the offline world in various forms. Neither world is sacrosanct but is thinly divided, often merging. 

Click on the image to see an enlarged version


And here are some more reasons to invest in corporate MOOCs in this post by Donald Clark: 10 Big Reasons for the Rise of Corporate MOOCs. 

I would love to know your thoughts on corporate MOOCs and what could their efficacy and potential need be.

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