How companies can take advantage of the MOOC revolution

The consumerization of employee training.

Udacity, one of the leading online education startups, just raised a further $35 million dollars. Udacity was one of the pioneer of MOOCs, or massively open online courses. But the idea of MOOCs has shifted a bit: The idea originally was of a kind of YouTube for education, where anyone could learn whatever they wanted, and teens in their bedrooms would learn about poststructural philosophy. 

It seems that the future in MOOCs is much more mundane: People want to learn things that will get them jobs. Udacity is pivoting, in partnership with universities and companies, to provide "nanodegrees" on very specific things which will help people get specific jobs.

We talk about the consumerization of enterprise, and we usually think of things like mobile devices and consumer-driven enterprise software, but there is another aspect: the MOOC revolution will, sooner or later, reach the enterprise.

It is already doing so from the outside as companies like Udacity are partnering with big companies to provide training programs that fit those companies' recruiting needs. It's a great idea: companies get a pipeline of qualified applicants for technical jobs that are often hard to fill. 

But there is also a big opportunity inside companies: Training existing employees. 

A lot of the "training" that goes on inside companies is as close to best-practice training as clunky enterprise software is to Facebook and Gmail. In many large companies, people have to go through "training", but it is really an exercise in box-checking -- both metaphorically and literally -- through atrocious software. 

Instead of providing training in-house, what if companies instead provided their employees with credits to use on the biggest MOOC websites? Think of it as the consumerization of employee training. Let employees sign up for the courses that they want to. A lot of them will learn things that are relevant to their job. 

What if they want to learn about pottery in Ancient Greece instead? Well, think about it as an employee perk that makes it easier to recruit and retain employees, two "soft" costs that actually matter quite a bit to the bottom line.

And what if they train on something to get a better job somewhere else? You know the old saw: "What if we train our employees, and they leave?" "But what if we don't, and they stay?"

Of course, not all employee training can be done in this way: A lot of it is too domain-specific, or company-specific. A way a company establishes its culture is through internal training, and it's a factor of competitive advantage.

But that's also a benefit that MOOC credits can give: Maybe if they have access to the best online education software out there, employees will start to demand a better standard for in-house training. And that would actually be a very good thing for their company.

This story, "How companies can take advantage of the MOOC revolution" was originally published by CITEworld.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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