May 20 2013

What Training Professionals Can Learn From ‘Hard Core’ MOOC Students

There’s an article today from the Chronicle of Higher Education: What Professors Can Learn From ‘Hard Core’ MOOC Students¬†that has some applicability that expands beyond the banks of academia and provides some guidance for how corporate training should navigate the world of online training.

The author, Jeffrey R. Young, identifies four tips based on interviews with experienced MOOC participants:

  • Clarity and organization are key.
  • Professors are the stars: “When the students talked about the MOOCs they’ve taken, they usually mentioned the professor first. They sometimes couldn’t remember the name of the university offering the course.”
  • Text still matters: “Since the videos aren’t searchable in most MOOCs, students aren’t sure where in the video to look for a given concept they are reviewing.”
  • Passion matters most:¬†That is, the instructor doesn’t have to be photogenic (despite what you might have been led to believe by the ‘hotness’ rating at The instructor needs to be excited.

These tips that Young points out are helpful for those in the corporate training world as well.

Clarity and organization are key

To someone deeply invested in curriculum development, and as someone who feels that the art and science of instructional design don’t receive the attention they deserve, this is music to my ears. Part of the problem with the value of course design falls on those of us in education, and specifically, those of us to are responsible for course design. As an analyst commented recently, we have not done a good job of articulating our value. In the face of tools that enable the rapid creation of content that looks a lot like training, used by people who may or may not have any sense of how adults learn, having the value of well-designed content affirmed is welcome in any context.

Professors are the stars

This is also becoming true in the corporate training world. There was a time where instructors or support technicians were nameless, with the added expectation that they were interchangeable. This is changing rapidly. With the meteoric rise of social tools for training, certification, and support, the content experts are being elevated – to the point that customers may seek out individuals. This trend will likely have a variety of interesting consequences: from hiring and retention of employees to increased corporate scrutiny of individual social interactions and individual behavior.

Text still matters

This point illustrates that the need for machine-transcription (or low-cost transcription) services is growing, and will continue to grow with the creation of content. Current price points for transcription are around $1 per minute. This is certainly within reach and an easy ROI can be demonstrated for many corporate courses, assuming that the content is relatively static. Of course, there must also be associated infrastructure, either at the LMS or LCMS level to support the search and provide the relevant content.

Passion matters most

Self-explanatory and relevant no matter the instructional context. Moreover, there’s a missing element to the list that likely belongs here: credibility. When I teach train-the-trainer courses, the first lesson is about establishing and then maintaining credibility. I suspect that the passion and credibility are intertwined. Teachers who are truly passionate about their materials tend to know their materials well, because they are, after all, passionate about them.



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