HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

Should Social MOOCs Be Part of Your T&D?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have started to revolutionize the world of advanced education. MOOCs have turned the traditional model of post-secondary education—involving enrollment at an institution for a typical 4-year term of structured coursework—on its head. And they might do the same for your organization’s T&D.

Engagement Can Be Challenging

MOOCs frequently offer university-caliber education, taught by experts in the field, to anyone with an Internet connection, often for little or no cost. The downside is that the participants aren’t actually physically in the same location as the presenter or even the other students, which can diminish the potential for active participation.  But that isn’t necessarily the case across the board, and even within the revolutionary world of MOOCs, exciting variants can be found.

A Model for Better Engagement

Writing for the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Petra Peeters and Marlo Kengen look at a specific kind of MOOC: the social MOOC. “In a Social MOOC, participants are active and essential contributors,” explain Peeters and Kengen. “Every chunk of content (usually curated and bite-sized) is accompanied by a thought-provoking question. This question is meant to help participants digest the content and to translate it to their own situation. Participants are encouraged to share their answers; research indicates that formulating and sharing answers leads to deeper thinking.”
While the interactive model of social MOOCs offers significant benefits to participants, Peeters and Kengen write that they also require skilled moderation, something that isn’t generally required of the more traditional, passive-participation MOOCs. “In a Social MOOC, unlike other MOOCs, the moderator should practice servant leadership,” they write. “Everything you do should be directed to activate the thinking of participants and to encourage the sharing and appreciation of their insights.”
MOOCs, while still developing in many ways as a medium for education, hold great promise for expanding the reach of corporate education. One drawback of the traditional MOOC format has been its relative incompatibility with active participation. However, social MOOCs—with an effective moderator—can help eliminate that potential shortcoming.
If you’re thinking of using this type of training, one important best practice would be to ensure that moderators are skilled in establishing an environment where interactions will flourish.