Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs – seem to be all the rage. And why not, when learning is just a click away?
MOOCs are online classes that are available to anyone with a computer and/or Internet access. Some MOOCs are free, but others aren’t. It’s a bit confusing as MOOCs are still trying to find their place among social media, 24-7 access to news and a society that thrives on convenience.
It seems higher education has embraced MOOCs as a way to foster global education, but what about other industries?
According to Online-PhD-Programs.org, 4.7 million people participate in MOOCs through Coursera. But only 8 to 10 percent of those enrolled actually complete the class. So is it worth it?
It’s a constant source of debate, which may explain why associations have been reluctant to enter the MOOC market.
Tagoras recently released a whitepaper on fringe trends, and MOOCs were included in the report. “Fringe” refers to the fact that based on Tagoras’ research, only 10 percent of participants have adopted burgeoning trends.
“MOOCs aren’t just disrupting how training is delivered; they are changing how companies interact with their employees and others on a much grander scale,” said Bryant Nielsen, founder of corporate training firm Your Training Edge.
Throughout the last few weeks, Nielsen has written about 13 megatrends of MOOCs. Perhaps most relevant to associations is lifelong learning.
“One of the biggest impacts MOOCs have had is to make education available to people of all ages,” Nielsen said. “As a result, lifelong learning has become one of the biggest trends in recent years: In their spare time, people who once might have flipped on the television are now booting up their computers to learn and accessing learning resources on their mobile devices whenever they have a few minutes of downtime. Companies can capitalize on this lifelong learning trend both by offering engaging courses to the public and by recognizing their employees’ independent learning endeavors.”
But how does an association know if a MOOC is a right fit?
The key is to decide what it wants to accomplish, Tagoras says.
The massive nature of MOOCs makes them incredible marketing tools. A MOOC can establish an association as an expert in a topic or field, while also turning curious learners into members. But a word of caution: As with anything new, there’s risk. Associations are often leery about giving away their content for free, but that’s the name of the game when it comes to MOOCs.
The key to creating successful MOOCs, according to Tagoras, is to make content general – to appeal to the masses. While it’s a good idea to showcase your best experts, a MOOC may not be the best option for a specific professional development topic.
In addition, MOOCs probably aren’t going to generate revenue, at least not at first. So it’s best to think of a MOOC as a long-term investment. Rather than making money, an association can build upon a brand while creating ambassadors, who will eventually help recruit members.
Finally, associations need to remember that completion of a MOOC isn’t a sign of its success, Tagoras says. Instead, associations should focus on the takeaways participants get from a MOOC and on the importance of educating the masses.
“While only 6.6 percent of respondents offer MOOCs and only 4.6 percent more plan to begin offering MOOCs in the next year, according to the survey behind our 2014 Association Learning + Technology report, we’re excited about the massive models enabled by MOOCs and expect more associations to embrace it in the coming years, as they realize the ready-built audience of their profession or industry could benefit from a MOOC offering,” Tagoras says.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to MOOCs. You’ll continue to hear about them as more people embrace online learning, and as such, I’ll be doing a couple follow-up posts.
So if your organization offers a MOOC, please contact me. Or if you’re an expert on the subject, please reach out. Have you ever participated in a MOOC? Tell us about it.