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IE Business School Research Shows Companies Are Slow to Embrace MOOCS


In Harvard Business Review, Monika Hamori Details How Employers Can Use MOOCs for Workforce Development.

Over the past ten years, massive open online courses (MOOCs) have gained in both usage and credibility with workers looking to develop their skills.  Yet, employers are slow to apply the online platform to workplace development.  Furthermore, employees are heading to MOOCs because their companies are not offering what they consider adequate training in any format, according to new research from IE Professor Monika Hamori.  In her recent Harvard Business Review article “Can MOOCs Solve Your Training Problem?” (January/February 2018), Hamori writes:

“…more than one-third of 1,481 employed learners—mostly managers and knowledge workers taking online courses—said they had received no training from their organizations in the previous 12 months. Things look even worse if you consider what’s happening in the workforce more broadly. In the United States the proportion of people who received employer-funded training decreased from 21% in 2001 to 15% in 2009 (the most recent data available). And business cycles weren’t to blame: The decline was steeper in boom periods than during recessions.”

Given that workers are increasing using MOOCs to improve or acquire skills on their own time, it would be a natural fit for companies to augment that interest.  Indeed, Hamori writes, some companies, such as AT&T, GE, L’Oréal, and Marks & Spencer, are working with MOOC providers to enhance employee training, and the likes of McKinsey and Microsoft are even producing their own content.  But the majority of companies are simply not making the most of online courses to develop their workforce.

Professor Hamori draws on data of more than 28,000 learners in 127 countries to determine why companies are slow to embrace MOOCs.  The reasons include lack of awareness – they simply didn’t know employees are taking charge of their own development – to rejecting MOOCs as a viable substitute for formal training.  In addition, employers surveyed showed concern that workers would take their new knowledge elsewhere.  However, this is unfounded, as Hamori details:

“About 67% of the employed learners I surveyed said that they would apply their new knowledge and skills in their current jobs or companies (and 27% said they planned to use them exclusively there), but only 5% received financial help from their employers, 8% percent got time off to study, and 4% had the coursework included in their performance evaluations.”

Once organizations recognize the opportunity, how can they begin to leverage MOOCs for workforce development?

Senior leaders should support learning and development efforts more broadly and help to organize the awareness and use of MOOCs within corporate channels.

  • Course vetting should be done by a company’s learning and development departments.
  • Managers, and even peers, can serve as surrogate instructors and MOOC champions.
  • Performance reviews should include MOOC activities.

For more insight, please go to Monika Hamori’s Harvard Business Review article here.