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OPINION


chairman, Learning and Performance Institute @DonaldHTaylor


Donald H Taylor T


he Gartner Hype Cycle is familiar to anyone who works in technology. It describes


how, from an initial trigger, fascina- tion with a new technology soars to a Peak of Inflated Expectations before crashing into the Trough of Disillu- sionment. Some technologies then slowly climb out of this trough to reach the Plateau of Productivity. Currently, the main incumbent


of the Trough seems to be Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Five years ago, commercial MOOCs


were the darling of the media. A wave of hefty venture capital funding, combined with stratospheric student numbers, put organisations like Cour- sera, Udemy and edX in the spotlight. In my 2014 L&D Global Sentiment


Survey, MOOCs ranked as the fourth hottest development in L&D. But then the reaction set in. Participation in these largely university-led courses might have been high, but completion rates were low, often in the single figures. Workplace L&D turned its back


on this free/low-cost resource. By this year’s survey, MOOCs had dropped to the bottom of 16 choices. MOOCs were decidedly not hot any more. But while L&D’s attention had


moved on, MOOCs were quietly expanding and growing up. Te main providers were tweaking their models, boosting completion rates, offering a range of different lengths and outcomes, partnering with industry and seeing continued expansion of student numbers. Te approach seems to have worked: in 2015 the number of people globally who had taken a single MOOC doubled to over 35 million. Come January 2017, Te Economist was devoting two pages to them under the title ‘Te return of the MOOC’. So, if MOOCs are so popular, why


the lack of interest from L&D? In conversation with practitioners world- wide, three reasons emerge: they are


www.trainingjournal.com


Don Taylor urges L&D to get into step with learners and start bringing MOOCs to their learning mix


seen as difficult and time-consuming to fit into the organisational curriculum; many are perceived as poor quality, with little real student engagement, and it is apparently difficult to track their impact. Yet, I have also talked with L&D


practitioners who are using main- stream MOOCs (or running their own) very effectively, and to partic- ipants who are wildly enthusiastic about those they have attended. Whatever practitioners in our


field may think – positive or negative – MOOCs are increasingly popular among the general population. Tat puts L&D in a dilemma. It can continue to ignore MOOCs, even as growing numbers of employees choose to attend them, but the result will be that L&D is seen to distance itself from peo- ple’s own choice of learning, with the further effect that the L&D department is seen as bound to a restrictive curriculum. Tere is an alternative: to


find some way to put these resources to use. Tis need not be done alone – L&D profes- sionals can work together to, at the very least, find the best courses and make employees aware of them. Tis way, at least L&D is seen as being in tune with how many people choose to learn today. However L&D choos-


es to react to MOOCs, ignoring them will serve employees badly and paint the profession in a danger- ously negative light.


Donald H Taylor is a 25-year veteran of the learning, skills and human capital industries, with experience at every level from design and delivery to chairman of the board. He blogs at DonaldHTaylor @DonaldHTaylor


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