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The truth about MOOCs in Corporate Learning

The truth about MOOCs in Corporate Learning

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I love Moocs. I love the concept of MOOCs, and what they can enable. As promising as the concept sounds, I was disappointed to know completion rates in MOOCs range from 5-15%. My own experience is similar, if just a little better – from the four that I enrolled in the last 24 months, I completed just one ( – a WOW course, highly recommended). For my marketing team, I had strictly given instructions – anyone who wanted an increment had to complete this digital marketing course on Coursera. Unfortunately, only 1 of the 8 member team completed the course.

Off late, I’ve heard a lot about MOOCs in the corporate world. So, I was extremely curious to know more about the how and why of Moocs in the corporate world. This is what I found out:


A Dec 2017 article in Forbes talks about “Coursera Fights To Keep The Promise Of MOOCs Alive With Corporate Customer Push” ( I found the read very interesting. Basically, what it says is that is that:

  • It’s still early days
  • Moocs haven’t done so great in the education sector
  • Now exploring corporates to monetize
  • Coursera has signed up 500 customers
  • Bersin asks

what is unique about their stuff versus everybody else’s?

  • Jake Schwartz, CEO of competitor General Assembly, says that

Coursera’s shift to corporate is more a response to the failures of previous business models than anything else

New Yorker

The second article I found interesting is from The New Yorker ( It’s a little dated, but makes an interesting point –

The problem with  moocs begins with the fact that, as their name says, they’re massive and open, which means that it can be easy to get lost in them. There are tens or even hundreds of thousands of students in some classes. Often, the students receive no personal acknowledgment or contact to hold them to account. And they can generally drop out the second they’re unhappy, frustrated, or overwhelmed. The data suggest, in fact, that the students who succeed in the mooc environment are those who don’t particularly need  moocs in the first place: they are the self-motivated, self-directed, and independent individuals who would push to succeed anywhere.

That got me thinking – if the experience with students was this, how would it change for corporate learners?

MOOC Watch

After these two rather bleak pictures, I found something more cheerful in a very interesting article series called MoocWatch ( #17 in the article series is a summary of Mooc performance in 2017, pegging Udacity revenue at $70mn (up from $26mn), and Coursera close to $100mn. While I couldn’t find the split between student vs corporate revenues, what’s clear is that MOOCs have found some success in the corporate market. Of course, whether that’s a fad that will sustain or not is something to see.

My last bow

My final investigation was to ask corporate L&D leaders about their experiences with MOOCs. That was also revealing, and a little funny too. Note that this is no exhaustive study, just a few conversations:

  • The most popular courses for MOOC sign up and completion are hobby courses (guitar, French, cooking, gardening, etc)
  • Millennials are signing up in hordes and very excited, but completion rates are very low
  • Now here was the interesting part – more seasoned, experienced folks who know exactly what skill they need to further their careers, are signing up and completing relevant courses.

The last point got me thinking about the comment from the New Yorker article “The data suggest, in fact, that the students who succeed in the MOOC environment are those who don’t particularly need MOOCs in the first place: they are the self-motivated, self-directed, and independent individuals who would push to succeed anywhere.”

What have you heard, and what has been your experience with MOOCs?

This article first appeared here [/su_column]


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KNOLSKAPE is a global leader in experiential learning with a mission to help organizations and employees become future ready. Using a large award-winning portfolio of simulations aligned with 100+ competencies and cutting-edge talent intelligence, KNOLSKAPE produces stellar outcomes for more than 375+ organizations across 75 countries. Driven by research and thought leadership, KNOLSKAPE offers its products and solutions in a flexible subscription model powered by omni-channel delivery.

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