Are MOOC's really the next big thing?

Learning Consultant & Coach
Zostera Ltd
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I like the idea of MOOC's, I really do  - even to the point that I started to set one up using Moodle in my last employed post before I even really knew what a MOOC was!  But I'm just not convinced that they are going to be the next big 'thing' in L&D in the future.

Consequently, I was really interested to read that Coursera has started to offer Learning Hubs around the world (read about it here:  This is one of the ways that Coursera are trying to tackle the high volume of learners who sign up to their MOOC's but who don't complete the courses - an issue which currently plagues all MOOC providers.

On the one hand this new dimension might actually be what is needed to make the MOOC's fulfull their potential but on the other hand, isn't that just another form of classroom learning, and isn't that what L&D have been trying to get away from (potentially for the wrong reasons) for years?

The BBC also posted an interesting article about the Alison Project (read about it here:  If you haven't heard about Alison before, this is an Irish based online learning platform which offers vocational skills training (unlike most of the other current MOOC providers).

I first heard about Alison around 6-months ago and in theory think it sounds great - individuals can update or develop their own skill set to improve their abilities, performance and job prospects. for free.  What's not to be positive about?

Then I think back to some of my own experiences over the years within the L&D function and wonder how if we're really able to make the changes required to reap the benefits of MOOC's , even as they stand at the moment.

One of the big challenges of using MOOC's to develop vocational skills is whether or not organisations will accept them as a qualification of quality or whether they will still want to provide their own soft skill training to employees to ensure it's tailored as they need it.  And if organisations want to provide more tailored learning in a MOOC style environment, then it's not really a MOOC anymore and it would only be free to employees.

What do you think?  Do you think your organisation is likely to build currently available MOOC's into their L&D offering for employees or are they more likely to want to develop something that is tailored to them?  And how much of this is within the power of the L&D teams to determine?

I guess as with many things, it's a case of waiting and seeing - the format and style of course is new and everyone, including the course providers, are learning as they go.  There is definitely something in this format of learning, we just need to pull together all of the good things and use them to their best advantage.

About Fiona15

I help Trainers maintain and develop their skills to ensure they are always providing the best learning solutions to their delegates. 

I’ve specialised in Learning and Development for over 16 years now and during that time I’ve had the pleasure of working across many industries in both the public and private sectors.  I’ve developed, designed a wide range of learning solutions which have been delivered to a very diverse range of delegates (including Senior Managers, Admin Staff, Supervisors, NHS Consultants, Finance Professionals, Scientists, Customer Facing Personnel and IT Specialists).


Throughout my career I noticed that often people with expert knowledge would be asked to teach others without any development or support in how to actually do about this.  Whereas those of us who have lots of experience in learning and development often became like cobblers children and weren't actually able to continually develop our own skills and knowledge.

So when I got the chance to take voluntary severance following the birth of my second child, I grabbed the chance and founded The Trainers CPD Club (delivered through my own training business Zostera Ltd) to provide accredited CPD for trainers and facilitators in a flexible and cost-effective way.  We focus on a different topic each month, with content being delivered online in small bite-sized chunks, allowing members to work through the material at a pace that suits them.

Members of the Club also get full membership to The Material Bank, Zostera's bank of ready-to-run training material.





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04th Nov 2013 12:27

MOOC's are not the final product, they just over a year old so I think it will take say another 5 years or so before they evolve into a stable configuration. But MOOC's are already happening, teachers use them for skills updating. I use them to direct follow on study and the principles will be used more and more in learning such as flipping the course, crowd assessment etc.

The post also assumes that learners experience in a conventional class situation is complete, engaging etc which I don't think is the case. Learners using MOOC's can access at a time of their choosing, complete at their own pace but still get support and social contact if that is desired.

The financial imperative of MOOC's is a huge motivator. In short MOOC's are here to stay the challenge is how we get the best out of them in a blended learning approach.

Thanks (0)
By Fiona15
04th Nov 2013 20:55


Many thanks for your comment and for taking the time to read the post.

You are absolutely right, MOOC's are already happening, as I mentioned I implemented one in my last employed post, which was well over a year ago. 

I guess my wonderings with MOOC's were not so much whether they had mileage as a learning solution, they clearly do, but whether they will really be as huge as they are predicted to be whilst still retaining some of the core components (i.e. being free for the learner, being virtually delivered and being delivered on mass).

it will absolutely be an interesting journey to watch.



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04th Nov 2013 21:44

Hi Fiona

Just taking a break from my MOOC to write! I agree, I think a big driver will be the lack of opportunity to take part in Education (higher or vocational) and access to subject matter restricted or not taught in parts of the world, learners will pour in because of the lack of access to alternatives. In our developed world learners have other choices so may be more ambivalent about the MOOC's and even other learning options.

The betrayal of young people by effectively limiting higher education access to the wealthy or middle classes because of high fees will mean that  some sections of society in the developed world will also be reliant on MOOC's. It may be a bit fanciful but there could be a return to the Mechanic's Institutes of old but in an electronic form, that would be a sight to behold.


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By Fiona15
06th Nov 2013 15:18

Hi Colin,

I think you make an really interesting point about the attitudes of some people towards learning in developed parts of the world - I think this will/does effect the success of MOOCs or other similar method of delivery as they require people to have a high level of self-motivation, determination and an ability to be self-directed in mane cases.

I think you are spot on when you say that MOOC's can open opportunities for education to grousp which are currently not able to participate (for a number of reasons). 

Your post reminded me of this article which I read a number of weeks ago and I thought it might be of interest to you.  You may have already seen it, but I think it raises some valid concerns regarding MOOC's.


I'd be interested to hear what you think,


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06th Nov 2013 17:57

Hi Fiona

Interesting articule, i think the point made are sound enugh but does not invalidate the potentiality of MOOC's particularly in the developing world. Patchy internet access is still better than no access to bricks and mortar learning establishments. Some people are still excluded from education but access is widening if only to promote the profits of telecoms and computer companies. This trend will in genral continue.

It would be interesting to read this conversation in 5 years time. Ultimately I think a validation process will be important as will the need to use specialist equipment so 'MOOC centre's' will evolve. IN any event I always advise clients to ignore most qualifications and to test for key competencies and assess attitude this approach rather negates the need for formal qualifications for many jobs.

Best regards


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