In companies all over the world, learning and development coordinators are gearing up to conduct new employee training sessions and ongoing continuing education initiatives. In the next several years, the coordinator role in these opportunities could change dramatically with the introduction of MOOCs or massive open online courses. These courses provide learners with the opportunity to engage in training programs when and where they want to (although this may not always be the case in a corporate training environment) and ask them to take a more interactive role than in a traditional classroom. Rather than simply listening to a lecture or completing an assignment, learners play the role of student, teacher, and classmate.

These online courses are made up of video lectures, self-paced learning, assignments, group discussion threads, quizzes, and tests. They have defined the start and finish dates, and can be custom-designed for your company or purchased as an out-of-the-box solution, with some even offering official certificates or college credit. This means that MOOCs can meet nearly every training need, from onboarding to leadership training to continuing education. This will be especially true as the online courses continue to grow and expand, so the landscape of corporate learning and development will inevitably change as well.

Why They’re Taking Over

MOOCs are sure to become a major training source for companies for a number of reasons. Most importantly, they are effective. This is because they can be customized to each company’s needs, they require learners to be more involved in the learning and development process, they evaluate learners and allow facilitators to see the results in real-time, so they can address deficiencies on the spot. Additionally, they are incredibly cost-effective, since most out-of-the-box courses are offered for less than $100 per student, a significant decrease from the hundreds or thousands of dollars that traditional online courses, on-site courses, or workshops cost.

What This Means for Corporate Training

Corporate training is sure to change, and, depending on your viewpoint, these changes will be negative or positive. However, even those who see it as a negative can find ways to use it to their advantage. What it will do for corporate learning and development is taking some of the responsibility off the trainer, since he or she can now play the role of overseer. It’s much more hands-off, though there will still be a need for someone who can manage those participating in the course, evaluate their performances, assist those who are falling behind, and identify those who are excelling. This can be seen as an opportunity. For instance, a single trainer can go from training 100 employees to overseeing the training of several times that number.

Some corporate learning and development professionals could see this as a risk to their role since a portion of their duties are no longer needed. However, there will always be a need for someone who can interface with employees directly, think strategically about what works best for them, and determine what the training needs are. It’s true that the value proposition for corporate trainers may change, but it won’t go away. These professionals may need to redefine what their role is in an organization, and possibly even help the organization to see this. But by no means will MOOCs replace learning and development departments as a whole.

This also doesn’t mean that corporate trainers should hesitate to utilize MOOCs. Instead, discover where they can be used to help maximize your time. In the end, I believe that companies will benefit most from a balanced mix of MOOCs and live hands-on training programs. The future of learning and development will change, but it’s up to you and your organization to determine how it will affect you.

Has your company begun to utilize MOOCs? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.


  • Avatar Sam Katalano says:

    In today’s world it’s not enough to have good knowledge of only one thing. In order to succeed in one’s career, it’s necessary to constantly learn new things and become aware of new technologies. Online lessons are a good way of learning something new; besides, they give you the flexibility – you don’t have to be at a certain time at a certain place, and so can plan your time accordingly.

  • Avatar Chris Wyers says:

    I think that corporate training is much more successful than just taking online courses. We spend too much time in front of our computers, and, personally, I wouldn’t like to spend more time watching online lessons. The most important part of learning is to be able to ask questions, to interact with other people, to hear their opinions on different things and have live discussion.

  • Avatar Angelina M. says:

    I agree that a balanced mix of corporate training and online courses will be the most beneficial for the employees. And it all depends on what kind of person you are. Some people learn better on their own, and some people need live interaction for better learning. Besides, with the online learning you have to be very self-organized and have good time management, as there will always be a seduction to skip the lesson.

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