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Donald Clark

Wildfire Learning


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MOOCs: Research shows employers love them


To add some weight to the MOOCs and CPD discussion, Donald Clark has turned to some research from Duke University. Read on...
Despite the sneers from a minority of academics, people continue to make and take them. The MOOC phenomenon is clearly driven by demand, and we can now add ‘employer needs’ to that demand.
Positive reactions
Research from Duke University and RTI International, funded by the Gates Foundation, shows that employers are positive about MOOCs for recruitment, hiring and professional development. In ‘The Employer Potential of MOOCs  (A Survey of Human Resource Professionals’ Thinking on MOOCs ) nearly 400 employers were researched from November 2013 and January 2014. Many hadn’t heard of MOOCs but even those who had the idea explained to them for the first time, 57% said they could see themselves using MOOCs for recruitment. When hiring, nearly 75% said they would treat job-related MOOCs positively. This was especially true of businesses, communications organisations and in education. While some were already using MOOCs, 71% could see their organisations using them in the future. This positive reaction was seen across all sectors.
Seven indicators for employers
I can see why, as someone who was an employer for many years, they are seen positively. Taking MOOCs says something about you as a person. What takes them beyond the ‘rite of passage’ degree course are several impressive indicators:
  • Motivated learner
  • Self-starter
  • Organised
  • Perseverance
  • Interested in own personal development
  • Wants relevant knowledge & skills
  • Completer
What came through in the responses was a keen eye, not just for the course but what it indicates about a potential or existing employee.
If [an applicant] is trying to educate themselves, it says something about the individual. [It shows that individual wants] to stay on top of what is going on in their field…
[I] see it as someone who wants to further their education and to do more themselves, to develop themselves (to develop) a higher emotional intelligence.”
I can see people who want to advance, who need to advance their education. We have a tuition reimbursement program but it is limited. If someone thought that they could go online and take a course on something or take classes for certification I think people would really jump on it.”
MOOCs tend to be focused, and practical courses, so the employer gets to see a specific set of skills acquired by the potential employee or employee.
Professional development
Some were already using MOOCs for CPD, and 71% could see their organisations using them in the future.
[MOOCs have been] a great opportunity to provide variety and content to staff ... [We] made our staff aware of those opportunities to tailor learning to different topics they are interested in.
 “We’re always looking for ways and options for team members to engage in ongoing learning to help the business grow. We have a small internal training and [human resources] staff; we’re only going to be able to deliver so much content. We know we’re not going to be the subject matter experts. We’ve encouraged people to have their own exploratory learning experience.
It could be applicable to everyone. Low level support staff [could take] classes on how to be more organised and have better time management...all the way up
It’s early days, and even though many hadn’t heard of MOOCs, when they did, they were impressed. MOOCs solve the sort of problems employers have long complained about on recruitment, hiring and professional development. They are one solution to the crisis of relevance in higher education, where a gap between supply and demand has, for many reasons, led to a loss of faith in the traditional degree course. Massively expensive, one intake a year, fixed location, fixed time courses, are seen by many as anachronistic. MOOCs not only bridge that gap, they provide an ongoing solution to the skills gaps within organisations. All round this win-win–win-win situation for higher education, people looking for work, employers and employee looks set to continue.
This piece was originally published on Donald Clark's blog

Donald Clark was CEO and one of the original founders of Epic Group plc, which established itself as the leading company in the UK online learning market. Donald has 30 years experience in online learning, games, simulations, social media and mobile learning projects and designed, delivered and advised on online learning for many global, public and private organisations

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