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Last updated: 09.10.13

Calling an LMS a MOOC will only confuse the learner.

Perhaps the Learning Management System (LMS) is not the best of terms to use when seeking to encourage learners to engage with e-learning courses; indeed when we first launched back in 1995 we described our tool as a Training Management System, a phrase still very much in use today. We realised some years ago that even this restricted the vision of what a fully developed training tool could achieve and rebranded our system as "Enable", giving it strong learner focus. In our view the term LMS is possibly guilty of having too much emphasis on management and not enough on learning.

This is reflected in the fact that badly designed, or ‘tired’ LMSs are not overtly friendly or supportive to the learner as they embark upon the learning journey. Indeed, in an earlier blog piece we discussed the "Tired LMS" and the issue it poses.

But what has all of this got to do with MOOCs? There is no doubt that MOOCs and Flipped Classrooms will play a much greater role in education and training, however, my fear is that now organisations will just quickly re-brand their online learning provision into a MOOC and assume that everything will be wonderful; a conclusion I drew from reading a recent piece in Forbes Magazine extolling MOOCs and the Flipped Classrooms in a corporate context.

The Flipped Classroom is interesting. Instead of the teacher or trainer imparting their knowledge in the classroom (think of the trainer “running the 2 day PowerPoint” session) the session is given over to discussion, comment, and the sharing of ideas and information based on the students’ learning that has been undertaken outside of the classroom. By implication some, or all, of this learning comes from online resources. That is the flip: from listening and learning in the classroom, to learning and sharing. Indeed, this sharing of learning can (and does) take place in a professional working environment and not just in the classroom.

To sophisticated training providers this is about providing access to online materials, both pre-course and post-course, something which is firmly embedded in the Virtual College Academy approach to training, but still relatively new to school education systems.

The introduction of MOOCs to corporate training asks some more fundamental questions. Firstly, let us recall what the term MOOC means: Massive Open Online Courses. These are courses typically delivered by Universities through a learning platform onto which any student anywhere in the world can register and then participate, but it is not just large universities: Virtual College has provided free delivery of courses for the past 4 years on the Safe Use of Insulin - vital training that has been attributed to helping save lives. Learners can study content collated by noted academics from leading institutions quite openly and, at present, freely (though this element is likely to be subject to change!).

We are now seeing large companies using MOOCs to reach out to the market and provide specific skills programmes – the software giant SAP is an example of this trend in providing software development courses. I have no doubt that other organisations will quickly move in this direction, for example Microsoft and Google will wish to educate software programmers how to use their tools and operating systems. Remember the success of Microsoft was partially based on its ability to embed its Windows and Office system firmly in education. Now Apple and Google are competing and MOOCs and Cloud-based learning platforms will become areas of competition, as well as learning.

So, it will be quite legitimate to introduce MOOC components into the workplace learning mix, but it is beyond the abilities of many organisations, in my view, to create their own MOOC, and not sensible to simply re-invent a 'Tired LMS' as a MOOC, because learners will soon find out and see that little has actually changed. So what should you do?

Since Virtual College was established we have seen many a Corporate University initiative and e-University come and go. We recall the levels of hype and monies spent by large organisations creating environments in Second Life which was not that long ago in a frenzied hype cycle. A MOOC may be a wonderful way for an organisation to reach out to communities it seeks to engage with, but it may not be the right environment for tightly focused corporate learning. A MOOC could be carefully introduced and used in your organisation to play a specific role.

If some form of re-energising your online learning presence is required, you may find yourself discussing MOOCs with the MD who has read about them in Forbes or The Economist recently and you are not quite sure where to start and what to do, come and talk to us as we can help.

Virtual College has been delivering massive amounts of learners through our online courses for many years and our courses are open to who you want them to be open to.

We can share our experience of what works in online learning (see our earlier Blog on what MOOCs can learn from the corporate LMS Market) and how to make it work, brand it and market it for your organisation so learners feel excited and empowered to sign up for online courses.