MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are becoming increasingly popular amongst both undergraduates and graduates as a way of boosting their knowledge in specific areas that may, or may not, be directly related to their chosen career paths.

Now a leading academic at the Institute of Education has suggested that MOOCs could be perfectly placed to support employees in their Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
“MOOCs are far better used for professional development – their design suits those wanting to update or upgrade their skills, while the involvement of conversations and online collaboration makes them informal and engaging,” says Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at the Institute of Education, University of London.
She argues that MOOCs offer professionals the opportunity to develop their competencies in a range of areas, in a context that is outside of formal learning. MOOCs, she points out, are more likely to pique worker’s interest as they give them the opportunity to pick and choose between a ranges of flexible courses.
MOOCs – few business courses available
Despite MOOC’s suitability for CPD, it is important to note that business courses do not make up a large share of courses offered by key providers.
As an example Harvard’s popular edX offers 94 courses from 29 institutions, but just 13 of these are business-focused. However, MOOCs for business received a welcome boost in July thanks to the launch of the ‘Managing your People: Engaging your Workforce’ course from Henley Business School.
Run by Martin Bicknell, Director of Studies in Leadership, Organisations and Business, Bicknell expressed surprise at the low number of Management MOOCs. He says: “We were surprised by how few MOOCs existed in the management space, and as a business school feel we have a social responsibility to help create better managers for those who can’t afford to send their whole company on learning, but who want to give them development.”
Firms will need to take into account MOOC dropout rates
While sharing the idea that MOOCs could help support career development, Professor Neil Morris, Director of Digital Learning at the University of Leeds, also cautioned employers to factor in dropout rates.
“There’s a huge opportunity for MOOCs in personal development, but the challenge for HR is to move away from seeing drop-out rates as indicators of failure, and instead, to looking at participation rates as indicators of success,” he said.
“Short courses we do, reveal around 50 per cent engagement and 25 per cent completion, but just as important is the value learners say they get. People can dip in and out and still learn lots, but they would traditionally be classed as dropouts.”