Are MOOC’s really the next big thing?

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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.


Founder of Zostera Ltd and The Trainers CPD Club. I've worked in L&D for over 16 years across both the public and private sectors.

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