Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have become an integral part of university education. However, in companies, Small Private Online Courses (SPOC) create an interesting and efficient form of learning -conveying formal learning content and enabling continuous and collaborative learning at the workplace.
Digital learning is becoming increasingly important. While a few years ago it was almost exotic to supplement classroom training with web-based learning formats, today it is almost inconceivable to design learning processes without digital learning formats. Companies, training institutions and associations are working on digital learning strategies. Digital learning will radically change learning and training processes and all related business models and value chains.
This development is also becoming apparent throughout universities. As early as the late 1990s, several innovative universities started to record lectures in the lecture hall and published them via various channels. This laid the foundations for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).
The first MOOC in an academic environment was initiated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. The first MOOC to be internationally recognized was that of Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. In 2012, Thrun, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, faced the problem that his lectures were always overbooked, and the lecture hall accordingly overcrowded. His decision to put the lecture on the web as a recording through “Artificial Intelligence” led to 160,000 people worldwide registering for this course. 23’000 successfully completed it and 248 students achieved a score of 100%, not to mention nobody from Stanford.
This was the initial spark to offer new web-based course formats to many interested students in public. Start-ups were founded, which are meanwhile recognized players on the MOOC market (EdX, Coursera, Udacity, Iversity, FutureLearn etc).
Soon different variants of MOOCs were developed. The x-MOOC (x for extended) offers course material online and structures this material in “cohorts” (classes) and on a weekly basis. Thereby, xMOOC follows the model of classical knowledge transfer in the lecture hall. This is enriched by exercises, discussions and support – mostly provided by volunteers (peer coaches).
The c-MOOC (c for connected) combines several web-based communication tools and social media platforms. In doing so, it invites the participants, in addition to the prepared content, to create their own contributions, network them and upload them to a suitable platform. The network character of cMOOCs promotes the spontaneous and creative style of these online courses, but requires a good degree of self-organisation, self-orientation and self-learning competence from the participants. In return, the participants are rewarded with a high degree of interaction, a lot of exchange and new contacts.
The MOOC idea has not only fallen on fertile ground in universities (also in Switzerland; leading, for example, the EPFL in Lausanne), but also companies have discovered a new and interesting training format. The basic methodological and didactic ideas of x- and c-MOOCs are adopted. However, in contrast to universities, web-based courses in companies are neither “massive” nor “open”, but only “online” as well as “small” and “private”. For MOOC-based learning, the term “SPOC” (Small Private Online Course) has therefore established itself in companies.
A concrete SPOC implementation can be illustrated here using Credit Suisse as an example. Credit Suisse conducted an 8-week online course on the topic “Blended Learning 2.0” from June 2016 to September 2016. The course was divided into 6 modules, comprised 1 coaching week and 10 work packages with tasks (e.g. concretely trying out and testing new tools) and was completed by 20 participants from all over the world.
Each new module was introduced in the previous week with an introduction video and opened with a live session on Monday. On Tuesdays and Wednesday’s, it was self-study, on Thursdays it was possible to talk to experts during live sessions and on Fridays the results were recorded in a blog post and the module of the following week was presented. An exchange via an online learning community was possible at any time.
The participants commented on this course format as following:
In addition to the many positive experiences, the last statement also points out a difficulty. SPOCs in companies are an excellent and efficient form of learning, but they must also be didactically -and methodically adapted to the time and local work situation of the participants. Just as MOOCs must be continuously improved to offer university teaching adequately online, SPOCs in companies must also be further optimized and further developed. But the first steps have been made.
MOOCs and SPOCs can be implemented de facto with simple “onboard tools”. However, the more specific and integrated a learning platform is, the more learner-friendly, attractive and sustainable the web-based learning process can be:
In addition to the technical aspects, the personnel also play an important role. A successful SPOC must be accompanied. The coaches must have their own concrete experience with MOOC-based course formats in order to support the participants competently.
MOOC-based learning processes are still a young but increasingly important learning format for companies – especially when they operate in a global context. This form of learning combines formal content with workplace-related topics, connects people and creates new insights. Many expectations in this new course format have not yet been fulfilled or been properly implemented. However, the critics of MOOC-based learning processes are answered with a quote from Roy Amara, the former president of the “Institute for the Future”:
Sebastian Kölper, Junior Consultant, Digital Learning
Ivan Inderbitzin, Senior Author/Instructional Designer, Digital Learning