Learning trends

MOOC: From one-on-one training to collective knowledge-building

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The second generation MOOCs

MOOC, SPOC, COOC, SOOC… These acronyms have become commonplace over the last few years and have revolutionized the world of learning. These new learning methods are products of the digital revolution and represent the democratization of knowledge, access to the best experts, and the removal of obstacles… but not without certain conditions!

Let’s take a look at the essential steps necessary for a MOOC (massive open online course) to be successful within a company.

Collaborative MOOC to improve learners’ dedication

Before the MOOC, the most prestigious educational institutions were the reserve of a select few, their lecture halls being populated exclusively by a small number of privileged students. Nowadays, anyone with an internet connection can take courses offered by the world’s largest universities from wherever they may be: at work, at home, or even on a plane. Improvements in video quality and broadcasting and the development of asynchronous learning methods have made expert professors’ knowledge accessible to all. Participants on these courses can test themselves with exercises and achieve a qualification, provided they follow the program through to the end of course!

The limitations of this revolution, found in the inherently uniform nature of this type of learning, quickly became clear. However legitimate the goal of first-generation MOOC (i.e. to make knowledge available to all) participants in these courses soon found themselves confronted with the harsh realities of independent learning, namely the lack of social bonds and peer discussion. These issues bear a striking resemblance to those of “e-learning”.  The same causes always produce the same effects! Sitting alone in front of a screen, e-learners were unable to exploit conventional sources of motivation and commitment. Not surprisingly, completion rates often fell short of expectations. Out of the thousands of people registered for the first MOOC, how many followed the course through to the end? 20%? 30%? The dropout rates were staggeringly high.

New activities and exercises, a decisively more social orientation, and innovative technologies, transformed MOOC from a generic system into a group-learning platform. By combining content, technology and collaboration tools, participants discovered that the recipe for effective learning requires a meaningful and fundamentally human experience. And just like all recipes, when these ingredients are put together, there can be many outcomes. Moreover, mentoring, distance-coaching and online communities run by real people all boost dedication dramatically by encouraging dialog.

Towards a collective transformation of the company through the co-creation of tailor-made MOOC

The revival of the MOOC and the development of collaborative learning methods have also had an impact within companies. Implementing the latter takes several forms today, from employees simply signing up to an existing MOOC to creating an ad hoc, tailor-made MOOC.  Innovative and effective learning formats, designed in cooperation with the company’s training manager, have made it possible to meet the exact needs and requirements of a particular team or population. This element of “customization” or “contextualization” is vital to achieving a sense of collective dedication. Learners only have to determine whether the course is relevant to them: from the outset, they know what they are seeking to achieve.

Second-generation MOOC represent a movement towards constructive learning, where knowledge is built collectively.  Participants go beyond simply retaining and applying what they have learned; instead, they explore advanced stages of analysis and creation, as defined by Bloom in his famous text “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives”1. And isn’t that the ultimate goal of all learning: to achieve transformation?


  1. Educational model that puts forward a method to classify knowledge acquisition