In an environment characterized by technological faddishness, hi-tech dependence, the need to cut down cost of labor and an essentially volatile job market, the obsession (for lack of a better word) with MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses is not as sudden as it may seem. Willingness for job security in such an environment is no surprise. It’s not the software that needs upgrading. Updating oneself continually and upgrading fast have become the norm and taking up courses online to improve existing skill-sets and pick up new ones has thus become necessary to validate, justify and secure one’s position in the organization.
While organizations seek new ways to make their employees feel valued and employees seek high levels of job-security, what is it that actually makes an employee choose to work in a particular organization? According to a Randstad India report (2012), 64% employees view long-term job security along with the financial health of a company as reason enough to select a certain job. Thus, job-security precedes opportunities for career progression (that 50% of the sample chose as the next deciding factor) in terms of importance. Another point to be kept in mind is that job-security is affected by individual and organizational aspects. MOOCs come into play with regard to the individual aspects that are perceived to help secure a job. Moreover, besides on-the-job experience, degrees tend to be a safe fallback option.
Heard of herd mentality?
The concept of MOOCs came into mainstream prominence in 2008 when more than 2000 individuals were ready to take up a course on “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” and there has been no looking back since then. Pretty soon, everyone felt the need to sign up for these online or distance-learning courses that you could pursue while continuing with your regular job. But, was this shift simply an example of how herd mentality can literally take over established norms? Was the popularity and perceived importance of these courses simply a case of shared influence? Apparently not. They do come with a whole set of benefits for both the individual employee and the organization.
Reach: These courses provide a global platform to students and teachers alike. Also, they can be attended from practically anywhere on the globe. All one needs is a decent internet connection. This opens up the learning horizon considerably and encourages more dialogue and thought-sharing and thus wider knowledge and deeper insights.
Quality check: Even though there is often concern regarding the authenticity of anything virtual, let’s face it. We live in a virtual world. Besides, with reputed institutes opening up online portals for such courses, the market is competitive and we thus now have access to a litany of good quality modules providing very enriching experiences. So basically, you get to avail of quality education without being restricted by mobility and that too within a reasonable amount of time.
Greater engagement: MOOCs offer the advantage of being able to decide the course aspects that one wants to focus on along with the schedule. This is more of a conversation between the teacher and the student and not an intangible syllabus that must be followed. Moreover, when employees are engaged to take these courses up by the organization, they know that the applicability of the learnings span beyond their immediate work and have future advantages, That, in turn, makes them feel that they are doing it for themselves and not just as an organizational mandate.
It’s true that MOOCs might not be without their cons. For example, there is often a dearth of one-on-one or face-to-face interaction when there are too many students signing up for a single course and this could lead to a loss of the human touch often required in any learning experience. Moreover, depending on technology has its own downsides and something even as simple as internet connection could ruin the whole experience. That aside, there are a few negatives to every useful novelty and MOOCs have clearly proven that they are more than simply a product of collective insecurity and herd mentality and that they are here to stay. Like they say, it might be better to make hay while the sun shines. You either come up the curve and ride the tide or brace yourself while you wait for the next wave.