As stewards of your company’s value, you need to understand how to get your people ready—not because it’s a nice thing to do but because the competitive advantage of early adopters of advanced algorithms and robotics will rapidly diminish. Simply put, companies will differentiate themselves not just by having the tools but by how their people interact with those tools and make the complex decisions that they must make in the course of doing their work. The greater the use of information-rich tools, the more important the decisions are that are still made by people. That, in turn, increases the importance of continuous learning. Workers, managers, and executives need to keep up with the machines and be able to interpret their results. – Putting Lifelong Learning on the Agenda,McKinsey Insights
Here’s a company that’s living that advice:
“The future of learning sabbaticals at Buffer is closely tied with our desire to help create the future of work. There’s a quote from Stephanie Ricci, head of learning at AXA that’s really powerful in explaining how much impact learning will have for employees in the future:
“By 2020, the core skills required by jobs are not on the radar today, hence we need to rethink the development of skills, with 50% of our jobs requiring significant change in terms of skillset”
That is a huge amount of jobs that will require new skills and for organizations and workers that means a lot of learning and developing.”
– Why this company implemented a learning sabbatical for its employees, FastCo
I just flaked out on another Coursera course. I thought this would be the time I stuck with it; I even paid for it in hopes I wouldn’t flake. But flake I did.
I’m still focused on upskilling, so I joined another online school, Treehouse. I’ve used them before to learn html and css basics. I love their UX and the entire feel of their learning experience. I’m surprised that feel matters so much to me – but then again learning environments matter offline, so why shouldn’t it matter online?
So I’m onto a new online learning platform, this time focusing on skills that I need right now. I’m taking their WordPress track as all my websites are hosted on WordPress. I can cobble together awesome themes pretty well but I have no idea how WordPress actually works and Treehouse has a robust track that dives into everything I need to know.
As I was pursuing courses I noticed Treehouse excels in another area: storytelling. More specifically, telling the stories of successful career changers. Making a shift to a new career is a daunting task: you have to obtain the skills and convince employers that you can do the job, the latter of which can be even harder than acquiring the new skills. Career changers struggle with doubt, lack of self-confidence, opaque career paths, and lack of knowledge about hiring companies and opportunities. Treehouse uses profiles to share stories from a wide range of people – former customer service specialists, laid off professionals, personal trainers, urban planners – from across the globe. Seeing diverse stories of successful career changers helps learners visualize themselves doing the same. It’s even possible it gives them a bit more confidence. As they read, they’re likely telling themselves, hey, if they can do it, I can do it too.
Testimonials about impact are important for prospective online students. But the full stories that dive into the learning journey and offer advice serve a purpose too: to motivate career changers. Treehouse puts out a clear message to career changers: everyone’s doing it and you can to.
So bravo to Treehouse. Here’s hoping other online schools invest the time in career storytelling too.
Coursera (and other online learning platforms) push hard to get users to pursue a certificate. I’ve flaked out of plenty of MOOCs in the past with the certificate option completely off my radar. This time I enrolled in the Interaction Design Specialty on Coursera a paying subscriber, so I automatically received the certificate.
I completed my first course, Human-Centered Design: an Introduction, and received my certificate announcement via email. The email arrived paired with suggestions on how I can take advantage of my certificate. The suggestions were terribly underwhelming. The only concrete advice beyond viewing my grade: Add it to your LinkedIn profile.
This is precisely where Coursera misses the boat on helping users connect their learning to career success. Some users may know exactly how to talk to their bosses or future employers about the skills they’ve learned or mastered. But in my experience with career changers and even mid-career professionals who are positioning themselves for promotion, most people don’t know how to talk about their new skills or successes. They don’t know how to position themselves or create a story about their new accomplishments.
There are several opportunities here where Coursera can make a difference. A few of note:
- Give guidance or language on how to talk to employers about your certificate and new skills
- Show a video interview with a recruiter who talks about the value of these skills, how they’re applied in the workplace, and so on
- Share a list of employers that value this qualification or link it to entry level jobs in this field
- Offer video interviews of successful Coursera students who used their certificate to get a job or promotion
Imagine if Coursera did this early on in the Specialization to get users excited about new career opportunities and motivated to complete the course. Showing users how employers view these skills could help learners develop a framework for talking about their new skills as they learn them. Coursera could add value to the learning experience by helping users understand their future career opportunities.
P.S. With 200+ mil in funding, you’d think Coursera would be able to hire a few designers to snazz up that congratulatory email. I’d love a little more flare to pair with that congrats.
I came. I tried. I tweeted.
These Twitter reflections read like a stream of complaints. And in a way they are. But they serve another purpose: reminding me about the challenges around creating online learning experiences that are engaging and motivating.
I’m building online courses for students. Right now they’re on-demand and asynchronous. In the future I aim to move to a hybrid model. I’m constantly thinking about how we improve engagement in online learning.
A note on forums: Courses rely on forums as their interactive element. While there is interaction (in some forums), the experience isn’t enjoyable. In fact, it’s often more work. When I get stuck, I have to search for the correct forum and skim through elements to find my answer. And not all courses have active forums, as evidenced by the last tweet. This Coursera course had run before so most responses, if there were any, were old.
Self-reflection notes on completing my first two courses in the Coursera Interaction Design Specialization
I waited until the last minute each Sunday to complete my homework. Now I know what it feels like when I tell students to complete their job applications before they are due.
I didn’t watch all the videos. A friend told me it’s easier to just skim the text below for key concepts needed to complete the homework. It was.
Sometimes I took the time to review other students work, a requirement to get my own homework graded. Other times I just clicked through. There is so much ambiguity in the grading process, especially across cultures, that I didn’t put much stock into reviewing others work. When I did, the ideas and homework were interesting. But without a way to talk to students about those ideas and ask questions, I quickly lost interest in the review activity. I felt bad, but not too bad – I have no connection to this community or class due to the distance effect and lack of community building in Coursera classes.
Even when I pay for the specialization, sign up for a skill that I’m passionate about learning more (user experience research), I still struggle to get the work done. Despite being obsessed with online learning and building courses for students, I struggle to complete online courses. I don’t enjoy the experience. The lack of connection to the professor, students, and learning environment leave me deeply unmotivated.
I am a half-ass MOOC student.