Workplace training and education too often resemble modern playgrounds:

safe, repeatable, easily constructed from component parts, requiring that the child bring little of their own to the experience – Johnnie Moore

When adults design for children they have a tendency to dumb things down. Perhaps the notion that there is no such thing as writing for children should be extended to workplace training and education design. In the workplace, thinking of co-workers as “learners” actually may be a barrier to learning.

The real value of the MOOC (massively open online course/content) could be its potential to remove the barrier between learners, designers, and instructors. Its workplace learning potential may be greater than its academic value. But if one thinks of the MOOC as a course, designed by one party for another party, then it really is nothing new.

Indeed, I was struck by a recent comment from someone with 15 years of experience in designing face-to-face, blended and online credit programs: I am trying to understand what MOOCs can offer that my understanding of educational design, learning design and online and distance education does not include. I’m afraid that the answer continues to be: ‘Nothing,‘ at least for the moment. – Tony Bates

But the MOOC can foster emergent learning, which makes it an optimal form for understanding complex issues. This is something that a curriculum-based, graded, course is not well suited to support. With the MOOC, especially one focused on being massive and open, there is a greater possibility for serendipitous connections, such as what happened with participants becoming instructors in the early MOOC we conducted in 2008.

If we think of the MOOC as a vehicle for shared understanding, and not content delivery, it becomes the collective equivalent to personal knowledge management. It is group learning, with some structured content, and good facilitation; but most importantly, space for sense-making. In the complex domain, combining PKM with more structure for social learning, using the MOOC format, can be an important addition to how workplace learning is supported.

Update: several possibilities for corporate MOOC’s from Donald Clark.