«Flexible, self-directed and bottom-up: are employees overtaking their Human Resource departments with MOOCs?»




Christian Friedl


MOOCs are arriving to the business sector, especially within Human Resource Development and customer training. While some (larger) companies offer their own MOOCs, and others use external MOOCs to complement their HR offers, the awareness and perception level among HR managers in general, particularly across Europe, is still lower as might be assumed. Besides unawareness, administrative and inexperience-barriers have been identified as the main reasons.

European HR experts seem to observe the development first, before taking action themselves. On the other hand, employees world-wide are already a strong part of the movement. There is a significant bottom-up movement from professional lifelong learners in MOOCs with the intention to improve their job performance, upgrade their skills and optimize their career options. As there are no specific studies available for the european context, this paper sets out to answer the research question if this bottom-up movement in the uptake of MOOCs by employees can be confirmed for Europe. It will further discuss which opportunities and challenges this would imply for both european companies and employees.

The methodology applied is a combination of desk and field research following a mixed-methods approach of quantitative and qualitative analysis. Starting with findings derived from literature and studies, a MOOC targeting a business audience has been designed and delivered on a european MOOC platform. The MOOC was accompanied by in-depth evaluation with quantitative and qualitative analysis. Next to pre-and post-course surveys among the participants, 21 business and educational experts have been interviewed before and after the MOOC in focus groups.

Findings confirm that there is a bottom-up movement taking place in Europe. The MOOC was not an official part of any company HR programme, but showed significant participation from professional learners with clearly job-and career-related motives. Next, a high potential for MOOCs as a complementary HR offer was acknowledged, but demanding a change of company culture first and local adaption second. The bottom-up participation would solve some of the administrative key barriers identified and could establish a co-creation approach of HR programs by managers and pro-active employees with MOOC experience.



Author's Biography

Christian Friedl 

Christian is senior lecturer at the Department of Management at FH JOANNEUM - University of Applied Sciences in Graz, Austria. His research focuses on entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship, university-business corporation and new ways of delivering education. He is operational project leader of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Team Austria, Graduated Adult Educator (wba austria) and the coordinator of several EU-funded research projects (e.g. the Knowledge Alliance BizMOOC). He is developing business MOOCs, e.g. one on intrapreneurship which is currently in the final round of the 2018 Teaching Innovation and Entrepreneurship Excellence Awards of ICEI.

Christian holds a Master´s degree in Business Administration and Environmental System Sciences, a Postgraduate Master´s degree in European Project and Public Management and is currently doing his PhD in the field of Corporate Entrepreneurship Education at the University of Graz. Besides academia, he was working in the music industry for 14 years on and behind stage.

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