By Vinod Bakthavachalam, Coursera Data Scientist
As we’ve built Coursera for Business over the past year, we’ve seen time and again that every company has a unique learning culture and approach to professional development. That diversity is one of the many things that make delivering top-quality education to our enterprise customers fascinating and fun – and we’re continually working to help every company design the best learning program for their particular needs.
Some of the most important differences we’ve seen across companies are in learning goals. These tend to fall into two major categories:
- Instilling a general culture of learning, with key outcomes including employee engagement, satisfaction with learning programs, and retention, and;
- Equipping employees with specific career-skills, with key outcomes including specific skills acquired, performance on the job, and career advancement.
Employers who are focused on creating a culture of learning tend to favor bottom-up programs, in which employees choose from any of the 1,800+ courses in the Coursera catalog. Those focused on specific skills usually take a more top-down approach, directing employees to enroll in the specific courses that are most relevant to their careers. And some employers adopt hybrid “guided choice” models, offering employees the freedom to choose their own courses from a curated selection of broadly career-relevant content.
Which model is best? The answer depends, of course, on the employer’s goals – but a recent analysis of employee learning patterns suggests that the hybrid guided choice model may achieve the best balance of employee engagement and career outcomes.
When comparing behavior in bottoms-up and tops-down learning programs, we found that:
- Choice motivates employees to engage. Employees are more likely to join learning programs that use a bottom-up model, perhaps because they are confident that they will be able to take courses that appeal to them; they are somewhat less likely to join when they know that their courses will be selected by their employer.
- Direction helps employees choose career-relevant content. In top-down programs, employers steer employees toward courses that are directly relevant to their jobs – most often in business and technology topics. In purely bottom-up models, employees tend to choose more courses in arts, humanities, and social sciences.
- Relevance provides an incentive to complete. Employees are more likely to complete courses in a top-down model – most likely because they feel confident that they will see a career benefit from completing a course that is clearly relevant to their job, or that their employer specifically selected.
These results suggest that the ideal model may be one that offers some degree of choice – enough that employees feel empowered and in control of their learning – but that also guides employees to select courses that have a clear and immediate career benefit. This is the “guided choice” model that we described above – and it’s one that several of our customers have implemented with great results.
Of course, if you decide that a guided choice model is right for your company, you still need to select the right courses for your employees to choose from. That’s where Coursera’s content experts can help. We’ll work with you to create a list of anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred courses, in topics from social media marketing to web development and machine learning, that are highly relevant to the skills your employees need to be successful in their careers.
Learn more about how Coursera can help your company build a culture of career-relevant learning in 2017. We look forward to working with you to empower your employees and achieve your goals!