Make the Most of MOOCs

Five lessons to make your online learning courses what learners want them to be.

There is lots of talk about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Are they a revolution in education or just another online tool?

While I don’t have the definitive answer to that question, we at Tenaris do have quite a bit of experience with MOOCs—we were the first company to join MOOC provider edX and we’ve spent the last four years creating MOOCs and their sister courses, SPOCs (Small Private Online Courses)—and we learned some lessons that might be useful for online learning in general.

Born circa 2012, MOOCs are a groundbreaking learning technology. They give thousands, if not tens of thousands, of learners in different geographic locations the opportunity to simultaneously take an online course taught by a distinguished professor. They are usually free and open to all those interested.

SPOCs keep the main aspects of MOOCs but limit the audience to a select group of individuals. SPOCs work particularly well for multinational companies such as Tenaris, whose highly specialized employees are spread all over the world, but must train together and collaborate in their daily work.

MOOCs started as a movement for the academic world. But as workplace futurist Jeanne Meister says, “Far from being limited to higher education reform, the new learning style’s most important legacy could be its impact on the world of corporate training.”

That has been our experience at Tenaris. Here are the five areas we appreciate most about the nature and potential of MOOCs:

Microlearning: Nowadays, the first thing you look at when you open a video is how long it is. Three minutes is great, 10 minutes is doable, and 20 minutes is too long for today’s audiences. Then, if the video is good, you want to watch another and another. People can spend hours watching short videos, but it is difficult to make them watch one long video.

In the MOOC world, it is recommended to have videos that are 3 to 10 minutes long and can be used in other types of e-learning, as well.

Interactivity: The main contact the student has with the course is through the activities. And yet most of the time, this is the part course designers dedicate the least amount of time to. Everyone is so devoted to the content that they forget the most important part of the learning process: the learner.

Through challenging, frequent activities, learners will interact with the course and get a real learning experience out of it.

Social Learning: Networking and interaction with professors and other students are crucial elements for learning and knowledge sharing. This is a key component of the MOOC/SPOC experience and can be applied to other types of online learning, as well, using the company’s internal or external networking platforms.

Rock Star: Celebrities matter. The subject matter expert (SME) is back on the stage and is the rock star of the course. For so many years, online learning used animations and text, but now the expert is in front of the camera, sharing knowledge. A professor is much more engaging than most animations.

Seamless Training: From work to home to commuting to anywhere, people use all their devices to learn, no matter where they are. When an online course is restricted only to the workplace, it gets buried in a demanding priority list. Learning these days needs to happen wherever the learner wants it.

To access Tenaris MOOCs, visit:

Ingrid Urman is a Human Resources professional and intrapreneur with a focus on corporate education. She is currently the head of Learning Experiences at TenarisUniversity, the corporate university of Tenaris, which ranked in the Top 10 of the 2016 Training Top 125. Urman works on the leading edge of the learning and development field, exploring new technologies, methodologies, and approaches aligned to Tenaris’ strategy and mission. She was named a 2016 Top 5 Emerging Training Leader by Training. For more information, visit